Ever enticed by a new challenge, we recently completed a project from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) to aggregate the two sites through which people could search their database for registered members and firms, and pull them together into one intelligent search engine.

Recently launched, it’s now the only go-to source for finding registered chartered accountants and organisations in England and Wales.

Looking in from the outside, the solution is a clean and intuitive website, aptly named ‘Find a chartered accountant’ (FaCA) and made up of just four webpages. The search engine home page, a page listing the search results in which the user can filter by ‘ICAEW Chartered Accountants and ‘Firms’, as well as licensed areas, plus the individual web pages displayed for firms and accountants.

But the technical process to achieve this was an interesting one, both on a professional and technical level.

Universal communication

With ICAEW looking to soon consolidate their back-end systems, the new site needed to be tech agnostic – both fixing their short-term problem but flexible enough that it could be easily accessible from any technology.

That said, FaCA is a service based on a huge database from the global Institute and, with a complex IT team of their own, we needed to come up with a simple solution to allow us to pull all the relevant data into the new one-stop search engine.

“We were looking for a partner and Simpleweb delivered exactly that”

To make this work, back-end developer David wrote a technical specification for the ICAEW’s IT team that, like a universal language, they could easily interpret and build on. Using the spec as a framework, their team were able to build the tool that allowed the new site to plug into their database of accountants with practically zero disruption to their operations from us.

Intelligent, but simple

ICAEW’s previous search engine also relied on their users knowing what they wanted to search for. For example, they would need a full name to return the address of a registered accountant. If they spelt the name wrong they would likely get incorrect results, or even no results at all.

Using Elasticsearch, in this case, means the user can input limited information, such as a first name and location, and return a set of results that truly reflect what they are looking for.
What’s more, given the valuable nature of the data being made available, it ensures only limited and relevant results are returned to the user so that the database cannot be scraped and used outside of ICAEW.

Adjusting algorithms (… in English please)

Of course, we’re not accountants so we didn’t pretend to know exactly what a world-leading organisation for accountants, and their clients, were expecting to see in a given set of search results.

In this case, the solution was a series of conversations with back-end developer Joe, who was able the make real-time adjustments to the search algorithm to match the ICAEW team’s search expectations and ensure all results would as expected for their users too – even after accounting for typos and missing information.

This is one of the things that was great about working with ICAEW. Communication was smooth sailing throughout the build – and we were pleased to hear that the feeling was mutual when ICAEW’s project manager Ellen Ward told us: “We were looking for a partner and Simpleweb delivered exactly that.

“In fact it was probably the best relationship we’ve ever had with a supplier.”

Click the ‘ICAEW’ link below for the full story of our partnership…

If you’d like to discuss your startup or project, get in touch with Simpleweb today.

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