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SocietyWorks is launching a new online applications and licensing portal for councils

We’re thrilled to be introducing a new product for councils into our suite of citizen-centred digital services: ApplyWorks will provide a user-friendly front-end workflow for taking online applications and payments for a variety of residential and business purposes.

From dropped kerbs and H-bar markings to trading licences, taxi licensing and skip hire ApplyWorks will adapt to whatever combination of service areas a council requires, while providing the same easy and intuitive user experience for applicants, and for customer services making applications on their behalf.

 

Sequence showing how ApplyWorks will work from a resident's perspective

Like all of SocietyWorks’ cloud-based products, ApplyWorks will enable integration with councils’ existing systems to streamline the application experience and close feedback loops. In this case, it will be payment providers and CRM systems, such as Confirm, Civica Pay and Worldpay. 

Using our smart geo-location technology and in-application prompts, ApplyWorks will help people to make more accurate and comprehensive applications. 

Specialised licensing features will be available for more complex service areas such as market trader pitches and taxi licensing. These features include asset layers, calendars and attendance registers.

ApplyWorks will be launching later on this year. If you would like more information or to get involved with the development process, please drop us a message.

Assign reports to inspectors with FixMyStreet Pro

For councils that don’t have an existing case management system, FixMyStreet Pro’s inspector tool allows staff to receive, manage and respond to reports directly from the front-end of the service.

The inspector tool works by enabling council staff to build up a shortlist of reports that they’re responsible for dealing with. It’s a neat little feature – and it just got even more useful.

Up until recently, reports had to be found and self-assigned by the individual staff members who would be taking ownership of them. 

Now, after working with our clients Cheshire East Council, we have developed the functionality to allow managers to directly assign inspectors to particular reports on their behalf.

Assign inspectors to reports with FixMyStreet Pro's inspector tool

This means that, when logged in to the front-end of FixMyStreet Pro, managers can view who’s been assigned to each report, and can assign or reassign reports to individual team members. 

Managers can also filter by report status to see how reports are progressing, and can bulk assign or reassign reports as needed.

Council staff can filter by report status via the inspector tool on FixMyStreet Pro

For inspectors, the tool’s new feature means less time assigning themselves to reports and more time carrying out their inspections. Plus, because FixMyStreet Pro provides offline support, reports can be updated on-the-go, even without connection to the internet.

For councils like Cheshire East, the inspector tool replaces legacy pen and paper systems, improving the way reports are assigned and managed without the need to integrate with an external case management system.

The inspector tool has been made available to all FixMyStreet Pro customers.

Got any questions? Let us know.

FixMyStreet version 4.0 is here

We have released a new version of our open source report-mapping software on FixMyStreet Platform, which enables citizens across the world to set up and run websites like FixMyStreet and match geographical points to email addresses, for free.

FixMyStreet 4.0 incorporates numerous new features, and is available to anyone running a site on the platform, including our own fixmystreet.com, the versions we provide for councils and other public sector organisations and the many international FixMyStreet websites run by others from Croatia to Uruguay.

Here’s an overview of what you can expect from version 4.0.

Multi-page reporting form

An even more simple and logical reporting form which takes a ‘one detail at a time’ approach, helping the report-maker to provide the most accurate information without getting overwhelmed. You’ll also notice that we’ve switched from a category drop-down to radio buttons, for the particular benefit of mobile users.

 

Photo redaction

Version 4.0 also includes photo redaction support, enabling you to moderate parts of a photo that should not be public without removing the whole photo. Photos can be modified individually, and once saved, the changes to the image will be reflected everywhere it is displayed. If you need to revert a redaction or you want to remove the entire image, you still can with no hassle.

Development Docker environment

There’s now a development Docker environment, which should make it easier for anyone wanting to create their own website using the platform to spin up a local copy of the code for development. If you have Docker and Docker Compose installed, a fresh clone and then docker/compose-dev up should set everything up for you.

