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Reporting problems with multiple bins at once with WasteWorks

When it comes to reporting problems with domestic waste bins, citizens tend to wait until there’s a problem with more than one of their bins to take action. 

Usually, this requires the creation of a separate report for each problem or bin. So if you have a problem with the lid of your domestic black bin and an issue with the wheels on your green garden waste bin, you would have to make two different reports.

As well as being time consuming for citizens, this also creates more work for council waste teams, who need to process multiple reports and organise separate resolutions all for the same address.

This cumbersome process is one of many user experience pain points that we wanted to address when we designed our domestic, green and bulky waste portal WasteWorks.

WasteWorks has the functionality to enable councils to let residents report problems with multiple bins at their address within the same workflow. 

Here’s an example of how it works for Peterborough City Council.

Screenshot of Peterborough City Council's instance of WasteWorks, showing the reporting from which allows users to select different problems with different waste bins.

All problems for all affected bins are neatly packaged into one report, which automatically enters Peterborough’s in-cab system Bartec via direct integration, meaning no manual intervention from staff and no duplication of effort for frontline waste teams. From the single report, different reference numbers will be provided from Bartec back to the resident to help with tracking the progress from report to resolution for each issue.  

It’s a simple but significant feature that counts toward the many ways in which WasteWorks helps to make it easier for citizens to access domestic waste services online, while also creating a more efficient, streamlined process for council staff.

WasteWorks customers don’t have to allow the reporting of multiple bins at once; this is an optional feature that is dependant on the type of in-cab system you use and the configuration of your reporting processes.

Want to find out more about WasteWorks and how it could work for you? Request a short demo with the SocietyWorks team.

Image: Pawel Czerwinski

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.

5 ways FixMyStreet Pro helps to keep customer contacts down during seasons of high demand

With winter weather come the inevitable problems that need reporting by citizens across the UK’s network of roads and highways. From potholes to floods to fallen trees, every year the councils and public authorities responsible for investigating these reports rise to the challenge of dealing with increased contacts from citizens.

For over ten years now, our FixMyStreet Pro service has been helping to reduce the load on those authorities, while also improving the reporting experience for citizens, by closing the feedback loop and increasing transparency.

With councils helping to drive our product development roadmap, we’ve added a whole host of features and functions that help to keep contacts down, especially during seasons of high demand. Check out some of our favourites below.

1. Show existing reports on the map

One report per defect. That’s our ultimate aim in publicly displaying existing reports on the map for citizens to take a look and see whether the problem they have spotted has already been brought to your attention.

When a citizen clicks on the map to make a report and selects a category, FixMyStreet Pro will find any similar reports within the same area and suggest them to the citizen before they continue with their report. If the problem has already been reported, the citizen can simply subscribe to the existing report instead of creating a new one.

For you, that means no duplication of effort, and a faster way to keep any interested citizens updated on the report’s progress.

2. Share scheduled remedial works

What’s even better than stopping duplicate reports? Removing the need to report a problem in the first place – something FixMyStreet Pro does by enabling you to display upcoming remedial works on the map.

If a problem’s location and category corresponds to some works you’ve already scheduled, display a message detailing the works and expected completion date to reassure the citizen that no report is needed, just like Bath & North East Somerset are doing in the image to the left.

Alternatively, you can display works as alternative pins on the map, to display when ‘All reports’ are selected by citizens, just like Oxfordshire County Council.

3. Provide updates on report progress

It’s always great when citizens care enough about their local neighbourhood to report any problems to you. And because they care, they tend to want to know exactly what’s happening about fixing the problem not long after reporting it, especially if the issue is affecting their everyday life.

By integrating with any and all back office systems you use, FixMyStreet Pro makes it easy for your teams to keep report-makers updated on the progress of their reports. Tell them that it’s due to be inspected, let them know when works have been scheduled, even send them a photo when the problem’s been resolved – all at the click of a button.

This way, you can reduce the likelihood of citizens jumping straight onto the phone or emailing you to chase for an update on their report.

4. Divert emergency issuesBuckinghamshire Council shows a message asking report-makers to use an alternative phone number if the problem is an emergency

Some problems need to be dealt with faster than others. Trees blocking roads, serious flooding or dangerous potholes are all examples of problems you might need to know about a bit faster than via a digital report.

In those cases, you can display emergency messaging on FixMyStreet Pro and signpost to the best way for citizens to tell you about emergencies, whether that’s a phone number or an email.

5. Automatically reroute reports that aren’t your responsibility

In areas like London where multiple authorities are responsible for fixing different problems, FixMyStreet Pro’s intelligent functionality to reroute reports to the correct place really comes in handy, helping you to avoid having to process reports that you can’t fix.

Depending on the location and category of the report, FixMyStreet Pro will automatically work out who’s responsible for a problem, and direct the citizen away from your service with no interruption to the reporting process and no intervention required from your staff.

 

For more information about how FixMyStreet Pro can help you to improve reporting for you and your residents, why not book a quick demo?

