Newcastle City Council


How Busy is Toon / How Busy Is...


Public Sector

What we delivered

User research, UI/UX Design, Web development

The Lowdown

How Busy Is Toon is a web application built by Newcastle City Council (NCC) in collaboration with NE1, Newcastle University’s Research Software Engineering team. Using data from the Urban Observatory, and data analytics from National Innovation Centre for Data, it was built as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic and aims to increase public confidence in a safe return to the high street and support economic renewal.

The beta site used real time computer vision data from cameras that measure footfall levels in the city centre. This data is presented via the web application to show residents how easy it is to social distance. The web application also presented car park data to show residents car park locations and availability of spaces.

The Problem

The data on the beta version of the How Busy Is Toon site provided value however the presentation of the data required a redesign to make it more ‘public friendly’. There also needed to be further investigation through research into what information the public would find useful to help them make informed decisions about planning a visit to the city centre.

Our in-house expertise across research, design and engineering, made us the perfect fit to solve this challenge.

The Solution

One of NCC’s core requirements for the project was the need to conduct extensive research to inform the redesign and development work.

Thanks to our in-house user research team based out of our UK office, we were able to carry out extensive research and interviews throughout the project.


Live images from city centre webcams updated every 5 minutes (approx.)

Information on current safety measures in place to ensure social distancing in shops & restaurants

Information on safe travel and parking to allow the public to plan their journey in advance

Accessible development standards implemented throughout the process and final product

The Product

The relaunched version of How Busy Is Toon provides the public with more information, presented in a welcoming, informative and accessible way. During the development hedgehog lab was mindful that the site would still be relevant once the Covid-19 pandemic is over and that it could be whitelabeled for usage by other cities.

As we are living in ‘unprecedented times’, ongoing research and development of the site must be done to respond to the situation as it unfolds to ensure How Busy Is Toon does it's best to reflect the public’s needs. In March 2021 Phase 2 of the project commenced and this page will be updated once this phase is complete.

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