Last week we hosted another of our FixMyStreet Pro user groups. These events provide the perfect opportunity for us to get together with all of our council partners to show them what we’ve been working on and, importantly, give them the chance to influence what’s next for FixMyStreet Pro.
Senior Developer Dave Arter gave everyone a tour of all of the recently added features for FixMyStreet Pro, from a new OS Maps API and some fantastic mobile navigation improvements to extra detailed asset information and intelligent image redaction.
We also heard from Sam Pearson, mySociety’s Site Reliability Engineer who took us behind the scenes of FixMyStreet Pro. Sam gave us a fascinating glimpse into the architecture of the service, how it’s maintained and how we keep it secure for our customers.
A highlight of our user groups is always the interactive roadmap session – this is the part where we involve councils in helping to decide what new features we should be working on next for FixMyStreet Pro.
Starting with a runthrough of some of the new feature suggestions we’ve been receiving from our council partners recently by Operations Director Louise Howells, we then broke out into five groups to discuss each suggestion and prioritise them from most to least pressing. Under the guidance of our Designer Martin Wright, each group used Miro boards to select the one project they most wanted to see worked on, before regrouping to compare selections and choose an overall winner.
So what did our council partners choose to be worked on next for FixMyStreet Pro? Scheduled emergency messages that only appear at the correctly calculated time. This is something several councils have asked for, so we’re very happy to be getting the ball rolling.
As well as having a say on our development roadmap, the user groups are also a great opportunity for councils to share best practices with each other, present case studies on how FixMyStreet Pro is working for them and discuss topics of interest.
Jack Bowers, Principal Highways Liaison Officer at Central Bedfordshire, presented a brilliant case study all about how FixMyStreet Pro has, within just a few months of launching, helped the council to create fast channel shift, improve the citizen user experience and reduce reporting costs by 24%. Just what we like to hear!
We also heard from Tom Scholes, Group Manager – Asset Data & Systems at Oxfordshire County Council, who led a very engaging discussion on demand management and intervention criteria. Tom spoke about how the council often receives reports about potholes that fall below their threshold for repair. He then sought advice from other councils on how best to utilise FixMyStreet Pro to handle this without compromising the citizen experience. Some fantastic ideas were thrown around, and we’ll be on hand to support Oxfordshire to better help citizens understand what counts as an actionable report.
And that’s it! It was a very enjoyable user group, and we’re already looking forward to the next one in November, which with any luck will be an in-person event!
If you have any questions about anything mentioned above, or you’d like to be invited to the next user group, do let us know.
Image: S O C I A L . C U T
Since FixMyStreet first launched back in 2007, we’ve always loved hearing stories from citizens about how they use the service within their local community.
Earlier this year, we heard from Lauren and John, who told us about how they’ve been using FixMyStreet to help make roads in their local area safer for blind people by reporting any pedestrian crossings with faulty or missing audio, tactile or visual indicators.
These indicators are essential for anyone with sight or hearing loss to be able to safely navigate crossing the road, so when they’re broken, it is a serious hazard. A hazard that most people probably wouldn’t notice, let alone report.
We were so inspired by their story that we asked if we could share it and encourage more people to make use of FixMyStreet in this way.
Happily, not only did they agree, but they also made a video for us! So, meet best friends Lauren and John:
John is deafblind and relies on using tactile indicators (those little plastic or metal cones beneath pedestrian crossing boxes, sometimes referred to as ‘twirlers’ or ‘spinners’) to know when it is safe to cross the road.
The pair say they started reporting any broken pedestrian crossings during lockdown as a way to make the most of their daily exercise: “We wanted to use our time to do something positive that would make journeys safer for other cane and guide dog users in the local area.
“Covid has hit visually impaired people quite hard and there have been lots of changes to street layouts, one way systems and social distancing is pretty difficult for those that cannot see.”
There are several things that Lauren and John look out for and report on FixMyStreet: “We look at all aspects of the crossing, including buttons, lights and the spinner.
“The wait light is surprisingly important because even John, who has very little remaining vision, can see if the light is on or off. If a tactile spinner isn’t working he can work out when it’s safe to cross using this light, as it will go off when the man turns green.”
