Sunset over a silhouetted skyline of chimneys and buildings. Image by Elizabeth Ellis

A number of councils across Kent are collaborating on the Kent Channel Migration Project, looking at ways to encourage more use of digital technologies within high-volume local government services.

Challenge

mySociety was approached by the Chief Executive of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council for help with thiswork.

They were looking for a partner who could help them make the case for transitioning a number of services to the web. They also needed a user-centred redesign for some of these services, and some direction so that their own staff would have the capability to continue the work.

Designing an Approach

The approach that we decided on would allow stakeholders to get involved very early on in the process. The plan was to take videos of users trying out the relevant services, and these would be used as the basis for collaborative design exercises with the team.

We kicked off the project with a workshop to identify those services most likely to benefit from digital transformation: service managers helped us to classify those services that are most suitable for digitisation, and, crucially, where the internal change needed to make that happen is low enough to be approachable.

This led us to focus on three services: bin collections, council tax and planning applications. A business analyst on the councils’ team then identified the one or two most common tasks within those areas, based on the volumes received to contact centres.

Comparative Usability Testing

We started our work on each service by running comparative usability testing sessions.

We tested three different council websites side by side for each of these tasks, and compared success rates as well as how easy or difficult users found the tasks to perform.

Kent Bin Collections Presentation TW Journey.026
A diagram showing a typical user journey for finding bin collections times on the current Tunbridge Wells Borough Council website, indicating the problems that users were having with the service.

Our analysis of these sessions focused on mapping out the journeys that users took through the sites, and areas where users experienced frustration or were likely to make errors.

We expressed this analysis in terms of simplified, annotated user journeys and video highlights to illustrate the problems.

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Collaborative Design

We followed the usability testing sessions with a collaborative design workshop. These were open to members of any interested teams across the councils. In these workshops, we presented the outcome of our testing, including the video excerpts from the interviews.

kent-workshop-1
A photo showing some of the work done by participants in one of the design workshops.

We then helped the workshop attendees to redesign the online experience to make it a simpler and more effective user journey, through a series of design exercises.

Visual Design

We took the ideas from the design workshop and polished them into higher fidelity designs to be presented back to the participants.

kent-design
A candidate design showing how bin collections times could be better displayed to users.

Change Workshop

In a final workshop for each service, we presented these designs back to the participants for their review, discussing any further changes that might be needed.

We asked participants to think through what internal changes would be needed to allow this new design to be implemented, and, where possible, mapped out these changes in more detail.

Results

The work that we started was continued by an internal team, recruited while our work was underway.

Tunbridge Wells council implemented the redesigned bin collections journey, replacing their previous journey (shown above) and, in a test with around 50 users, task completion rates went up from around 40% to 90%.

Ian Hirst from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council said:

mySociety were fantastic from start to finish – introducing new concepts to dyed in the wool public sector officers isn’t always an easy task. The mySociety approach was fresh and gained early buy-in leading to quick changes. The learning we gained from the work has been a catalyst for further improvements and has changed the way we view our online services.

 

Would you benefit from mySociety’s skills and experience? Drop us a line

Image: Elizabeth Ellis (CC)