Northumberland County Council

The Client

Northumberland County Council is responsible for the delivery of council services and projects across Northumberland. With many rural communities market towns, the diverse nature of the county has led to a variety of work with the Council in both print and digital.

The Brief

This has differed from project to project and we generally work with other agencies and internal teams depending on the work. Generally, the briefs require that design and communications clearly identify with the audience, usability of digital assets are accessible to the highest level and costs or budgets are closely managed.

At the heart of all marketing we’ve undertaken for the council is the end user. Whether it’s creating easy-to-navigate website skins or inspiring prospectuses the messaging always focuses on the community and the desires of the Council to be helpful in its role as a public service.

Corporate website

Corporate website

In a project to redesign the public-facing website Cool Blue worked with other agencies and a third party development team. Research conducted internally suggested that the council was losing digital users on the old site due to an over complicated user journey – users wanted relevant content in as few clicks as possible. We created a site with a prominent search function, the most popular tasks being easily identifiable on the homepage, and the ability to filter information by parish to allow users to be served with only the most relevant content to them. Third party software has been cleverly implemented throughout the site to allow users to complete more functions online, reducing the volume of calls in to the council – the pothole reporting function which uses Google Maps is a great example of this. Social media is also a prominent feature on the site, encouraging users to sign up and following information and alerts through the Councils’ channels. The website was fully responsive.

Prospectus

On a seasonal basis the Council door drops adult learning prospectus to residents throughout Northumberland, the key purpose of which is to direct interested readers to the relevant section of the prospectus and prompt them to get in touch to find out more. The prospectuses are eye catching in their design and the colour coding system introduced allows the readers to easily locate the courses and information most relevant to them.

Apprenticeships

The Council has recently embarked on a journey to inform and inspire both businesses and young people of the benefits of hiring or becoming an apprentice. Much of Northumberland is made up of small rural communities and market towns, with many of the businesses being based in out-of-town premises. A key consideration for the Council was how to reach its diverse audience across the county. We developed a series of adverts where the key visual focus was the apprentices and businesses the Council works with, bringing the campaign to life. The tag line ‘we’re making it work’ was used throughout for both audiences, with clear and measurable calls to action through either a phone number or the website, helping to ensure that campaign success could be accurately measured. Adverts were then used in a variety of mediums from bus wraps to pop-up stands for various educational facilities around the county.

iNorthumberland

The iNorthumberland programme was a joint collaboration between Northumberland County Council and BT; it aimed to bring superfast broadband to 95% of the county by the end of 2017. We were tasked with developing a website for the project that would engage and inform residents about the benefits of superfast broadband and encourage them to upgrade their service. The user experience of the site was paramount – technically the website had to be quick to load as many of the people targeted were in poor broadband speed areas.

We also knew the digital skill set of the audience would be hugely varied so an easy-to-use website was paramount. We developed a straightforward architecture that was designed to mirror the user’s thought process from creating the need through to sign-up. The mobile responsive site includes a broadband speed checker, case studies and an interactive map – allowing users to input their postcode to access personalised connection information and pricing.

Active Northumberland

Active Northumberland is the brand name for the huge range of leisure services offered by Northumberland County Council. The purpose of the new website was to be more commercially focused and easier for the end user to navigate. The designs combined key components from the existing brand with customer-focused imagery, video and emotive messaging, helping to inspire and encourage people to use the services. We reviewed analytics from the previous website to understand any potential pitfalls in the way customers used it. One of the key challenges with the design of this site was how to display the varied and extensive services on offer across the many Council-run leisure centres. We knew the users’ ability to search and find their desired information on the previous website was an issue, so we developed a simple filtering system as part of the navigation. The menu allowed the user to quickly and easily search by activity, intensity level and centre. Promotional and advertising space was also given a prime spot to allow the leisure team to showcase its centres and activities through a large clickable carousel. Imagery is regularly changed with seasonality or the addition of new classes and facilities to ensure the site always looks fresh and interesting even to returning users.

Results

400%

increase in site engagement for iNorthumberland during the launch

150,000

prospectuses we’re delivered to Northumberland residents

50%

of visitors to iNorthumberland site used the speed checker during campaign

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