For the latest stage of our journey, we worked with the department within Highways England responsible for maintaining the Standards for Highways (SFH).
As part of the governments Roads Investment Strategy (RIS1), Highways England were instructed to update the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB).
The DMRB is central to the Standards for Highways (SFH) knowledge hub, and guides the delivery and management of roads across the UK. It details the technical standards for designing, constructing and maintaining British roads and bridges. The DMRB is also followed internationally, and so set a global precedent.
Building a new digital home
In early 2020, we were tasked with designing and building the manual’s new digital home. It had a website already, but it hadn’t been updated since the early .com days of 2002. As a result, it was outdated in design and infrastructure, and still mirrored its printed counterpart.
And we had to work quickly. The RIS1 stipulated that the new DMRB needed to improve both efficiencies and usability by 1st April 2020 – giving us just eight weeks to design, build, test and release the site's new front-end. To amp up the pressure, this was also the first project we delivered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the obstacles, our objectives were clear. We were guided by a directive from the Government to:
- Simplify the standards, making the information clearer and more freely available
- Ensure the standards were trustworthy and would set a precedent for other countries
- Help create opportunities for UK suppliers
- Facilitate human roles further up the value chain
Through an effective partnership with a cohort of third-party organisations, we were able to collectively transform not only the content within the manual, but the processes that underpinned its development and maintenance.
Nomensa helped facilitate the delivery of the DMRB as part of the Technical Standards Enterprise System (TSES) roll out. Our ambitious drive to make the 15,000 page manual more concise, succinct and understandable generated:
- 40% reduction in the number of pages – a feat of around 6,000 less pages
- 349 documents down to 155
- 60% drop in departures or deviations from the standards
And these efforts had a real world impact too:
- 70% reduction in costs of drafting the documents driven by improved collaborative online working
- 80% decrease in time taken to draft new documents, reducing the estimated 11 years to complete the standards using traditional methods to just three
- £7.5m in TSES investment priorly spent updating the DMRB recovered through enhanced processes
- £10m in costs spent reviewing and processing departures was saved every year thanks to improved rates of compliance.
In 2021, our team scooped up a Highly Commended in the Highways Award for the Best Use of New Technology in the Highways Industry. Proving that even with tight deadlines and a global pandemic, you can still rapidly deliver a cost-effective and user-centric website that's woven together by excellent UX practice, insights and user interviews.