The User Experience (UX) team have recently been looking at the online booking process for school trips to Stockport’s tourist attractions, with the objective of improving the procedures for how schools book their trips and how we manage their bookings.

Stockport has plenty of great historical attractions and our venues have welcomed classes of schoolchildren for years. I remember going along to the Air Raid Shelters when I was 8 years old, dressed as an evacuee, ready to learn about life in wartime Britain. The trips are timeless and 16 years later are just as, if not more, popular with schools in and around Stockport.

Uncovering the issue

The ‘as-is’ process for our museums team involves a lot of paperwork, email chains and phone calls with very little online presence. It became clear that the amount of effort spent in this area was a pain point for the team, whose time could be much better spent preparing for the trips and making them the best they can be.

We started to throw around a few ideas about what could be done to free up their time, but we knew that we needed to get out there and speak to some users. For this project, our users were the museums teams and teachers.

Using our initiatives

Working for a council, budgets are always being squeezed so we don’t have the money to run research labs or offer incentives to our participants. This means we need to use our initiative and a lot of the time we rely on members of our community to help us out.

Without the help of the public, we wouldn’t be able to have the conversations that spark our greatest ideas or get the feedback that let us know when we’ve hit the nail on the head (and when we haven’t!).

We started to reach out to friends and family to see if we could find a starting point for our research. Using our contacts, we managed to get in to two local schools to speak with their teachers. It was a bonus to find out that both schools had visited our attractions before.

The research phase

Over the course of a week, we visited the schools and interviewed teachers from Year’s 4 and 5. Our main aims were to discover what their usual process is for booking a trip and uncover any pain points within it.

The struggles and suggestions from the teachers were consistent across every interview, with our key findings being that:

  • they don’t have access to a computer for a lot of the day so email chains are hard to respond to
  • they don’t really have time for phone calls and the museums are often closed by the time they do
  • the main focus of a trip is the curriculum they’re working on, but travel and cost do play a considerable part in choosing where they go
  • the suitability of trips for SEN children and those with additional needs is important
  • they’re keen to know how much of the day is led by the staff at the museum
  • they usually decide a date and then see if it’s available, if it isn’t it might be a while until they decide another

Next steps

With so many reoccurring pain points in our research, we’ve come away with a really clear idea of what can be done to make this easier for everyone involved.

By improving the content on our web pages and creating an online booking form and booking system, we’re hoping to turn this into a process that can take 5 minutes rather than 5 days.

The next steps will be to use the research to influence our designs and prototype, and then take this back to our teachers for testing. We’ll then make any necessary improvements before it’s ready for development.

Finally, we owe big thanks to Laura and Dave at Alexandra Park and Ian and Kath from Moorfield Primary School for giving up their time to help us – we’d be taking a shot in the dark if it wasn’t for you!

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