Islington Borough Council

The Brief

To design a responsive website that would measurably improve the experience of the residents and/or business owners of Islington, London.

The Biggest Challenge

Identify the groups and services that would be most positively impacted by a digital redesign. Islington Council serves over 200,000 residents and 12,000 businesses – we needed to triage rapidly who to help before investigating how to do it.

The Final Product

We designed a new Business Portal for the council website, allowing businesses of all sizes to monitor and apply for new and recurring licences, permits and services from the council.

The Key Lessons

You can impact the most people in the most positive way if you don’t try to do everything for everyone. 

For a local government client we needed to pay close attention to complying with accessibility standards, which was a great experience to have, and has made me far more observant and critical as well. 

Investing in finding the solution, not being personally attached to one idea or design, is the best way to truly advocate for the user.

Narrowing the scope

Who could we help?

During our initial sweep of research we discovered some interesting facts about Islington’s demographics, which led us to target our first round of interviews at 3 groups:

Young professional renters
Aged 23-35, relatively mobile moving into or out of the Borough every few years.

Residents of social housing
Spanning all ages, many of them life-long residents of Islington.

Local business owners and managers
From small independent businesses to nationwide or global chains and franchises.

20 Interviews later…

A young woman sitting in the park
Young professional renter

“I’ve never really explored [their website]… I’ve never really needed, necessarily to go and seek out their services”

An older gentleman, smiling
Social housing resident

“I don’t have a computer. I just ring them up on my mobile, I don’t have the landline.”

A smiling man working in a pub
Local business owner

“We’re dealing with the council for some things, Angel.London for others, and then there’s some things you don’t know”

Our direction

It was clear from the groups we spoke to that businesses need frequent and consistent support from the local council, and that the preferred solution for them would be digital. This contrasted with the young professionals who reported minimal if any interaction with the client, and the social housing residents, who had moderately frequent contact but universally preferred phone or in-person solutions.

So, Business as usual!

Designing the right thing – designing things right

Having established our audience we defined our problem:

Owners and managers of retail and hospitality businesses in Islington want an easy way to renew permits and manage recurring council services online, because these services have a direct impact on their business, and the current processes are long, complicated and not digital.

We brainstormed potential solutions and took our concepts back to the users for their input.

Initial concept: a portal for the council’s business services
Initial concept: online forms
Paper prototype: prioritised layout based on user testing feedback from 6 interviews.

The two concepts that ranked the highest among the 6 business owners we interviewed were a portal for business services, and the ability to complete forms and processes online.

“I would really like to have everything in one place, and online forms are definitely of interest”

Integrating these two processes, we drew up three variations of a user flow.

Iterating wireframes: our design evolved through user testing.

Using input from user testing we then cut together a ‘best of ‘ paper prototype to use as a basis for our wireframes.

We tested flows across mobile and web, although our users all said they would preferentially use computers for managing their processes with the council.

Mobile view: business page
Mobile view: order form
Our final design shows the value of rapid testing and iteration cycles


Our MVP allows our users to manage their Council Waste service entirely online. Previously, business managers would need to call during office hours, or email and wait for a response. More than half of the 16 businesses we spoke to over the course of the project had issues with the waste service.

The data we gathered on online forms and payments could be applied to other applications or renewals across the site.

Zoe Slater
Anna Dubov
Shiv Bhatt

Axure RP

Guerilla interviews
Rapid prototyping
MVP design

5 weeks
Presentation to client in week 5