We created FixMyStreet Pro to help councils and city governments better manage inbound street reports and issues from their residents.
In the past few months we’ve rolled out the FixMyStreet Pro service to new customers including Bath & North East Somerset, Buckinghamshire and Rutland councils; each of whom are taking the opportunity to get rid of legacy software, simplify their operations and make use of a much simpler and intuitive way for their residents and staff to make and manage reports.
We’re now looking for input from councils to help us guide the next phase of our service development on FixMyStreet Pro.
Having spoken to dozens of councils we think we can help them save more money by extending FixMyStreet Pro to other areas like waste and environment services and we would like to explore how much development work that might entail.
As FixMyStreet’s name would suggest our focus so far has been on handling issues related to highways like potholes, lighting and gullies (drains to me and you), but FixMyStreet Pro already handles reports for a whole range of issues beyond streets.
Typically council users of FixMyStreet Pro have around 13 to 15 different self-selected categories that they accept reports on – each of which can be directed to different teams or departments. Tree reports can be sent directly to the parks department, graffiti or abandoned cars can be passed along to the just the right team in street cleansing.
These ‘front end reports’ all have one thing in common: all we need to make the report is a location and description, plus a contact for the reporter, which could be as simple as an email address or phone number.
But once you get deeper into the glamorous world of bins and waste services for individual residents the situation gets a little more complicated.
Missed bin collections, requests for recycling bags, bulky waste collection – these all require the resident to be identified, the particular property to be checked with the UPRN (Unique Property Reference Number), and in some cases payments levied and collected.
FixMyStreet Pro doesn’t currently offer these additional waste services, although it doesn’t require a huge leap of imagination to see how we could add these adjacent features to the service, not least because we already do a lot of the pieces across our other commercial services.
Fortunately there has already been a lot of work done to define common standards, such as the Local Waste Service Standards Project from 2016 and more recent work by individual councils to apply some of this work – we also have a lot of our own research and experience to draw upon with numerous specific feature requests from our current local authority clients.
To make this happen we’d like to recruit at least two or three friendly councils available for interviews and possibly a workshop or two, to help us determine specific requirements and test out some of our early prototypes and hypotheses. From here we’d aim to develop these features into fully working aspects of FixMyStreet Pro over the summer.
If this is of interest to you, if you’re already grappling with this in your own council, or you’d just like to find out more, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org and we can have a chat.
In the meantime you can always find out more about what FixMyStreet Pro can do on one of our regular Friday Webinars.
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!
Anyone in Highways Maintenance management will know the importance of tracking their team’s performance. It’s only by looking at the stats that you can clearly understand where improvements can be made.
That’s why client councils get access to a useful dashboard as part of FixMyStreet Pro’s fully-featured admin back-end, showing all reports within your chosen timeframe. These can then be further filtered by ward, status (in progress, fixed, et cetera), and category. You can even check to see how many reports were made through the website, and how many on the app, giving you a good feel of your residents’ uptake of mobile.
As you’d expect, everything can be exported as a .csv file, to add to your own reporting spreadsheets.
You can see how it looks — and have a play around — on our demo site, at https://demo.fixmystreet.com/dashboard. If you have your own installation, you’ll be able to access it if logged in as a staff member with the right permissions, at your own installation URL followed by /dashboard. Then just click on ‘Stats’.
Got questions? Why not drop in to one of our regular Friday webinars?
GDPR is on everyone’s minds at the moment: the new data protection regulations come into force in May and will give new rights to citizens as regards the storage and use of their personal data.
We’re fortunate at mySociety in that we’ve always adhered to strong principles when it comes to privacy. That said, we’ve not always been great at setting those protocols down in writing, and the arrival of GDPR has been very good for us in that respect.
Over the past few months, we’ve been very busy creating internal documentation and updating the privacy policies which sit on each of our sites, so that we all know we’re on the same page. Staff now have a set of written guidelines that we all adhere to; users can very clearly see how we use and store their personal data, and how to opt out if they wish to.
FixMyStreet Pro, a service we host, but which allows our client councils access to users’ personal information, has required particular thought. The result is our data sharing and security agreement, a document which we hope that you, as a potential or existing client, will examine with care.
Got any questions? Don’t hesitate to drop us a line.
Once you’ve invested in FixMyStreet Pro, then of course you’ll want to ensure that your residents can find it easily. Here are a few ideas for making sure everyone knows where to make those street reports.
It sounds pretty obvious, but if FixMyStreet Pro is replacing a previous service, make sure you search your entire site to check that all your links are pointing at the right place. It’s always surprising to find just how many forgotten pages can be found in this way, taking users to retired parts of your site, or dead links.