Other improvements

Report-makers can now specify a radius when signing up for an email alert, the mobile site has an improved navigation menu and the search box supports Maidenhead Locator references.

See the full list of version 4.0 features and all the information you need for upgrading on the FixMyStreet Platform blog.

Image: Sri Jalasutram

Image redaction on FixMyStreet Pro

Councils using FixMyStreet Pro can now redact particular areas of images uploaded by a citizen instead of having to remove them. 

FixMyStreet Pro has always provided councils with the ability to moderate the content that citizens upload within their reports. 

Say, for example, a citizen accidentally includes any personal information within the title or description of a report, staff can easily edit the content or remove it from the site using the moderation tool. 

Similarly, if a citizen uploads a photo with their report that contains any personal or inappropriate content (think: licence plate numbers on parked cars or addresses on letters that have been fly-tipped), those photos can be quickly hidden as the need arises.

Redact > remove

Now, hiding or removing the photos from reports is one solution, but we believe that capturing and being able to publicly share photos from citizens is important; it gives the community an even clearer view of exactly what issue has been reported and where. Meanwhile, for council staff and inspectors, photos can help to provide valuable additional context to reports that can’t be as easily gleaned from a description alone, further helping to accurately locate the defect and prioritise its repair.

So, what if instead of removing an entire image you could simply redact the usually quite small part of it that needs to be hidden? 

Well, now you can. 

A new feature for FixMyStreet Pro’s moderation tool allows council staff to redact particular areas of an image uploaded by a citizen when logged into the dashboard. 

FixMyStreet Pro's image redaction tool allows councils to redact particular areas of a photo instead of completely removing it from a report

So if a report contains an image in which a car’s licence plate is visible, you can select the image in question and draw a rectangle over the license plate to block it from view. If multiple licence plates are visible in one image, multiple rectangles can be drawn.

Once saved, the changes to the image will be reflected everywhere it is displayed, giving you complete peace of mind. Of course, if you need to revert a redaction or you want to remove the entire image, you still can with no hassle.

Importantly, and in-keeping with FixMyStreet Pro’s focus on improving the citizen experience, the staff member making the redaction can write a short note to the report-maker to explain why it has happened. This note will be sent straight to the citizen automatically, which should help them when they next make a report.

The image redaction feature is now available to all of our FixMyStreet Pro customers. If you’d like to see the image redaction feature in action, or you have any questions, you can contact us here.

Image: Franco Ruarte

Hackney Council noise case management sprint notes: 25 May – 8 June 2021

These sprint notes are part of a series following our work with Hackney Council on the production of a noise case management system. View the previous notes here.

During the last sprint we focused on prototyping the system’s mobile-optimised interface to get a second round of feedback on some of the suggestions the team has already made in previous sprints, and also identify ways that the product can help officers attending noise complaints ‘on the ground’

The prototypes received some good feedback including:

  • Case list page works well – combination of filtering and searching by address or name addresses the needs of officers prioritising their work.
  • Great suggestion that the case page should display the number of previous cases at the given address, and/or number of notices previously served to the address – again, to help surface context that might affect the priority of a case.
  • Confirmation that officers expect to be notified by email when a case is assigned to them.
  • The concept of logging “actions” on a case generally makes sense to officers. Important to include failed actions as well – eg: “unable to contact reporter” or “phone unanswered”.
  • Extra information about perpetrators was valuable – we now need to investigate what we can show / where it would come from.
  • 100% of respondents said what they’ve seen so far would save them time compared to current or previous tools.

As we’re getting nearer to actually coding up some of these prototypes we’ve also had discussions about the infrastructure and languages used to develop the new NoiseWorks product as well as scheduling time in future sprints to start building the prototypes.

This sprint we’re testing the final set of prototypes around the citizen experience of the service. While most of the case management features are staff-only, we’re keen to get citizen feedback on how they access their past complaints, keep digital ‘diary sheets’ of noise re-occurrences and how they’d expect to be notified about updates to their case.

