Project summary

Environment Agency

Send landfill data

I addressed the challenge of streamlining environmental data submissions to the Environment Agency (EA) by creating a data returns service. This improved data accuracy, reduced costs, and increased digital adoption. Working with landfill operators, I designed a user-friendly service and overcame internal constraints and legacy systems. By applying user-centered design principles and conducting user research, I created prototypes and implemented an alpha design. The outcome was a successful digital service which passed GDS assessments, improved user satisfaction, reduced costs, and enhanced regulatory performance for the EA and its customers.

The challenge

Environmental permits need operators to track many different things, and report the data they collect to the Environment Agency (EA). This helps the EA to understand what impact the site may be having on the environment.

With complex internal QA processes and low digital take up with 30% of environmental data submissions sent by paper or emailed.

There was no standard way of submitting data to the EA, no consistent way to format data, and no central database to store the data they receive. This meant the EA were not maximising value since their compliance activities drives the data they receive. EA staff were rekeying customer data that they emailed into the EA systems.

We would measure success in three ways.

  • Cost per transaction
  • Uptake of users submitting their data using the new service
  • The reduction of paper data submissions.

A data returns service

Within a multi-disciplinary team I designed a data returns service to make it easier for the EA's customers to submit data online. It included a data validation feature to make it easier to do business and save time and money.

Our team introduced a new standardised format of data capture. This ensured increased confidence that the data returned is useful and accurate. Internal users could then view and analyse the data submitted, and produce reports as necessary.

Users first

Following discovery, target users were major landfill operators. We then intended to increase scope as development continued.

I ensured the design catered for the high proportion of assisted digital users. These users were likely to have a low level of digital skill and were PC based. We determined there was unlikely to be a high degree of mobile take up in the short term. We then identified two key personas based on their technical ability and size of organisation.

Send landfill data personas
Send landfill data external design hypothesis

Working within a multidisciplinary team

The team structure was a product owner, scrum master, interation designer, content designer, researcher and 3 developers. Stakeholders included subject matter experts and internal system users.

Establish USD processes

I was responsible for embedding Government Digital Service (GDS) design principles into the service. I championed a user centred design culture and agile processes and was keen to establish lean UX techniques into teams. My first decision was to run a workshop which extolled the value of user story mapping. This introduced stakeholders into a UCD process from the start. It ensured we had a clear MVP and release path to the service that met all our users’ needs.

Overcome constraints

Our team joined the project at Alpha stage and many team members had little experience working in a user centred way. For this reason I championed a fresh Discovery. All members of the team would then have ownership of any design decisions.

Work within constraints

Ingrained internal processes made designing a new service hard. Complex legacy systems needing replacement. The current system's replacement was a key part of the service to reduce costs. Unfortunately, it was so ingrained in the data returns process it was not possible design a complementary service.

Understand our users

I analysed the data of our users to assist the user researcher. I also conducted face to face user research with customers by visiting sites and conducting interviews.

I held stakeholder design workshops to understand internal user needs. Creating an experience map to uncover issues pain-points and highlight opportunities for improvement.

Design the solution

My user user journey architecture flows were instrumental in showing the big-picture design. It also ensured we aligned design, content and development.

Send landfill data user journey architecture

I created prototypes, implemented in HTML/CSS, which were tested with users on site.

Send landfill data upload file journey

I included a decision tracker to capture decisions made or key activities on the Data Returns service to help us meet the GDS requirements.

The outcome

A digital service that met the needs of the users. A simplified process that allowed customers to upload data with new data standards.

  • Increased user satisfaction
  • Increased digital uptake
  • lower cost per transaction
  • higher completion rate
  • Reduced end to end times
  • More submissions
  • Lower IT costs
  • Reduce burden for customer
  • Less staff time spent on processes
  • Improve staff morale and job satisfaction
  • Better Data
  • Improved regulatory performance


Passed two GDS assessments and created a service that all our customers could use first time.