Working with housing tenants to improve the Peaks & Plains website.

By Simon Wissink | 05/04/2016

Based in Macclesfield, Peaks and Plains Housing Trust is a housing association that improves homes and builds communities in Cheshire. For Peaks and Plains, a website is a useful tool for the following reasons:

  • It’s a convenient way for tenants to find information about their tenancy or report repairs
  • It can be used by potential new customers to find out more information about how Peaks and Plains can help them
  • It allows for other channels, such as customer service call centres, to be freed up to meet the needs of other tenants that may have additional needs that can’t be met through a website

In 2012, we worked with the team at Peaks and Plains Housing Trust to build them a new website. Following this, it came second in The Connected Housing Top 100. We then worked with them to offer digital skills training to 40 of their tenants last year, as part of a wider study into digital inclusion and the use of technology by older people, in collaboration with the University of Salford. Currently, their tenants are supporting that study by completing diaries on their use of technology, whether it be for hobbies, keeping in touch with family, health advice or online shopping. Their input is providing great insight into the barriers and opportunities for online services.

Keen to maintain a focus on its digital strategy, the Peaks and Plains team has also asked us to update the website with a more user-focused, self-service approach.

As the business wants to encourage its customers to head online first, as a direct way accessing important services, it is crucial that the user experience is streamlined.

The initial focus of our work will be on the ‘Your Account’ section of the website. This is where Peaks and Plains’ customers access services and information regarding their tenancy. This can be anything from paying their rent, to viewing previous statements and requesting repairs.

The plan is to run user workshops in our UX lab with a cross section of Peaks and Plains current tenants to determine: 

  • How they experience the website
  • What they would like to see improved
  • Any additional tools, information or services they think is currently missing that they could benefit from

After this, we’ll build a prototype and test that with users again before we design and develop the new site. Once we have built the website, we can easily adapt it to changing customer needs and expectations.

Tim Pinder, chief executive at Peaks and Plains Housing Trust, commented,

“We’re really ambitious in wanting the easiest, quickest, least cluttered, most useful on-line service for our customers. We love working with Sigma to bring it about because the team provide ideas and solutions that put us way ahead of our peers in the Housing Association sector, and help make our ambitions a reality. In so doing they also help our customers access a first-rate user experience.”

We really enjoy working with the Peaks and Plains team. As well as helping them bring their website in line with how their customers want to use it in the future, they continue to support our valuable research into digital technology and its use by the over 65s. It's a great example of partnership working and co-design, bringing direct results for a specific audience while informing the wider design of online services.