Establishments that sell alcohol, provide late night food, or certain types of entertainment need to apply for a premises licence. Being a vibrant hub of culture and entertainment, only Westminster has more premises with licensable activities than Camden. Although a high volume transactional area of the council, the processing of licence applications were an inefficient with redundant manual processes that were both time consuming and to human error. Under the Customer Access Investment Program (CAP), this made licencing was an ideal service area to for Camden to realise its ambitions of improving its digital service to users and create process efficiencies in house.

Workshop facilitation   |   Journey mapping   |   Personas   |   Prototyping   |   Test scenarios   |   Guerilla testing

Designer (me)   |   Business analyst   |   Subject matter expert   |   Scrum master   |   Product owner   |   Developers x 3

Premises Licence Application
22 pages long
Make a complex process simple for users by replacing physical forms with a digital self-serve solution.
  • Stay within the bounderies of The Licensing Act legislation
  • Minimise manual processes
  • Minimise unnecessary user contact

By legislation, there is a minimum 28 day review period before a licence can be granted. During this time official bodies (local police, environmental health, etc) and the public must have visibility of the proposed licence for a chance to challenge the application.
Staff have to manually email applications on to official bodies, as well as enter them on to public register.

Shadowing staff processing applications and in the call centre gave a real time snapshot of the challenges faced by both licensing staff and applicants.

Manual process

Data entry of handwritten information was a tedious process and at risk of human error. It was further slowed by factors such as Illegible writing, lack of information, and incorrect fees submission. All of which were a cause of unnecessary contact with the applicant.

Incoming calls

Most incoming licensing calls were regarding updates for ongoing applications or requests for more information on the requirements of the application process.


Workshop sessions with stakeholders and the team were run to define the 'to be' output.
It also highlighted some of the challenges when working with legal document.

Collabrative paper prototyping session
High-level workshop output - The 'to be' end to end process

Pain points
  • Applicants cannot find guidance notes on the website
  • CSOs have to rekey applications in to licence database
  • CSOs have to manally forward applications on to the relevant authorities
  • Jargon makes questions unclear
  • Illegible user writing
  • Long application review time without updates prompts users to initiate contact
Start with guidance: Applicants are sign posted to useful information pages and a summary of what is needed at the start at the application.
An holistic discovery process and a lean design approach allowed for combining of several forms in to one. Reducing simplifying the user journey.

Interviews with existing licence holders validated the assumption of poorly written questions being a pain point. Although a large amount of interviewees got the jist of twhat was being asked within the context of the form, they found the wording a little confusing. Some interviewees did not understand several questions at all. Adopting a plain english approach made questions more explcit and understood.

Applicants found the wording of some questions confusing
Adding functionality: Early testing showed an average completion time of 30+ mins. highlighting the need to for applicants to save thier progress.

Test scenarios also highlighted the opening times as failure point in the UI. Main reasons being.

  • Using copy and paste as a shortcut caused user input errors.
  • Some users failed to tick open. This would assume the premises is closed.

Adopting GDS design principles on date input fields raised the success rate and accessibility of the forms. Design thinking was.

  • Make interactions delibrate and slow the user down.
  • Remove UI assumptions.
No need for manual entry: When finished the applicant is emailed about the next steps and signed posted to thier dashboard. The submitted form is automatically entered in to the licence database, added the the public register and forwarded on to relevant authorities for review.
Keeping applicants informed: From the dashboard they can see the status of previous and ongoging licence applications. As well as continue progress on saved applications.
  • Complex form is made simple through clear guidance throughout the process
  • Plain English used wherever possible instead and explained where not
  • Automation used to remove the need data entry and reduce human error
  • Public register and authorities are automatically sent the applications
  • Application review process is transparent
  • Applicant has visibility of applicantion status and progress through thier dasboard


70% of all premise licenes completed online


31% reduction in calls premises licensing


£200K per year under the Customer Access Program

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