HullCoin: Unlocking the hidden value in Hull’s economy

Designing HullCoin’s end-to-end digital service experience to create positive social change


HullCoin is a local digital currency that enables the public to engage in activities that benefit themselves and the community while supporting the local economy. It’s a hybrid platform between Bitcoin, Bristol pound and time banking that makes a difference through positive contributions to society.

We supported the development and design of HullCoin from November 2015 – March 2016. Together we designed the functionality of the digital platform considering the user journeys, end-to-end service model, and detailed user experience.


Why it was needed

The city of Hull struggles with high unemployment and poverty. Not-for-profit organisation Kaini Industries approached us through the Comic Relief ‘Tech for Good’ programme with great ideas to combat these issues and create positive social impact in Hull. They understood who their users were and what they wanted to achieve by creating HullCoin and putting it out into the community.

Kaini Industries knew it was more than just digital. It was about enabling communities to use HullCoin to boost the local economy and put more spending power into people’s pockets. We helped them to think about designing the end-to-end experience beyond the digital touchpoint. Together we formed the first overview of HullCoin’s service experience before designing their digital platform to ensure that the right people were in the team.

Here’s what we did

Involving the people of Hull in the design process

Involving the people of Hull in the design process
HullCoin needed to understand who would use its platform and why. It’s a new concept for Hull and a very different take on volunteering. By knowing who their users are, their needs and how they might use a service like HullCoin we were able to determine how their platform should work as a full service.

We then helped the team further research how it might work with different groups, from volunteers to business offering rewards.

Finally, after the first product was built, we ran a set of usability sessions and brought feedback early in the process.

Overall we took on a project management role to ensure an agile approach was taken across the whole project, running scrum meetings weekly to focus on the week’s deliverables as a whole team.

Mapping the full service

The first workshop helped the team understand how HullCoin could work. The focus was on the website, and we wanted to take a step back to think about the fuller user experience, end-to-end and across all channels.

We developed personas and mapped the public user journeys onto the service blueprint.

We then mapped the interactions required to help make these transactions happen which included the perspective of community groups, local businesses, and HullCoin’s team and back-end system.

Wireframes, a visual realisation of a web page proved really useful to sketch alongside the user journey to help us visualise the key features. This formed a full feature and needs list for each stage of the user experience.

Understanding people’s motives and actions helped inform HullCoin’s customer journeys, service model, user experience, and core features together.

Develop the user experience

What really matters? functionality and usability first, then how it looks. From the mapped blueprint we built a map of assets needed for the development team to bring the service to life.

We recognised before getting started we needed to refine the brand and logo design, translating this into a brand book for on and offline assets we could all work from going forward.

Designing for mobile first, we created five modules to minimise development time across the platform, creating all user interface elements for the website. We built a series of key page mockups to ensure the developers understood the front end of the site and followed design patterns for common transactions and layout.

Test and engage with people

We planned and facilitated usability testing sessions over two days in Hull with user groups, who came from diverse backgrounds. They provided feedback on their experience and their perspectives on HullCoin. We were able to record and observe their user flows and pain points. By having our clients in the same space as their users, the team learned firsthand what needed to change and could begin to adopt this practice into their own organisation.

What did we find?

People wanted HullCoin to be local and personal with its content and language, to provide visual guidance throughout the website and to streamline the process for community groups and nonprofits to make it an easy experience to take onboard. This wasn’t just about where the button is placed, it picked up on key language and how the service is pitched.

Embed the practice

As HullCoin’s website develops, their services do too.

The digital platform was designed alongside their business needs to make sure it works for everyone and is sustainable.

It was important for us to help Kaini Industries continue taking a user-centered approach.

We developed a usability testing toolkit with template documents for HullCoin to run their own testing in their community as an ongoing commitment.

We provided support and coached them through the process and ensured that the agile methodology we had been using was carried forward weekly.

Here's the impact

From the ground up

We worked with HullCoin to develop an early concept into a working prototype. By defining both the service model and technical requirements together right at the start, we managed to get it done. We worked with the team to develop the alpha site within 15 weeks.

The earlier, the better

Early stage testing optimised development time. The team was able to make quick and efficient changes regularly. It brought in key insights through speaking to the users and how they flow through the website, to website functions that inform the site design.

It’s about the whole experience

It was exciting to see HullCoin adopted the usability toolkit. One month later, they ran their own sessions to test the website’s functions. Soon after, they tested their end-to-end service model from signing up as a volunteer, doing community work to earn HullCoin and spending it for a discounted coffee at a local cafe. The process proved the concept worked in real life with real users. The story was captured and published in The Guardian’s website.

“It has played a pivotal part in progressing HullCoin from an academic concept to a minimum viable product.”

- David Shepherdson, Kaini Industries

  • “Working with Snook really helped to bring HullCoin to life. How Sarah and Marie engaged with us as a start-up was exactly what we needed at our company's stage of development.”
    - David Shepherdson, Kaini Industries

Related Projects

BadgeMaker 2015 Launch

Following a first prototype in 2013/14, Snook has received a grant from the UFI Charitable Trust to continue the development of BadgeMaker.

Know How: Digital and design innovation for the arts

What happens when you bring arts, cultural and heritage organisations together? They come up with some ingenious prototypes.

Carr Comm: Driving innovation in care

The moment you were born, you are getting older – that’s nature. But how can you live a more independent life when you do?

Want to actually engage the public? Interested in co-designing future services?

Drop us a line.