Out in the fast lane 

September 1, 2018

Newcastle-based Orange Bus is motoring ahead when it comes to exceeding digital expectations for global organisations, big brands and hefty government departments

Orange Bus is redefining and unifying consumer and brand experiences, creating meaningful relationships that change industries and have a direct impact on how we all live, work and do business.

But despite creating such revolutionary digital solutions for what are often highly complex organisations, CEO Julian Leighton is keen to keep it simple in his description of what they do: “We create meaningful interactions between users and technology that work,” he says.

“Interaction is the critical point at which clients, users and technology come together to realise multiple needs. We make those interactions work beautifully by bringing together user-centric design, emerging tech, and a diverse set of digital skills.”

Founded by Julian and his business partner and Chief Technical Officer, Mike Parker, in their hometown of Newcastle just over a decade ago, the vision for Orange Bus was to create one of the biggest and best digital agencies in the UK.

Having attracted early days recognition for its digital services and user experience design work from leading brands such as O’Neill, Sage, Philips and Barbour, the company soon went on to develop a significant role within the UK Government’s digital channel shift strategy.

Today, its citizen interaction work with HMRC and the DWP regularly reaches more than 50 million customers.

Julian reflects: “Our success is of course down to numerous things. It hasn’t all been rosy at times but it’s our unfailing commitment to the user through interaction design, thoughtful application of emerging tech, and a seriously talented creative delivery team that enables us to do the work we do.”

Dip into Orange Bus’s portfolio and you’ll find an impressive collection of strategic partnerships within the business of motorsport alone – Formula One’s Force India, Porsche Motorsport, Aston Martin Racing and Craft Bamboo Racing, to name a few.

“As digital partner to Force India, we’re literally creating a fan revolution – re-defining the interactive space between fans, the team and the technology to create a better experience for everyone,” explains Julian.

“By discovering and defining who fans are, what makes them tick, what triggers their loyalty, what they need or want from their content across different channels, we can transform businesses.

“These projects vary and are certainly not one-size-fits-all methods. They’re designed specifically so we can relentlessly gather quantitative and qualitative data to measure and inform.

Then, of course, we make it all look visually stunning. It really is a pursuit of excellence to create experiences customers love in a way that has real business impact.”

Following on from work done with Porsche Motorsport, Orange Bus has developed an app that can be used by any sports team to manage the logistical challenges they face.

“Moving personnel and equipment around the world from event to event is complex and subject to short term changes,” says Julian. “Sometimes these are purely down to uncontrollable external factors, such as travel disruptions and weather – so with this system we can manage that automatically – even just timetabling changes that can be managed centrally, to ensure everyone has the most up to date information as it happens.”

Orange Bus aims to continue to develop this and sign up teams outside of the motorsport industry and further afield: “Ultimately this could be used by other industries beyond sport.

This is something we always try to encourage with our clients – our learnings from one sector should always be applied to others, even if there doesn’t seem to be any obvious synchronicity between them.”

Julian returns to the keeping it simple point: “That doesn’t, by any means, indicate that it’s easy – keeping things simple can be really challenging,” he says.

“We also recognise that a great idea has to meet a need and be executed well for it to really be a genuinely great idea – we always start with extensive user research, with real people.

“We define the idea by turning it into something that can be built and that will work and scale – then we apply design thinking and design innovation to solve problems and create stunning solutions that work.”

With one of the largest UX (User Experience) teams in the UK, in-house design and full stack (both front and back end) development capabilities, Orange Bus’s team of 100-plus researchers, designers and engineers lead on a huge variety of future-focused projects.

Getting people together is a huge contributor to the company’s success, bringing together key stakeholders, industry experts and end users to de-risk and inform project decisions. And working as long-term strategic partners, Orange Bus keeps companies’ digital strategy on point; user experiences stay fresh, reliable and consistently delivering value for everyone.

Now part of one of the UK’s largest digital outfits, Capita Software, Orange Bus remains –based in its hometown of Newcastle while sharing its 120-strong team across offices in London, Sheffield and Edinburgh.

“We’ll always have our main base in Newcastle, says Julian. “Quite simply because we appreciate the progressive environment, low production costs and work/life balance that Newcastle has to offer.”

Orange Bus

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