How Busy is Toon: citizen focused data sharing to encourage economic renewal

Contents:

  1. Project outputs
  2. Project timeline

About this project

This project, led by Newcastle City Council, uses data to support a safe return to the high street. They have built a website to share data to help people make informed decisions about visiting their town centre, to help them feel safe and encourage economic renewal.

Working with Newcastle Urban Observatory, local authority partners and project delivery partner Hedgehog Labs, Newcastle City Council is delivering an 8-week long project. The project has recently started their 2nd delivery stage that aims to:

  • increase uptake and promote the website across a wider geography in an efficient and effective way
  • deliver a better user experience with safe travel and transport data
  • produce a guide that allows other councils to create their own versions of this tool
The howbusyistoon.com website homepage
The howbusyistoon.com homepage

The project builds on previously completed work that aimed to:

  • understand user fears, motivations and opinions about visiting the city centre during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • produce an updated version of the website
  • understand how other councils could adopt this website

The project follows Agile delivery principles, incorporating user research and service design into its activities. Working in the open, the project hosts fortnightly show and tells to update on progress and share findings. 

Project outputs

A tool to identify where parts of a city are overcrowded and disseminate information to citizens so they can make informed decisions about their movements:

Project timeline

August 2020

The How Busy Is Toon project receives £67,000 from the Local Digital C-19 Challenge.

The project procures Hedgehog Labs to be their delivery partners and sends out a survey asking residents about how they feel about life after lockdown and returning to the city centre.

September 2020

The project recruits users for their upcoming user research.

They host their 1st and 2nd show and tells, where they share user research insights and present newly prototyped wireframes for the next stage of iteration for the website.

The project also present at LocalGov Camp and Digital Leaders Week events.

October 2020

The project is doing a number of user research sessions to test the new look and feel. The feedback has been very positive with users saying, it ‘looks really clean and friendly’. They also publish a blogpost about insights into the challenges of monitoring and managing public spaces in a post-COVID-19 world and the technology available.

The project has their 3rd and final show and tell on 22 October. They finished user testing the updated version of the tool and share the findings.

The project has an end of project retrospective to reflect on how the project went and are finalising project outputs.

November 2020

The project presents at Local Digital Collaboration Unit’s C-19 project showcase and do a demo of their work.

The project is preparing to launch the new website at the beginning of December.

December 2020

New project page is launched. It contains information about safety measures, how to travel into the city centre safely and, of course, how busy the town centre is. The project also publishes their code on GitHub, and a final blog post.

The project prepares to apply for the next round of funding.

February 2021

The project receives £100,000 of follow-on funding from the Local Digital Fund to continue their work. The next stage of the project will explore how to improve the existing How Busy Is Toon application and effectively scale it for other local authorities. This will include looking at how they might:

  • increase uptake and promote howbusyistoon.com across a wider geographical area, in an efficient and effective way
  • deliver a better user experience with safe travel and transport data
  • use citizen-focussed data sharing to support economic renewal through safe access to leisure and tourism opportunities

March 2021

The project has their first show and tell and are now busy with preparing for upcoming user research. In addition the team has a session to look through GOV.UK Design System in order to identify which styles, components or patterns could be reused to make howbusyistoon.com more user friendly.

The project put together a user survey to capture resident preferences on using transport to commute into and from the city centre and sends it out.