Image: Frederik Lipfert

SocietyWorks is working with Hackney Council to produce a noise case management service

Hackney Council noise case management sprint notes: 11 May – 25 May 2021

These sprint notes are part of a series following our work with Hackney Council on the production of a noise case management system. View the previous notes here.

We are now halfway through the Alpha phase of the project, which involves prototyping, testing and iterating the noise case management service. This sprint the testing focussed on how we could allow Hackney staff to filter and manage multiple cases, and this led to some really useful follow-up conversations with Principal Officers, which identified a more action-based approach as an intuitive way to help them quickly pick up and understand cases.

Findings from this sprint’s prototype testing included:

  • The importance of displaying full addresses when listing cases – including street and flat numbers.
  • Being able to find or filter cases by letters or notices that have been served to the perpetrator – this would help officers identify cases that need follow-up.
  • Ideas for better ways of prioritising cases – for example, by repeat offenders, breaches of notice, multiple complaints, or priority categories (like car alarms).
  • The usefulness of displaying actions that have been taken on a case, such as contact with residents, visits, notices, referrals.

Whilst ASB isn’t within the scope of this phase of the project, there is naturally some crossover between the noise and ASB teams at Hackney. This sprint we had a really energising meeting with members of the ASB team, where Beth and Soraya (the leads on this project at Hackney) took the team through the work we’ve done so far, to ensure we’re sharing as much knowledge as possible and learning from each other.

We’re proud to be working alongside Hackney Council to develop the new NoiseWorks product, and have already had some great feedback the staff at Hackney – Gerry, the Service Manager for Enforcement, in particular, thanked us for the work we’re doing, and appreciates that we’re taking the time to really involve and listen to the team.

Next sprint, we’ll be prototyping the system’s mobile-optimised interface to get a second round of feedback on some of the suggestions the team has already made in previous sprints, and also identify ways that the product can help officers attending noise complaints ‘on the ground’.

Image: Justus Menke

Noise case management with Hackney Council

Hackney Council noise case management: sprint notes 27 April – 11 May 2021

These sprint notes are part of a series following our work with Hackney Council on the production of a noise case management system. View the previous notes here.

We’ve moved to Alpha!

Work continues on the NoiseWorks product that we’re undertaking with Hackney Council to produce a robust, well-tested case management system for resident noise reports. 

While our Discovery phase saw us interviewing Hackney staff to understand everyone’s working processes and pain points with both current and past case management systems, the Alpha is an opportunity to test what we’ve learned, and really narrow down on a user needs focussed noise case management product. 

Each sprint during the Alpha we’ll be testing a different aspect of the workflow. This most recent sprint has been dedicated to the experience of creating, viewing and updating a single case. 

Hackney Enforcement team members have been individually invited to check out a Google Form which contains step-by-step questions and screenshots, as well as links to clickable prototypes. Forms like these are a great way to gather Alpha feedback that works around officers’ busy schedules, and also ensures we get clear, actionable information that can inform future rounds of prototyping and carve the path towards Beta.

We’ve seen some interesting feedback come out of the prototypes, for example: 

  • A much clearer steer on the first thing officers need to do when faced with a new case – 85% said they’d first check that all the complaint details and contact details were present and correct, so we’ll be looking to make that quicker to verify.
  • An increased emphasis on the exact location or identifying features of the noise source, such as vehicle registration numbers – especially when it comes to detecting multiple complaints that could be treated as part of the same “case”.
  • A reassuring sign that two thirds of respondents thought this product could help them save time compared to their current or past case management systems.

We’ll continue to work and evolve the prototypes with the feedback we’re receiving from the team at Hackney. 

We’re also making sure we maintain a balance between what staff users need without compromising on the citizen experience by asking Hackney residents to get involved with testing. Hackney have added a call-out on their Hackney Matters emails, which are sent to local residents, asking for citizens to get involved and give feedback – 22 people have already signed-up! Plus, we’re asking people who submit noise complaints whether they’d like to take part too. We’ll be making use of these contacts in a later sprint.