Image: Jonathan Bean

 

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

New joined-up admin functionality across FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks

View and monitor reports for each of your service areas through one visual heatmap, built into the dashboard of FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks.

Back in 2019 we worked with Bromley Council to introduce a new heatmap feature to FixMyStreet Pro’s arsenal of tools for council staff. 

The heatmap converts report data into a visual format that is easy to understand, allowing council staff to see at a glance which issues are most prevalent, and where they are being reported.

Since being rolled out to all Pro customers, the heatmap has become one of the service’s most popular and useful features, which is why we built the same functionality for our new waste service WasteWorks.

Bromley also co-designed WasteWorks with us, and so is one of the first councils to go live with the service and benefit from being able to track and manage more than one service area from a single, central dashboard.

Now, when Bromley staff log in to their FixMyStreet Pro dashboard and select the heatmap overlay, as well as being able to view street and highways reports, they can also see where reports and requests are being submitted through WasteWorks for waste services.

The heatmap looks and works in the same way as before for Bromley. Hotter colours represent higher report volume, cooler colours represent fewer reports, and dropdown filters allow staff to view report data by category, status, timeframe and ward.

By default, the heatmap shows every report made to the council in the last month, so initially the map will look something like this:

Bromley Council's heatmap on FixMyStreet Pro

But now, without needing to leave the page, Bromley staff can view reports about, say, fly-tips, made in the last 12 months, which have been closed

Bromley Council's heatmap on FixMyStreet Pro

…or, green garden waste subscriptions, which have been completed in the last 5 days.

Green garden waste subscriptions shown on Bromley Council's heatmap

Heatmaps for both FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks are available to all UK councils. If you’d like to see how they work, you can request a demo.

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

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

FMS mobile improvements

New mobile improvements for FixMyStreet

When it comes to improving the FixMyStreet user experience, we’ve recently been giving a lot of (well-deserved) attention to the mobile experience of our website, through which around 40% of website reports were made in the last three months.

You might have seen us talking in December about how we’re exploring the use of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) to help the FixMyStreet site look, work and feel like an app without actually being one.  

Well, following on from that, here’s a rundown of some of the new improvements we have been, and will soon be working on to make using the website on a mobile device an even smoother experience.

Improvements we’ve already put in place:

A simplified reporting form

Continuing to ensure that the process of submitting a report on FixMyStreet is as smart and uncomplicated as possible, we’ve been designing a simpler reporting form for mobile users.

FixMyStreet new mobile improvements - touch-friendly design

Taking inspiration from some user groups we carried out over the course of the last year, we’ve been building on some of the best bits of our existing mobile app and applying them to the web version of the site so that more users can benefit from them – including users of the various council versions of FixMyStreet Pro. 

One of these ‘best bits’ takes the form of a ‘one detail at a time’ question and answer format, delivered in a logical order. This approach helps to avoid overwhelming the user – they don’t have to think of everything at once and are less likely to exclude key information, or indeed include irrelevant information. 

Plus, if a citizen wants to make a report on-the-go from their mobile, this simplifies the process for them by making it much more digestible and permitting much easier map asset selection without needing to interrupt the report flow.

Touch-friendly design

In a bid to make FixMyStreet’s interface more forgiving for mobile users, we’re working on applying an even more touch-friendly design to the site, which will further help to make it feel and respond like it’s an app.

To make this happen, we’ve introduced a more responsive category picker, better map controls and a more obvious ‘use my location’ feature to facilitate selecting location data that’s as accurate as possible.

With these changes in place, FixMyStreet will be faster and easier to use on a mobile device, dramatically improving the citizen user experience.

Upcoming improvements:

Reducing abandonments

When a citizen cares enough about their local neighbourhood to make the effort to report a problem to the council, the last thing you want to do is to make them feel like the process of doing so is too difficult or long-winded to be worth it.

FixMyStreet new mobile website improvements

Councils using FixMyStreet Pro will know that the service already provides a report summary at the final stage of the process to help increase report accuracy and reduce the risk of users abandoning their report before inputting their contact details. 

Wanting to take that one step further with our new ‘one thing at a time’ format, our eventual aim is to have the report summary show up at the top of each stage of the form filling process, so that citizens can see their progress and receive a constant reminder of why they’re here and why it would be a shame to quit without completing the report.

Photo-first reporting

Following some research we carried out recently into how photos make FixMyStreet reports 15% more likely to be recorded as fixed, we wanted to dedicate some time to thinking about how we can encourage users to begin a report with a photo, instead of it being an optional extra.

While it’s a long way off being something we can implement, our thinking is that, aside from increasing the likelihood of reports being marked as fixed, one of the key advantages of enabling this feature would be that, under the right circumstances, it could give us the capability to use the photo to autofill other details, such as recognising the category the report belongs to, the GPS location and other useful data that is embedded into photos taken on mobile devices. This means reports which start with a photo would be much quicker and easier to complete for citizens, and much more accurate and actionable for council staff.

