About the River Thames Scheme
The River Thames between Egham and Teddington in Surrey is one of the largest areas of undefended, developed floodplain in England. In the past, the area has suffered serious floods. With climate change, the risk of flooding is only going to grow. In December 2020 the government directed that the River Thames Scheme be treated as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).
The £501 million flood alleviation scheme will be delivered jointly by Surrey County Council and the Environment Agency.
The scheme in a nutshell:
A new river channel built in two sections – at Runnymede and at Spelthorne – will provide:
- improvements to existing river structures
- new recreation areas for communities and habitats for wildlife
- measures that will better protect thousands of homes and businesses, enhance the natural environment around the river, and boost the local economy.
We have designed websites for two other Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, Crossrail and HS2, where stakeholder engagement is a priority. We were excited to work with the River Thames Scheme on their project.
To help plan and create a website that enabled Surrey County Council and the Environment Agency to transition content away from the gov.uk site, allowing them to converse directly with wide-ranging stakeholders such as local residents, river users, commuters, and MPs on matters that are important to them. The website helps to engage stakeholders throughout current the Development Consent Order (DCO) application, future construction, and the project legacy.
Gathering and grouping information
During this stage, we looked at the scheme’s milestones, its challenges, and the types of information required. Such as DCO content, documentation, and ways to ensure that the user is kept informed and can be heard.
We set about grouping information into logical buckets. Organising content in this way helped aid further content discussions and we were able to consider how best to communicate and present complex information to the user.
Creating user stories to ensure we focus on stakeholder needs
Creating stories helps us to plan and map content to each stakeholder’s journey, to ensure users achieve their goals efficiently.
For the client, user stories help them look at things from a user’s point of view.
Stories allow us to evaluate and prioritise content. Stories underpin our decisions. They are something we can refer back to throughout the project.
Wireframing the user experience and templates
Taking the above information, wireframes were created so we could test the user journeys and ensure we could cater for the information and content types needed to help hand-hold the user.
The interactive wireframes allowed us to make fast iterations and test the flexibility of the approach.
Designing for engagement
It was important for the design to have a positive feel and we wanted to echo the ebb and flow of the river. The scheme itself provides benefits beyond the reassurance that the river will be contained, it provides communities with new green spaces and opportunities to use and enjoy the river.
A set of brand guidelines had been created which we took and extended so it would work online. Using the green and blue concept we wanted to create a sense of controlling fluidity and supporting communities.
Workflow and handover
The website was built by the team at Surrey County Council using SquizMatrix CMS and the Bootstrap CSS framework. We supported a phased approach for development, suggesting what pages to build first so that the first iteration of the website meets the overall goals for River Thames Scheme.
The initial content for launch has been pared back. Over time we’re looking forward to seeing more templates and content used. The website went live in November 2021 and is now engaging with communities and stakeholders as the RTS development journey begins.