Bristol Pound: user research on a limited budget

Bristol Pound logo

Bristol Pound is a city-wide alternative currency, designed to keep money circulating within local businesses in Bristol.

Earlier this year they contacted me to see if we could lend our expertise to a couple of problems they were having:

  • The Bristol Pound is a fantastic way to support local businesses, but explaining what it is and how it works is surprisingly tricky.

  • This was coming across on the Bristol Pound website and in their wider digital communications and strategy. With so many things to explain and ideas to get across, things were becoming complex.

Helping solve these sorts of problems is what gets user experience consultants out of bed in the morning, and helping a local community organisation in the process was too good an opportunity to miss!

What we did

There was a limited budget, so an extensive programme of interviews, internal research and user testing wasn’t going to be possible. We put together a lightweight programme of work which would still help us find out key user needs and strategic goals:

  • An online user survey

  • A group workshop with Bristol Pound users

  • A strategy workshop with Bristol Pound staff

Bristol Pound did a great job of getting the survey out, with an email to their subscribers and regular promotion on social media. This meant we had some rich quantitative data to get our heads into before the workshops began, and could really explore the main themes in detail during these.

What we found

There were clear results from the user research. The quantitative data from survey respondents closely matching the qualitative data from workshop participants. People’s top tasks’ (the key things they wanted to do) were learning what the Bristol Pound is, finding out how to get them, and where to spend them. Their main pain points (the places where they struggled most) were almost always to do with creating or accessing user accounts, and understanding the process of saving and spending Bristol Pounds.

The user workshop also let us ask some questions about Bristol Pound’s content strategy and tone of voice. Participants talked in particular about the importance of the word local’ (both supporting local businesses and helping your city) and trust’ (that knowing Bristol Pound is a safe and secure way to spend money is hugely reassuring).

We discussed all this in some depth during the afternoon workshop, with the aim of refining user feedback into some simple digital principles. We landed on four questions people wanted to know the answer to:

  • What is the Bristol Pound?

  • What is it for?

  • Why should I use it?

  • Where can I spend it?

Answering these four simple questions would give Bristol Pound huge scope to engage its existing users and gain new ones. We also began to discuss where these conversations might be held. Everything from the homepage, to case studies, to infographics, to email newsletters, to social media posts could be a part of this.

We’ve left the Bristol Pound team with a much clearer sense of what users want and need from them. The Bristol Pound team are already beginning to have these conversations online, and we look forward to seeing more fruits of their labours soon!

Sift Digital helped us take a more user-focussed view of the Bristol Pound online. We’re applying the insights from their user research and internal workshop to our website, our online communications, and our wider digital strategy.”

  • Mark Burton, Director, Bristol Pound

This post originally appeared on the Sift Digital blog.


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