Hana Stevenson
“Listening to a Cityclean supervisor explain his daily routine, we realised our work would make a huge difference not only to his team, but to the city as a whole.”

Hana Stevenson, Interaction Designer

The challenge for Brighton & Hove City Council

Like all councils across the country, Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC) has an urgent need to reduce costs while still providing a good service to local people. To meet this need, they have embarked on a programme to introduce operational efficiencies and save customer service costs by embracing the potential that 'digital' can provide.

Inevitably, this type of digital transformation involves a channel switch from more conventional, analogue means. For the transition to be successful, BHCC recognised its need to provide a much improved digital experience for both citizens and staff.

Clearleft have been working with BHCC throughout the transformation process. For this particular initiative we focussed on improving a vital council service which affects everyone in the city. We needed to address the service design of Cityclean, the department responsible for rubbish, recycling, and street cleaning.

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How do you get 'digital' to benefit the real world?

In order to keep the city safe and hygienic, Cityclean relies on local people reporting issues such as graffiti, fly-tipping and broken glass. Our task was to make it easy and rewarding for people to report problems, and to help Cityclean efficiently respond to those reports.

We worked closely with Cityclean to understand exactly what information they required from such reports, and how they would act upon it.

Running a form design workshop with BHCC staff

We discovered that the online report form was difficult to use and required lots of unnecessary information from the person filling it in. Additionally, every single report was being printed out each morning, street crews were circumventing communications bureaucracy in an attempt to be more productive, and there was very little timely feedback to citizens. All in all the incumbent procedures were crying out to be improved. On the plus side we also found a dedicated, albeit frustrated, team with a great can-do attitude.

The solution we designed in collaboration with the BHCC digital team was a simple focussed system, enabling Cityclean to do their job better and with greater efficiency.

The Cityclean service design model

As a result, reporting online is now quick and easy to do, and works well on mobile devices. The new website asks citizens to provide only the information actually used, and takes advantage of modern technology including the cameras and location services in smart phones.

The redesigned street report form for citizens

Urgent jobs are more easily identified, and work is quickly assigned and tracked through a digital dashboard rather than a physical paper trail. Street crews get job details directly on their mobile devices, which they can mark as fixed in real time. Supervisors can provide advice and direction through the system, and automatically notify citizens of progress, thus closing the loop as soon as the report is resolved.

Street crews get job details directly on their mobile devices

How do you help people to help themselves?

The simple answer is to find out what people need and to make it easy for them to find it. The Cityclean website is a key source of information for local people, from learning what can be recycled, to discovering community composting initiatives, through to bin collection days. We made this information much easier to find by using our tried and tested methodologies: we analysed website data and contact centre calls to establish a hierarchy of needs; removed unused and out-of-date pages; ran card sorts to understand how citizens think about topics; and introduced a controlled vocabulary to help cross-reference information for improved ‘findability’.

The redesigned Cityclean website makes information easy to find

How do you provide a usable future-proofed design system?

As a final piece in the digital service design puzzle, we provided BHCC with a major improvement to the overall websites’s visual appearance, bringing it much more in line with the council’s branding familiar to citizens throughout the city.

The design system we created included brand guidelines specific to the web, and a flexible pattern library of templates and components which could be used in multiple configurations.

We delivered the new design as a practical componentised pattern library

The pattern library, combined with taking on our nimble approach to design thinking, has been proved a success as the BHCC digital team have relied upon it when independently designing new services and updating old parts of the site.

The Results

Efficiencies introduced

By designing the reporting system to flow from citizen to street team and back, we helped Cityclean respond more quickly and operate more efficiently. By making information easier to find online, we reduced inbound calls, freeing up Cityclean’s time to respond to reports.

Cultural changes instigated

The improvements, made at relatively low cost, showed senior decision makers the kind of impact that can be had when digital service design is done right. We influenced internal culture so that form filling is no longer considered to be the end of the user’s experience, but as the start of it.

Digital team enabled

By introducing a robust, elegant design system (which was ‘much more Brighton’) alongside a practical design process and toolkit, we gave BHCC’s digital team the confidence to build better services and drive innovation within the organisation.

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