Community engagement in the digital age

Project: Product Design

Client: The Future Fox

Sector: Tech

Responsibilities: Expert evaluation, Identifying key issues and priority areas for improvement, UX Design, UI Design

The challenge: We were engaged by The Future Fox to help make key improvements to PlaceBuilder, their cloud engagement platform that promotes positive community participation in planning. Under tight timelines we worked collaboratively with them to identify the priority pain points and provide UX and UI design improvements to make the platform more user-friendly.


The Future Fox is an organisation whose mission is to accelerate the development of smart, sustainable, and people-focused places, by making it easy for anyone to influence planning decisions. Their proprietary SaaS and engagement platform, PlaceBuilder, helps Government and urban planners collaborate with communities on ambitious schemes. With an ambitious new project in the pipeline, The Future Fox believed it would be a crucial time to make design improvements to PlaceBuilder so that it was as easy to use and effective as possible. Their goal was to ready the platform for a large scale consultation in the Oxford to Cambridge region (the OxCam Arc). We worked closely with their internal team to create a new PlaceBuilder design that simplified a complex user journey and helped achieve the ambitious project goals.

Our designs

Although PlaceBuilder already have been tested in multiple engagements and had been well received, there were some key stages of the journey  that had proven confusing to users and overall the look and feel did not reflect the innovative nature of the organisation. We approached the project with two key goals, to clarify the user journey in order to make it as easy to understand as possible, and to make visual design improvements to ensure the platform felt more modern and design-led.

Due to the quantity of information a user can potentially submit, and the number of different topics they can focus on, the user journey in PlaceBuilder had the potential to get quite convoluted and repetitive. It was not immediately clear which stage of the process the user was in and what was required next. We made some simple tweaks to the user experience, including introducing clearer progress bars, shorter contextual information, and clear next actions to help users navigate quickly and seamlessly through the process.

Alongside the UX improvements, we also made some crucial visual updates to the platform UI. We looked at the use of typography and spacing throughout to make the content more easily readable with a clearer hierarchy. We introduced more iconography and integrated visual elements of the OxCam Arc brand to make for a more visually engaging experience. Although the main focus of the brief was readying the platform for the OxCam Arc project, we also needed to ensure that all of our new designs were future-proofed and would be easy to re-use for future clients with other branding.


We loved working with The Future Fox on this project and were overjoyed that the feedback from local authorities and end users was incredibly positive. In its initial consultation, the OxCam Arc received over 2,000 responses and a significant proportion were people who have never responded to a planning consultation before. We are looking forward to seeing future iterations of the platform.

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