Youth Hostels Association (YHA) is a charity which has provided hostel accommodation to people of all ages and backgrounds for over 85 years. Their website is their key sales channel, offering online bookings for their portfolio of 154 fantastic hostels around the UK. 

The challenge

YHA worked very hard on optimising and improving its old website, delivering record revenues for several consecutive years, but with Drupal 6 reaching end-of-life and the design of the site looking dated, the site needed a complete overhaul. Our job was to deliver a site that better-represented the YHA brand, offered a better user experience, provided a solid technical platform for years to come and, most importantly, protected and improved the organisation's significant online revenue stream.  

Our approach

From Day One we knew that the website would be the central part of a much wider digital transformation project, which would eventually include the introduction of other digital products like native mobile apps, in-situ touchscreens and websites for different market offerings. These future products would, like the main website, need to include content about the hostels themselves: their location, their facilities, images, descriptions, places of interest nearby and so on. Simply duplicating this data set for each future digital product seemed a clumsy approach and would make it impossible to maintain and update all content across all platforms. 

So the first architectural decision that we made was to build a 'headless' content hub, which would serve as the central repository of all hostel-related content and would be capable of serving data via an API to the main website initially and, in future, to any other other digital products that YHA might roll out. 

The 'headless hub' serves content to a Drupal 8 website which contains all the features and functionality you would expect in a modern accommodation-booking website. The website interface presents the hostels in the best possible light: it is image-rich, intuitive and works equally well on large-screen and small-screen devices. The powerful search and filtering features enable customers to find the most suitable hostel, whatever the purpose of their trip. 

Possibly the most technically challenging aspect of the project was the integration work to make the website communicate seamlessly with two key business systems. YHA uses Microsoft Dynamics CRM for keeping track of its members, and a separate third-party system for controlling the pricing and availability of its beds and rooms within the hostels. Both systems required deep and complex integrations within the website and needed to work seamlessly within the e-commerce experience, displaying up-to-date availability on all items within an enormously varied product range and ensuring that an accurate (GDPR-compliant!) 'single customer view' was developed for all members and customers. 

We used Drupal Commerce to power the e-commerce features of the site, vastly improving the accommodation-booking experience for YHA's customers. We were early adopters of Drupal Commerce for Drupal 8 and we made significant contributions to the open source modules to get the functionality that we needed. 

Microserve impressed us with their Drupal expertise and smart use of Agile project management
Jon Smith, Head of Digital, YHA

The results

The new Drupal 8 website and 'headless hub' have been a massive success for YHA. They launched smoothly and protected the organisation's significant digital revenues from Day One and we're now seeing the results improving as the new site builds it SEO profile and increases in popularity. Revenue and volume of accommodation bookings are on the up whilst we've seen massive increases in conversion rates, volume of donations and charitable giving. 

  • 22%
    Increase in basket conversion rate
  • 110%
    Increase in donations at checkout