Got a question about this project? Ask us here.

Image: Possessed Photography

FixMyStreet Pro can display defect pins on the map to show when work has already been scheduled

No report needed: new FixMyStreet map pins show citizens when remedial work has already been scheduled

Developed for Oxfordshire County Council’s instance of FixMyStreet Pro, useful new map pins show citizens when a fix has already been scheduled by the council, further helping to avoid report duplication and manage citizen expectations.

When a citizen makes a report on FixMyStreet.com or on one of the council branded Pro versions of the website, that report is published publicly with a little pin on the map indicating where the defect is. Among the various benefits of this transparent approach to defect report making is the way in which it helps to reduce duplicate reports; the citizen can see that the council has already been made aware of the issue and therefore doesn’t need to submit a new report.

Wanting to take extra advantage of this feature, Oxfordshire County Council approached us last year with a request to display some brand new pins on their maps to show where highways inspectors have already made note of a defect and have scheduled contractors to carry out a repair, thus eliminating the need for anyone to make a report in the first place. 

To collect the information for the new pins, Oxfordshire set up a new standard asset layer feed for FixMyStreet Pro especially for defects that have already been flagged by the Council’s highways inspectors. 

Taking data straight out of Oxfordshire’s backend management system, FixMyStreet Pro’s frontend produces a pin on the map to represent those defects, which can be seen to citizens from the ‘All Reports’ page when zoomed in to a certain level over the corresponding map tiles. These pins are shown in blue to differentiate them from those indicating a citizen-made report.

New defect map pins for Oxfordshire County Council's version of FixMyStreet Pro

Before a citizen places a pin of their own on the map to begin a report, FixMyStreet Pro will display the blue defect pins to helpfully suggest that this could be a problem that’s already been flagged by the Council.

Upon clicking one of the new pins, the citizen will be shown a pop-up containing up-to-date information on the defect, including when a repair is estimated to be completed. 

All of this should help to save the citizen the bother of submitting a report, while for the Council it helps to not just save time and money, but to also instil confidence in residents that defect repairs are all in hand.

SocietyWorks’ services are under continual development and we love taking suggestions for new features from our council partners, like this one from Oxfordshire. If you’d like to find out more about FixMyStreet Pro, or any of our other services, you can schedule a demo here.

Image: Miguel Teirlinck on Unsplash

WasteWorks - our new digital waste management service

Ready for collection: our new waste service for councils has launched

We’re very pleased to announce the launch of WasteWorks: a reliable, citizen-centred system for councils to manage all elements of domestic, bulky and green garden waste online, from missed bin reports to online payments for collections.

Designed with the same focus on usability that has made FixMyStreet and FixMyStreet Pro so popular with councils and citizens alike, WasteWorks makes the end-to-end process of managing waste online easier and more efficient through intelligent integration with in-cab software systems. So whether a resident needs to request a new container or set up a direct debit for a green garden waste subscription, it can all be done in one place.

With an intuitive, user-friendly interface that aids channel shift, the service helps councils reduce operating costs by lowering demand on customer service centres, while also dramatically improving the citizen user experience thanks to increased transparency and a self-service system that is easy to use on any device and which meets government accessibility standards.

“WasteWorks provides councils with the opportunity to bring about real improvements to the way citizens access waste services online.”

– David Eaton, SocietyWorks

WasteWorks can be integrated into any and all existing in-cab software systems (eg Alloy, Veolia/Echo and Bartec). Once connected and branded to complement the council’s website, the service acts as a one-stop shop for citizens to access all aspects of waste – whether that’s to report a missed bin within time frames specified by the council, to self-serve a payment for a bulky waste collection, or to set up an ongoing green garden waste subscription. Automated updates and templated responses make it easier for councils to manage expectations and deliver a more transparent service, while internal dashboards and visual heat maps enable staff to track service levels and identify trends.

