NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Development Association

Sitecore Association Site of the Year

Sitecore Site of the Year

Sitecore Site of the Year

The NAIOP site makes leading-edge use of Sitecore as a CMS platform­—including content personalization (DMS), structured content reuse, automations based on site structure, numerous integrations, and many other best practices. TBG was honored with a Sitecore Site of the Year (Best Association) for this site.

Sitecore site of the year
Complex Site Build

Complex Site Build

Portions of the NAIOP website make use of targeted content personalized based on user behavior—taking advantage of Sitecore’s nimble system for managing personalization rules in an ad hoc, nontechnical way. Based on user behavior, extremely narrowly defined niche interests (for instance in publications) can be ascertained for the anonymous use, and then used to drive decisions about content presentation.

NAIOP subpage screenshot

TBG & NAIOP

NAIOP (the Commercial Real Estate Development Association) is a membership and advocacy organization at the core of real estate development nationally. NAIOP has evolved into one of North America's largest, most prestigious and valuable commercial real estate organizations. With extremely varied members (who are themselves focused on a vast range of highly specialized vertical interests), NAIOP has a complex business model and faced considerable challenges with regards to its Web properties. NAIOP approached this project after having previously developed relatively sophisticated eCommerce tools, with a goal of both recreating those tools and developing a state of the art website that would dramatically leverage each interaction with its members. The organization went through a thorough selection process and ultimately chose Sitecore as the CMS and TBG (The Berndt Group) as its Web development vendor.

Some association sites are fairly complex; the NAIOP site is so extensive it may redefine what those words mean! More than any other professional association site that we have developed (and there have been many sizable ones), NAIOP’s site is at the heart of both its day-to-day activities and its business model—and serves audiences with extremely diverse niche interests. The site spans a large range of Web experiences including highly varied publications, complex events, courses, search, varied eCommerce, and much more. The NAIOP site not only has this full list of features, each one is developed to an unusually high level, often with one or more complex integrations with multiple back-end systems.

A great deal of the value of the website relates to the very high level of architectural work that TBG did to translate between the site’s complex user experience into a high usability back-end. TBG's work on NAIOP was highly focused on developing templates and functions that were structure based, keying off of site structure or metadata to create dynamic relationships. Given the expansive content offering on NAIOP’s site, this sort of thoughtful back-end development work was important as a way of allowing a small staff to efficiently get their arms around a large amount of content and site structure.

The NAIOP site launched with high levels of positive feedback from members over the new design, and over time NAIOP has leveraged many of the special features that TBG developed in the course of the project. TBG came away from the project with an appreciation for some new development techniques around complex queries and large content repositories—and some interesting lessons learned about the sequence and structure of development and requirements gathering.

All in all, the site—though not without its challenges—was a great example of the kind of extremely detailed implementation possible in a well-engineered product like Sitecore. And, perhaps best of all, TBG was honored with a Sitecore Site of the Year (Best Association) for this site—a wonderful surprise from a great CMS vendor.

"Now in its sixth year, Sitecore's prestigious Site of the Year Award continues to celebrate the very best in the digital marketing industry. We're proud to partner with Sitecore partners such as The Berndt Group who truly care about making the web a better place, by developing compelling experiences that are globally recognized and praised by our partners, customers, the press, analysts and colleagues."

Bjarne Hansen

President, Sitecore USA

  • trophy iconSitecore Site of the Year
  • star iconComplex eCommerce Implementation
  • 15,000Members in North America
  • trophy iconWinner: Davey Award
  • award ribbon iconBest Practices Association Site
Project Process

Project Process

One of the peculiarities of the NAIOP project was that the project launched partially from the imperative to recreate the functionality of a large amount of custom development from previous site generations, some of which was not well documented. This was somewhat challenging as it meant unpacking years of rather complex development, and converting it into functional requirements that could power new development—often with improvements or consolidation of user experience. Similarly, TBG also delved into the organization’s AMS system and hosting environment, getting familiar with the overall technical ecosystem.

The balance of the project used our traditional "hybrid waterfall" process—a very structured set of contingencies that guides clients through phases of discovery, strategy, information architecture, design, functional requirements, template production, prototyping, content migration and training with increasing levels of overlap among these areas as the project progresses from initial wireframes.

Over the project, the process had a special emphasis on architectural work of both a front- and back-end variety. Deploying an evolving prototype in NAIOP's chosen hosting environment, we spent considerable time tuning DMS database interactions and perfecting load times on various complex components. The project had a unique theme of balancing a variety of different types of development for a mix of quality of experience and overall site performance. The project also pushed some non-standard DMS scenarios involving tightly defined audience niches that were interesting to consider and implement.

Content Personalization

Content Personalization

A major aspect of www.naiop.org is the use of Sitecore DMS and personalization to provide targeted content. DMS allows for, among other activities, tracking of the anonymous user and mapping of that user’s behavior to various imagined customer segments. 

This information, either alone, or in combination with information in a CRM (AMS) system can be used to personalize a site experience to provide more relevant content. The NAIOP site makes full use of these capabilities and handles the tradeoffs between anonymous and known users with care.

AMS/CRM Integration

AMS/CRM Integration

Many TBG association sites heavily feature integration with our clients’ AMS systems (a specialized sort of CRM used by associations). The NAIOP site made great use of AMS information to permission and personalize content based on visitor roles and history, and also to collect live information from the site, for instance from Sitecore’s personalization engine (DMS) to help better identify user interests.

In this case, integration was complicated by some relatively ancient technology layers that needed to be preserved as part of the site’s overall ecosystem. TBG worked closely with NAIOP on the data model and performance issues to get to a successful resolution for this complex aspect of the site. The result was a site that was of high use for anonymous visitors, greater for logged-in members, and able to bridge the gap elegantly between the two.

Transactions, Events, & eCommerce

Transactions, Events, & eCommerce

The NAIOP website was far from just a marketing and information vehicle, but rather a full featured hub for NAIOP’s members, enabling a wide range of transactions. 

From purchasing electronic and physical publications, signing up for conferences, registering for distance learning, and paying membership dues (even for differently accounted local affiliates in every state), TBG’s complex eCommerce work on this project provided a full featured set of capabilities for NAIOP. 

In each case the eCommerce functions were developed as custom .NET functions, intricately integrated with NAIOP’s core Sitecore implementation and AMS for maximum continuity of user experience and back-end usability for NAIOP.