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UX Design, Web Design & Development

the university of sheffield - regenerate.

Transforming a spreadsheet into a fully-functioning web application for industry professionals.

Objective

The Regenerate Building Assessment Tool is a free engagement tool provided by The University of Sheffield (TUOS) that promotes sustainable projects within the construction industry.

The tool provokes meaningful discussion amongst consultants, contractors, architects and clients, who use it to explore how their decisions impact the flow of materials and consequently their sustainability. This concept is called the circular economic principle (CEP) and seeks to remove the concept of waste from the building system, as well as reducing the need for additional resource extraction.

Previously, The University of Sheffield were using an Excel spreadsheet for their tool, which significantly reduced its effectiveness. Having grown a great working relationship with TUOS on previous projects, they were keen to get us on board to help improve it.

Working with TUOS, we agreed upon developing the tool into a fully-functioning web app that could be accessed online from anywhere and by anyone. We looked at user journeys, UX design and delivered a concept that was much more effective than before.

UX & prototyping

Our analysis of the existing tool indicated that the main issue was accessibility. To access the tool, users needed to request a copy via email; a long-winded and frustrating process for TUOS team and construction professionals.

We organised a workshop with stakeholders from TUOS, highlighting our findings and working with them to forge a path forward. The user journeys were mapped out to give us an understanding of their needs, as well as the improvements we could provide for them.

It was discovered that producing a web app would be the most effective offering for the user. We developed a concept prototype that showed the enhanced user experience that our solution would have. It also demonstrated the enhanced accessibility and therefore effectiveness the tool would have in an online environment.

UI & web design

TUOS needed a modern design style to complement Regenerate’s existing logo. We created a new look for the tool and embedded the style across all user interfaces, resulting in cohesive branding.

Engagement with existing users highlighted that a desktop-only solution would be the most effective. This is because construction professionals carry out their project reports on computers due to the volume of data entry required.

The web app has useful design features, including a hierarchical arrangement which facilitates simple navigation. We created an intuitive account area where users can manage projects, download summaries and reports upon project completion (available on all devices).

We introduced a ‘save as you go’ element throughout the app, making it easy to login and pickup on a project where the user left off. We harnessed status notifications within the app to inform the user when their data met the CEP standards required.

Our web design team created an engaging website to promote the new tool and encourage sign-ups from construction professionals. The website supports the Building Assessment Tool by providing resources including user guides, a support ticket system and other useful information. It is powered by WordPress CMS, meaning TUOS can add, update or delete content with ease.

Web development

Once the new Regenerate app design was approved, our web development team set to work building the tool. This was done using a combination of the Laravel framework for the backend and React for the user interface and visual components.

As with all our web development projects, we created a solution with future development in mind. Our clean, scalable code ensures that extra functionality can be added to the Building Assessment Tool conveniently, without needing to rewrite the whole application.

Impact

The Regenerate Building Assessment Tool was transformed from a spreadsheet to a complete web app and supporting website. This realised numerous benefits for both The University of Sheffield and users of the tool:

  • Increased uptake of tool within the construction industry due to the enhanced user-experience and promotional website.
  • Freed up time for TUOS staff as they no longer needed to send the tool out via email.
  • Improved support functionality through the support-ticket system, saving time for users and TUOS staff.
  • The app is completely manageable by TUOS, who can easily update it over time as CEP regulations change.