Creating a Business Portal for the Royal Yachting Association - Automation Thingies

Creating a Business Portal for the Royal Yachting Association

An ecommerce portal, making it easy for local sailing clubs to order advertising materials and upload event information.

About the client:

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) is a UK-based membership organisation and governing body for dinghy, yacht and motor cruising, all forms of sail racing, RIBs, sportsboats, windsurfing, personal watercraft and a leading representative for inland waterways cruising.


About the project:

The RYA approached Rob Dewing from Northerwood ( and Dan Harrison from Automation Thingies to create an ecommerce portal for their sailing club members.

The portal needed to make it easy for sailing clubs around the UK to purchase personalised and branded advertising materials, such as flags, postcards, posters and flyers. Sailing clubs can then use these marketing to promote themselves to recruit people to come and try sailing on one of their new member events.


The project had 4 further important requirements:

  • 1. Give all clubs some complimentary store credit that each club can use to order print materials. Once the credit has been used up, allow each club to pay for additional marketing materials using a credit or debit card.
  • 2. Ensure all orders are exported in a format that’s easily used by their local print fulfilment company to batch up and process orders.
  • 3. Create a way for clubs to update location, logos, contact and event information about their new member events, and then provide that data in an API that can be used by a completely separate website. All of this information needed to be checked and validated on the portal too.
  • 4. Create an easy way for the RYA to import new clubs into the system from a spreadsheet, as well as exporting all information from the system.

Rob Dewing provided the ecommerce expertise and account management, and Dan from WP Doctors provided the portal creation, API expertise and the bespoke Woocommerce (shop) customisations.


Requirement 1 – The e-commerce capability

The shop was created to work so that only logged-in users of the website (i.e. the sailing club members) could order materials. We created functionality for the system that automatically gave each sailing club some complimentary credit, provided by RYA, that they could use for purchasing marketing materials.

Once the credit had been used up, the portal would then allow clubs to purchase further materials using a credit or debit card.

We created a feature that made it easy for clubs to order their posters and flyers customised with their club contact details. Contact details could include a phone number, email address and/or a website address.

Benefit to RYA (i.e. the business): The system removed the need to process orders by phone or by email, significantly reducing the level of admin needed to fulfil orders.

Benefit to the sailing club (i.e. RYA’s ‘customer’): The clubs can pick and choose exactly what products they want, rather than having to source design/printing themselves. They can also benefit from the complimentary credit to help them get started.

Technical Info: The shop was based on a customised version of WooCommerce, with a custom code that automatically applied the complimentary credit to each sailing club on the system.


Requirement 2 – Exporting orders for printing

Since some of the products are customised for each sailing club, the order export needs to include the relevant contact details for the print company to print the custom products. We created bespoke WooCommerce customisations to the order export capability that included the correct mix of contact details needed for each product ordered.

i.e. this made it easy for one club to order products with a website address and email, whereas another club could order a product with an email address and phone number.

Benefit to RYA (i.e. the business): The RYA team didn’t need to get involved with sending order details to their print company other than exporting the order information spreadsheet when needed.

Benefit to the sailing club (i.e. RYA’s ‘customer’): The ordering process is really simple.

Benefit to the print company (i.e. RYA’s fulfilment partner): The print company gets all the information they need to do their job with no back-and-forth for clarifying orders, as the spreadsheet contains all the information that they need.


Requirement 3 – Club and Event Data API

Usually, if you need to pass information from one computer system to another, you’ll usually have an API somewhere. An API (Application Programming Interface) is a technical term for “creating a secure and standard way of sending information from one computer system to another computer system”.

In this case, we created an API that allows the RYA event location tool to show a map of the UK, where you can search for sailing clubs near you.

Benefit to the sailing club (i.e. RYA’s ‘customer’): Updating their event details on the portal is easy and can be done at any time that’s convenient to the club. They don’t need to email the office with their changes, they can do it all by themselves.

Benefit to RYA (i.e. the business): Since the portal automates the process of collecting and storing information, there’s a huge reduction in administration effort. This saves the RYA team lots of time!

Technical Info: The RYA provided us with a detailed specification of how they wanted information from the system. We created a JSON data feed that matched those specifications, with caching optimisations to ensure that the data feed could be loaded in real-time.


Requirement 4 – Import and Exporting Data from the portal

When you have lots of data, working from a spreadsheet is particularly convenient. We created a feature so that sailing club accounts on the system can be managed by simply uploading a CSV spreadsheet. If a club exists on the system already, then their details are updated.

Since clubs are able to easily update their event and contact information on the portal, the RYA can easily export this data to a CSV file to manage, check and analyse what’s available.

Benefit to RYA (i.e. the business): Sometimes, spreadsheets are just easier to work with, and therefore they can save time and effort by taking advantage of the custom code we’ve created that works with CSV files.


What the RYA had to say…

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