That’s not all, though. Broken glass is also high up on their reporting priority list. Lauren explains, “[Glass] is a real hazard for John’s guide dog Daisy who will walk through it if there is no easy way around or if it is very small pieces she can’t see.”
Lauren says it was a local litter picking group that recommended using FixMyStreet to report all the issues she and John were finding at pedestrian crossings.
“Before finding the website I actually wouldn’t have known where or who to report the issues to.”
FixMyStreet uses the location data provided within a report to automatically send it to the correct authority. In Lauren and John’s case, it was Birmingham City Council that received their reports.
John and Lauren say using FixMyStreet has made reporting problems “easy”, and that they’ve been impressed by how quickly Birmingham City Council has responded to their FixMyStreet reports: “We have had issues fixed in less than 48 hours, which is great.”
This is something we’re very pleased to hear, and serves as a reminder of why we encourage all UK councils to give their residents the option to make reports via FixMyStreet (currently, around 2% of councils don’t accept reports from third party websites like ours).
Although lockdown will hopefully be over in the near future, John and Lauren have no plans to stop their walking and reporting routine: “Finding so many problems has motivated us to keep checking and reporting issues.
“It could be a missing button, broken light or the tactile spinner could be missing or broken. If nobody knows they are broken, then they can’t be fixed!”
Thanks so much to Lauren and John for sharing their story with us, and for being such active members of their community through FixMyStreet – this is exactly why we created the service in the first place.
Next time you’re waiting at a pedestrian crossing, why not check that everything’s working as it should, and make a quick report on FixMyStreet if it’s not?
If you want to follow more of Lauren and John’s adventures, check out their Facebook page.
How do you use FixMyStreet? Share your own story with us here.
Image: Valou_c on Unsplash
So we’ve pressed the button and your shiny new FixMyStreet Pro installation is now live on your website. Fantastic… now how are you going to make sure your residents know about it?
In these cash-strapped times, huge marketing campaigns are most likely not an option, so here are some ideas for low-cost coverage.
What other services do you offer your users online? Whether residents are applying for parking permits or commenting on planning applications, there’s generally a ‘thanks’ or ‘success’ page at the end of the process.
This can be an ideal place to promote new services: after all, your users have pretty much self-identified as local residents, and also as people who like to complete tasks online.
Your local paper will probably be happy to cover the story of your launch, but you can ensure continued regular coverage too, by sending out press releases based on stats.
FixMyStreet Pro’s dashboard allows you to run off statistics and create stories such as how many faults in a specific category are reported — and fixed — monthly; or to compare this year’s results with previous years.
There are many stories just waiting to be told, and local papers always like an easy angle.
Facebook, Twitter and even Snapchat or Instagram can be great places to make sure people know about your service, and for free.
You might consider running a small contest for retweeting or sharing your message, which would ensure that it reaches people beyond your own followers. Or ask your staff to get creative and photograph themselves at every stage of a fault report, making a compelling visual journey that allows your residents to see just what happens to their reports once they click ‘submit’.
Once you’ve been up and running for a few months, check in the admin interface to see whether there are residents who are making more reports than the average user.
These are likely to be the people who will recommend the service to others, especially if they’ve had success with getting their issues fixed.
They’ll often be happy to be interviewed for your newsletter, or photographed for other promotional activity. You could even identify them as a group of ‘super users’ and ask them to mention your service on social media, or to drop leaflets and posters at their habitual haunts such as coffee shops or their place of work.
Once you start thinking, there are all sorts of places where a service can be promoted:
A leaflet through every door is a costly exercise, but it’s much cheaper to deliver a stack of posters or flyers to local hubs such as libraries, job centres, gyms, playgroups and schools.
Or get creative and consider the organisations and groups most likely to use FixMyStreet: clean-up volunteers for your waterways or parks; civic societies or local history clubs, whose members tend to care about their surroundings; or perhaps there’s a local Britain in Bloom group or similar, who have a stake in keeping the area clean and tidy.
Those are our top ideas for cheap promotion: let us know if you have any more!
Image: Francesco Casalino on Unsplash