British Geriatrics Society

Turning networks into community
tablet device

The British Geriatric Society (BGS) works to improve the care of older people, offering support and guidance to fellow professionals. Their new site required some very particular bells and whistles to meet the needs of their 4,300+ members, who include consultant geriatricians, nurses, GPs, old age psychiatrists, allied healthcare professionals, and researchers.

A sense of community

Our challenge was to create a members’ platform that fostered a sense of community while giving easy access to forums on particular conditions like falls and bone health, community geriatrics, cardiovascular disease, movement disorders, diabetes and dementia.

With special interest groups having their own, well, special interests, a devolved structure of national and regional networks, and working groups focusing on a range of subjects, from clinical quality to academic research and training, BGS’s poor old Joomla-based site creaked with dysfunctional groupings and navigations. With so many independent elements to cater for it had become a bit of a maze and got lost in itself.

Putting the BGS house in digital order meant bringing them over to Drupal. Theirs is a many-storied house with a lot of rooms, a need for common areas, a kitchen for chatting informally with a fridge for leaving notes on, a dumb waiter for linking spaces… oh, and a garden with a bandstand for events and plenty more metaphor-stretching stuff besides.

An integration with CiviCRM made the fundamentals of membership - signing up, orientating as a new member, renewal payments - pain free; no more banging on doors to get in. Or out 😬. Our extensible templating allowed BGS content types - ranging from popular events, training forums, and tailored education resources to a publishing calendar with regularly timed policy debates, news, opinion pieces and blogs - to feel engaging and connected, rather than work against each other.

The BGS site now advertises the range of its material and guides members toward it, rather than bundling content away and hoping an unsuspecting user doesn’t open an overstuffed closet. Perilous analogies aside, the welcoming feel of the new site is the result of a series of careful design decisions, to simplify and enrich the user experience.

BGS events feed

Sweet features

Simple doesn’t mean limited, however, and there are plenty of nifty tricks packed into the site. A functionality to host hybrid online/ in-person events allows for streaming alongside related forums and live chat tools. Parallel sessions can be run, with participants previewing details on concurrent streams to offset conferencing FOMO. And because everything is CiviCRM linked, registration can allow virtual participants to pick up the same Continual Personal Development (CDP) points as in-person attendees.

The success of BSGs new site can be measured in the usual metrics - but it’s a qualitative uplift that we’re most pleased about. Members are nesting busily and making the site their own, and, judging from requests we receive from prospective new partners, it’s attracting a fair share of digital house envy.

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