Re-discovering Manchester's iconic events venue

Quick Stats

About the Client

Manchester Central Convention Complex is an exhibition and conference centre in the heart of Manchester City Centre.

Residing within the converted Manchester Central Railway Station, it is known regionally and nationally for its iconic Exchange Hall and state-of-the-art facilities creating the perfect venue for some of the world’s leading events.

Business Challenge

As a leading events venue, Manchester Central wanted to use technology to enrich the customer experience. Be that of visitors, organisers, staff, or anyone in between.

Their goals were to:

  • Enhance customer experience

  • Drive new revenue

  • Create efficiencies

We agreed to approach the project as a discovery. We would gather data from multiple sources, analyse the finding, and report on the best ways to achieve the aforementioned goals.

360 Research Stage

As is common in business, Manchester Central primarily receives feedback for extraordinarily positive or negative experiences. Similarly, employees often make assumptions based on their immediate experience.

We wanted to create an unbiased picture of Manchester Central, to identify, design and harness unseen opportunities, online and in the venue.

In phase 1, isolated research, we explored 4 critical sides of Manchester Central in isolation: Staff, Customers, Users, and Resources.

We approached these areas using a wide variety of techniques:

  • Interviews

  • Workshops

  • User testing

  • Surveys

  • Competitor Analysis

  • Usability audit

  • Journey mapping

After each activity, we narrowed our focus to explore emerging patterns while continuing to draw out one-sided views of the organisation. Once we had gathered our research, we moved to phase two, cross-analysis.

MockUp 3 White


Avoiding survivor bias: Cross-Analysis

The isolated research we had collected revealed unique cross-sections of Manchester Central's story and challenges. 

Our analysis stage takes these cross-sections and contrasts them to validate and challenge current assumptions in two different ways:


Qualitative and Quantitative Causation

Quantitative data from surveys and testing provided statistical data about users behaviour. We compared this numeric data with qualitative findings and anecdotal reports to find expected and unexpected behaviour.

Crucially here, we were able to identify where the intended outcomes from Manchester Central, did not meet the underlying requirements of users. 

For example, when users were looking for travel information, they were rarely looking for planes or trains, but instead required information for the last mile of travel. The requests for 'travel information' were being interpreted differently on each side, but now identified, could be rectified.


Modelling and Documentation

Traditional personas rarely cut it in our omnichannel world. We fed interviews, data, and workshop findings into experience maps and 'Jobs to be done' documents. Resultantly, we were able to transparently model customers and their behaviours. These behaviour-based models show where we can meet previously unseen needs, or better meet the saturated ones we already know of.

MockUp 2 Light Grey


Website Usability & UX Testing

The Manchester Central website is a useful hub for visitors, exhibitors, organisers, and suppliers. 

We conducted 3 research tasks to understand the current state of the website and how it meets user needs:

  • Heuristic usability review

  • Guerilla user testing

  • Website survey

One of our UX specialists conducted a heuristic review, analysing everything from accessibility to page structure. The research, combined with guerilla user testing from our isolated research stage, allowed us to highlight areas that:

  • Didn’t act as a user might expect

  • Are missed or underutilised opportunities

  • Prioritise specific tasks over others

  • Lead users through simple or confusing journeys

We compared and contrasted the findings with the known expectations of users and identified the unoptimised or missing features that turned users into customers.

A key outcome showed how the download section of Manchester Central served the needs of Manchester Central, not the website users. We resolved to turn this space into a slick, conversion-ready hub that used the top tasks additional research has identified to prioritise filtering and the content covered.

MockUp 4 White

How Manchester Central's homepage is viewed by different visual impairments.

Competitor Analysis

An event venue, Manchester Central's pivotal asset is its location and size. As fixed assets, conducting a traditional competitor analysis could leave us with irrelevant findings.

Instead, we analysed primary and secondary competitors on key themes that had been revealed by previous user research. The topics we looked into include:

  • The use and prevalence of people

  • Attendee connection

  • Space visualisation

By looking at both primary and secondary competitors, we focused on innovative approaches to these themes as opposed to market trends. As a fixed location, we know adhering to trends won't make Manchester Central stand out. Instead, we analysed what made a unique approach successful and how this could apply to the client.


Working with the team at Manchester Central, we identified routes to improve conversions, increase brand loyalty, and introduce new income streams.

Our findings were provided in two groups.


Versioning outputs that provide short development sprints or marketing projects for Manchester Central to implement without much more research.


We also provided visioning reports that conceptualised innovative and out-there ideas but backed them up with solid evidence. This gave the client quick wins to build pace and keep their brand moving, in addition to slower transformation pieces that can excel them to the top of the worlds event venue rankings.

These two sets of reports provided Manchester Central with quick-win initiatives as well as long term strategic moves.

We believe this approach delivers compounding, measured benefits over time. If you agree, tell us about your challenges on our contact page.