DESIGN THINKING, ABOUT ISLINGTON

UX/UI Project
Under pressure by the Government Digital Services (GDS) to update and improve their website, Islington CC needed to work fast to meet the 2020 deadline or it would start to incur financial penalties for not being up to standard.

Overview

HOW ARE YOU SPELLING ‘PINK’ BTW?

With time running out for public sector sites around the UK to meet the standards set out by the GDS for their Oct 23rd 2020 deadline, Islington Council approached us to redesign their site. Since the project was only five weeks, identifying what could offer the best value to the user and stakeholders was a big concern.

To do this we narrowed our scope, focusing on a portion of the website that touched many others, allowing our work to be ‘lifted and shifted’ later. Our discovery phase identified the business section because it handled tax, refuse, permits and parking; just like the main site, but on a smaller scale.

Ultimately we successfully delivered our project and a fully responsive prototype allowing Islington to continue work on their website, using the foundation we created.

PROJECT TIMELINE

Sep - Oct 2019

ROLE + RESPONSIBILITY

UX/UI designer - research and interviews, synthesis and artefact creation, ideation and concept testing, low to high-fi prototyping, user testing and dev handover.

TEAM + TOOLS

Casey Abergel (UX),  Daryl Slavin (UI)
Sim Barot (PM)
Axure | Figma

The Problem

The GDS clock was ticking for Islington Council, who weren’t all that keen on paying penalties for their site. At the time, their website ranked 324 of 405 on the Sitemorse Index of local government, meaning things weren’t looking good. Their site was a patchwork, developed at different times by different teams, clearly without the user in mind and it was up to us to come up with a solution - the pressure was on.

The Solution

Having never worked with councils before my team and I had a lot to learn in a short space of time. To meet our deadline we used an Agile process, which helped us break down our design thinking process into manageable sprints. Due to budget limitations, we didn’t get much help from the council, meaning we relied heavily on guerrilla interviews and testing, which whilst unenviable, produced some great results.

Discovery

DIVIDE AND CONQUER

With only five weeks, our first major task was to prioritise where we aimed our attention. Fortunately, the council identified several key areas which were the most troublesome: council tax, refuse, permits and parking.

Whilst it was clear the entire site needed a lot of design thinking attention, when we conducted our guerilla interviews and our desk-based research, it became clear that these areas were in fact problematic.

However, we couldn’t do each of them independently so we identified the one part of the site that did it all, and did it badly. The business section.

TALKING SHOP

With our target set on the business section of the Islington site, we needed to speak with more business owners to confirm we we’re on the right track and to help us prioritse what we would deliver.

Finding business owners, the main users of the business section, was a lot harder than we had anticipated, involving a lot of trial and error. However, we finally found 15 owners to interview and to help us test.

What we learned only cemented our initial findings.

Synthesis

CHARTING A COURSE

Once we had collected enough information we affinity mapped everything to unpack our data. What we found confirmed our suspicions but also shed light on other things we hadn’t yet considered.

For example, permit applications. These were lengthy PDFs that were hard to find, complex to fill out and needed to be physically submitted. For busy owners, this process was a real burden and something we could fix.

This experience was fairly universal throughout Islington’s site, and not just a problem for businesses. In other words, it was worth getting right for all of Islington’s citizens. Some other standout findings included:

Key problems

14%

OF USERS WERE happy with Islington’s site

50%

OF USERS THOUGHT the site was too complex

57%

OF USERS Would CALL THE COUNCIL TO AVOID its SITE

71%

OF USERS WERE UNHAPPY WITH SUPPORT FOR BIZ

GETTING ON THE SAME PAGE

To get our team aligned and to get the client up to speed, we created several artefacts to help us advance into the ideation and design phases. Since what we found was fairly consistent we only needed to create one problem statement, persona and journey map. Our persona is a small business owner called Carl Colman, who was didn’t feel supported by his council.

“Well off middle-aged men who see the potential of cryptocurrency, want a low-risk, fun but also educational way to make smarter AI-driven investment decisions, however, feel cryptocurrency is too risky and volatile to make for a safe, long-term investment.”

CARL COLMAN

Ideation

PUTTING PEN TO PAPER

Since we had a clear idea of the problems facing Carl and the limitations of Islington Council’s site, we couldn’t afford to stray too far into the realms of fantasy.

Instead, we focused on the key touch points along Carl’s journey and used a series of brainstorming techniques to come up with solutions. After sorting the good from the bad we came up with four solid concepts.

Using concept cards, we tested our ideas on the business owners, gleaning some very useful feedback, developing the concepts further and giving us a rough way of prioritising for the MVP.

Concept Cards

“Being able to fill out my forms without having to go to the council or talk to someone would be amazing”

1st

“Live chat would be great when I’ve got a lot on my plate”

2nd

“Dashboard needs to be done well and might not be needed if the other features are done well”

3rd

4th

“I’ve set up reminders on my phone for when my rates are due, but it could be nice to have”

paper prototype

In the end, we decided to go ahead with all four features but the feedback we got regarding the dashboard, from the stakeholder and testers, caused us to revisit the concept.

We simplified it into an account page called 'My Business" where the user could access all of the information and resources relevant to them, without all the added bells and whistles.

We followed the concept cards with paper prototypes and further testing.

DESIGNING IN AXURE

After a few iterations my team and I were happy, and so were the stakeholders. We moved onto our mid-to-high fidelity prototype using Axure, a tool we chose because it allowed us to create a fully responsive prototype. This was important because we saw an even spread of devices being used by each of our interviewees and our designs had to be clear enough for our handover to the developers. Below is the sitemap we developed for the design phase.

Final design & handoff

HELPING USERS APPLY

The highest priority for the users and the stakeholders was to bring forms online. This feature allowed users to store information within their account, so they didn’t have to fill out basic details every single time, shortening and simplifying each form and saving everyone lots of time.

GETTING USERS SUPPORT

Both the users and stakeholders greatly appreciated live chat within our designs. Not only would it eliminate the need for a costly call centre that the users found frustrating and time-consuming to deal with, but it had the potential to bring a better quality of support to the users as well.

GIVING USERS WHAT THEY NEED

Although not quite a dashboard, the ‘My Business’ feature gave the user all the information they need in one place. After creating an account, the user inputs their business type, which then configures the account view to show only information relevant to them, which the business owners really liked.

SENDING USERS A REMINDER

Whilst this was the least popular concept, both the users and stakeholders viewed it as essential, so no one ever missed a payment and incurred more fees.

HANDING OFF TO ISLINGTON COUNTY COUNCIL

When we presented our final designs to the council they were delighted with the work we had done in such a small window of time. They recognised that whilst we didn’t quite get onto parking, the work we had done could be ‘lifted and shifted’ elsewhere quite easily. Not only that but it passed the scrutiny of the GDS and our prototype would provide a strong foundation for their developers to work from.