David Eaton, Sales Director at SocietyWorks said: “WasteWorks provides councils with the opportunity to achieve much-sought after channel shift, create savings and bring about real improvements to the way citizens access waste services online. Understanding the importance of making it as easy as possible for residents to access the services they need, while also making sure public funds go as far as possible, we applied the easy-to-use user interface behind our popular FixMyStreet Pro service to waste, creating one front door through which citizens can make all reports and requests – be it for an assisted collection or for a green garden waste subscription – and removing the need to access and understand different fault reporting processes for different issues.”

“That same focus on usability has also been applied to the WasteWorks management interface for council staff, providing a simple experience that works in tandem with existing systems,” he added. “The result is a service that demonstrably puts citizens first, while lessening the burden on council staff.”

Like all of SocietyWorks’ public authority services, WasteWorks has been developed in consultation with councils and with citizens at its heart. Councils taking up the service will benefit from SocietyWorks’ unstinting focus on usability and continual development roadmap.

WasteWorks is available to all UK councils from today. Click here to request a demo.

Green garden waste service

What does the front-end of a green garden waste service need to do?

That’s a question our design team has been asking recently as part of our work on phase two of Bromley Council’s new citizen-centred waste product, which involves incorporating green garden waste subscriptions into the service.

“Subscriptions like green garden waste collections can involve multiple council systems and departments, so our task is to make sure that process feels natural and intuitive to residents,” explains SocietyWorks designer Zarino.

“In this project, we used prototypes to help us identify and confirm user needs—for both residents and council staff—pinning down exactly what the green garden waste service needs to do, and how the interface should work, to allow residents to create and manage their subscriptions in a way that suits them.”

The prototypes for the green garden waste front-end have now been completed and accepted by the Council, so we thought we’d lift the lid and let you take a look at how the front-end is shaping up.

So what does a green garden waste front-end need to do?

It needs to display green garden waste collections. The citizen needs to be able to identify their property and view all collection information related to it: whether a subscription is active, what are the previous and upcoming collections, the number of containers being collected and when the subscription renews.

It needs to provide self-service subscriptions to green garden waste collections. If no collections are set up for the property, the citizen needs to be able to complete a form providing relevant information for the council to create a subscription – collection address (from UPRN), contact information, whether new containers are required and payment details for the collection. The citizen should be encouraged to check their details are correct before submitting, and needs to agree to the terms and conditions. Once the payment has been processed and the citizen has been sent a confirmation email, a confirmation page reiterating that their subscription has now been set up should be displayed.

It needs to take requests for more or fewer green garden waste containers. On occasions when the citizen requires more or fewer containers, a multi-page form will help them to complete their request. This should ask how many containers are required, and should redirect the citizen to a cancellation form if they want to reduce containers to zero. Here again, the citizen needs to be able to self-serve all of the relevant information, and a confirmation needs to be available once the request has been submitted.

It needs to handle return or replacement requests of green garden waste containers. In this instance, the citizen needs to be able to define within a multi-page form why they need to return or replace a container and what actions they require next, if any. A summary of the information should be provided, and a confirmation that the request was submitted should be shown afterwards.

And it needs to enable subscription renewals or cancellations. The citizen needs to be able renew or cancel their subscription to green garden waste collections. For renewals, the citizen should be able to refine their subscription if needed (for example, request more or fewer containers), while for cancellations, the citizen needs to be shown what cancelling the subscription means and needs to be able to provide information on how many containers are to be returned to the council.

Of course, there are lots of other, more client-specific things the front-end for Bromley Council’s green garden waste service will do in addition to the above, but these are the essentials.

The green garden waste service we’re designing for Bromley Council is part of a broader waste service SocietyWorks will very soon be launching for all UK councils, built with years and years of experience putting citizens at the front and centre of local authority services. Book a demo to see how it works.

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Image: Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay

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