Innovative pop-up labs help perfect Peterborough City Council website

Published: 22 Aug 2017

Sophisticated ‘pop-up’ research labs have been set up in Peterborough city centre as part of an innovative project to gather feedback from local residents on how to improve Peterborough City Council’s website.

The research, which was carried out by Serco’s specialist customer experience consultancy ExperienceLab as part its partnership with the City Council, aims to identify how the website can be redesigned to make it easier for residents to navigate and use. The move forms part of a drive to make access to the Council’s services more convenient, in an era when citizens’ expectations of online services continue to grow.

Residents volunteering to take part in the research were asked to carry out a range of tasks using the Council’s current website, from paying a Council tax bill to ordering a brown bin, while being monitored using a range of state-of-the-art cameras and eye-tracking software. 

Eye-tracking technology captures exactly where the user’s eyes move across the screen and how long they look at a particular part of a page, helping to identify where users get stuck or navigation could be more effective. The results are delivered in the form of “heat map” showing which parts of the website most captured the user’s attention, enabling each page of the website to be continually refined.

Serco’s ExperienceLab worked with a diverse range of audience groups, including older residents, those with disabilities and local businesses, to ensure the research reflects the needs of all Peterborough citizens. The lab sessions were complemented by a range of field interviews gathering the views of local residents.

The research has helped to identify a huge number of potential service improvements, particularly to ease of navigation and making online payments. Residents’ suggestions ranged from offering pictures illustrating categories of item eligible for bulky waste removal, to making improvements to the website’s search functionality.

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Amanda Best, Serco Partnership Director commented: “This project really puts Peterborough residents in the driving seat of how the Council’s online services are designed. We wanted to bring something different and cutting-edge to Peterborough, which is why we asked ExperienceLab to come and set up their labs in the city. We’ve had a very positive reaction from local residents participating in the research – ultimately, it’s all about making access to the Council’s services easier and more convenient.”

Gavin Sambles, Director of Serco’s ExperienceLab, commented: “Our work is typically with private sector organisations where engaging with users to design and optimise digital solutions is common place, so it’s great to have the opportunity to bring this approach to a leading local authority.”

Serco provides a range of front-line and back offices services for Peterborough City Council as part of a ten year partnership which began in 2011. These include Customer Services, Business Services, HR and Payroll, Shared Transactional Services, ICT, Procurement and Business Transformation.

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