Smart programming for report summaries

Last but by no means least, another new feature we’re still in the exploration stage of working on is one that we hope will make reports easier to read and browse for citizens and council staff alike. Although this one isn’t specifically a mobile feature, it would likely benefit mobile users of the website the most, if and when we’re able to implement it.

Knowing that FixMyStreet users sometimes get confused between the summary field and the details field, which can lead to one or both of them containing repeated or irrelevant information, we’re exploring how we can remove the burden of inputting this information from the user by automating the process and reducing the amount of user-generated information we need to ask for.

We’re still exploring how best we can do this, but the end result should be a better standard of information available for council staff to browse, with clearer email subject lines, easier case prioritisation and no time wasted by users writing what ends up being unhelpful information.

And that’s it for now! As we’ve mentioned, some of these improvements are still in the exploration or developmental stage, so while we can’t say exactly when they will be rolled out just yet, there’s certainly lots to look forward to!

You can stay up-to-date with our progress here on our blog, on our social media accounts (we’re on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook) or by subscribing to our newsletter.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about any of the work we’re doing on FixMyStreet, or you want to chat to us about any of our other services, do get in touch with us.

Peterborough FixMyStreet Pro with new OS Maps

A new way to display OS maps on FixMyStreet Pro

Were you aware that councils, as registered Public Sector Geospatial Agreement (PSGA) members, get free, unlimited access to Ordnance Survey’s Premium Maps API?

Peterborough City Council were, and so, using an API key, we’ve just completed some work updating the OS maps displayed on their instance of FixMyStreet Pro – and don’t they look magnificent?

So what’s different about these maps, aside from being very nice to look at?

Well, the high-level OS maps available in this way show a lot more detail to citizens, especially when tiles are zoomed in, which should help them to make more accurate reports about streets and highways defects.

Using the API should also produce a faster loading time for tiles and removes the need for watermarks.

Another benefit of displaying maps like this is that councils don’t need to provide us with the source data for the maps or worry about keeping it up to date; OS will take care of that.

Of course, councils who have their own map servers can already display data in this way via FixMyStreet Pro, but for those who don’t host their own map tiles, the OS Maps API offers a really neat solution. 

You can find out more about our FixMyStreet Pro service here.

Or, if you’re a council already using FixMyStreet Pro and you would like to explore connecting up your OS Maps API, let us know.

Road in the UK

Sprint notes: 16 Feb – 1 Mar 2021

The arrival of March (how fast did that come around?!) brought with it the end of the fourth SocietyWorks sprint of the year, so here’s your update on what the team got up to.

Magnificent maps

Peterborough City Council's FixMyStreet Pro reporting platform, with new OS maps

This sprint we worked with Peterborough City Council to introduce some new maps to their instance of FixMyStreet Pro using Ordnance Survey’s Maps API (which is totally free for PSGA members such as councils). The high-level OS maps available this way show a lot more detail to citizens, which should result in more accurate reports. We might be biased, but we think the new maps look beautiful.
The new maps are available to all FixMyStreet Pro customers – let us know if you want to display them, too.

Good-looking bins

Also with Peterborough City Council, we created some new bin icons to include on their in-development waste management system. This system will be integrated with Bartec and will allow citizens to report missed bins to the council easily online. Find out more about our new waste service here

Green garden waste

In more waste-related news, our green garden waste project with Bromley Council continues.  This sprint we have been focusing on the citizen forms and how to make the process of completing them as easy as possible. This was based on prototypes first, and is now being coded up after feedback from the client.

Pre-filled forms

Thinking about how we can improve the FixMyStreet Pro citizen user experience further still, we worked on creating the functionality to populate citizens’ details if they’ve already logged in to FixMyStreet to make report-making even smoother.

Customisable email templates

Another FixMyStreet Pro improvement, we’ve been working with London Borough of Bexley, who have recently created new email templates to keep their citizens informed on report progress. This is a key part of the product, and is very flexible, allowing our clients to send custom wording per status and category. 

Talking about noise

Also this sprint, we started our first rounds of interviews for the new noise case management project we’re working on with Hackney Council – we’ll be creating separate sprint notes every two weeks for this too, so look out for them.

Strategic thinking

As there is light at the end of the tunnel of this pandemic, we’ve also been looking at what the next three years could look like for SocietyWorks by creating a three-year strategy, giving us a clear path to follow and goals to work towards.

Awards

If you read our previous sprint notes, you’ll know that we’ve set ourselves the goal of celebrating our hard work more from now on. Sticking to our promises, we entered another award this sprint – this time it was the Digital Leaders Impact Awards. We decided on the Social Transformation category, focusing on the positive impact FixMyStreet Pro has on councils and their residents. Wish us luck!

New hires

Last not definitely least, we’re very excited to announce that we have recruited a new Project Manager, who will be starting next week! Once they’ve settled in we’ll introduce them to you all. 

Got any questions about anything we’ve mentioned here? Ask away.

Image: Jack Bassingthwaighte on Unsplash

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