While you’re at it, are there any automated emails or printed materials that might still include out of date URLs?
By default, we place FixMyStreet as a prefix to the council’s URL, like this: fixmystreet.eastherts.gov.uk.
If you prefer, we can go for something shorter, like Bromley did: fix.bromley.gov.uk.
Once you’ve got a nice memorable URL, it’s easier to put on leaflets, posters and in newsletters and emails.
Consider adding a link directly to your FixMyStreet Pro service on your website’s homepage, at least for a while until your users get to know where it is.
If you have a budget for marketing, you can see very good returns for a small investment on social media and search engine marketing.
You might like to run ads for a limited time on Facebook or Twitter, where just a few pounds can bring you both brand recognition and multiple click-throughs; or on Google Ads where you can bid on keywords such as ‘report potholes in [the name of your council]’.
If money is tight, see our recent post on low-cost ways to promote your FixMyStreet Pro service.
Your web editors are probably already au fait on how to optimise web pages to ensure they rank highly on search engines for relevant phrases. Make extra sure they’re putting their best SEO efforts into your report gateway page for maximum benefits all round.
One nice thing about FixMyStreet is that users don’t have to come via the council website to make a report: if they go via the national FixMyStreet.com website or app, and their report is within your council boundaries, it’ll come to you anyway. It’ll also appear on the council’s FixMyStreet Pro installation.
That happens the other way round too, so the national site also displays reports made through your website. The upshot is, if your residents can remember FixMyStreet.com, they can make a report directly to you.
Did you know that, as a FixMyStreet Pro council client, you can add your own asset layers to your installation?
If you’ve got data on features such as, for example, trees, bins, streetlights, bridges… or anything else, and they’re in a GIS format, we can slot them in to FixMyStreet.
That means that when your residents make a report, they can click on the precise asset where the issue is. Net result? Your inspectors and contractors don’t waste any time looking for a problem, because they have the data that lets them know precisely where to zero in.
These visuals needn’t clog up the map interface, either: we can set it up so that they only display when the user selects the relevant category. So, choose ‘streetlights’ from the drop-down menu, and as if by magic they’ll appear on the map.
You can see this feature in action on a few FixMyStreet Pro installations, but Bristol is a particularly good example, as they’ve added a lot of different types of asset. Take a look at this reporting page, and select Bridges/Subways, Grit Bins or Gully/Drainage to see how they’re handled.
Asset layers are available to councils who go for the FixMyStreet Pro ‘Avenue’ package. Find out more about pricing here.
As a user or a council, it’s quite possible that you’re already enjoying one of the usability improvements that FixMyStreet version 2.0 has brought — but, as it’s a fairly subtle change, perhaps without actually even noticing it.
In these days of eBay and department store shopping, we’re all quite used to refining results through the use of multiple checkboxes.
But for FixMyStreet, we hadn’t given much thought to letting you filter reports by more than one dimension, until Oxfordshire County Council suggested that it would be a useful feature.
For quite some time, you’d been able to filter by category and status (“Show me all pothole reports” or “Show me all ‘unfixed’ reports”), but this new functionality is more flexible.
You can now select multiple categories and multiple statuses simultaneously (“show me all pothole and graffiti reports that are unfixed or in progress”) — and all through the power of tickboxes.
If you’re a non-technical person, that’s all you need to know: just enjoy the additional flexibility next time you visit FixMyStreet. But if you are a coder, you might like to read more about how we achieved this feature: for you, Matthew has written about it over on the FixMyStreet Platform blog.
If you’d like to know more about all the features we’ve recently introduced to FixMyStreet, why not join one of our regular Friday webinars?
When a resident makes a report on the national FixMyStreet site, we ask them to choose a category for the issue, and to place a pin in the map to show its exact location.
These two pieces of information inform where the report is sent. Each council can stipulate exactly which categories they would like displayed: commonly these will be Potholes, Street lights, Graffiti, and any other issue types they deal with. Many councils, and especially larger ones, assign each category to a different email address (or route within their CRM if they’ve opted for full integration with FixMyStreet).
As a FixMyStreet Pro client council, you’ll have the ability to edit categories via the dashboard: delete them if you no longer use them; change the title or email address if required, or add new ones — try it out for yourself on our demo site. Non-client councils, by the way, can get in touch with us at any time to ask us to do the same on their behalf, for the nationwide FixMyStreet.com site.
But there’s a little more that FixMyStreet does, too. As a council, you’ll be well aware that just because a report’s made within your boundaries, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s dealt with by you. In the two-tier UK council system, responsibility for different categories of report are often split between county and district councils, or borough councils and the GLA, for example.
FixMyStreet can effortlessly deal with this, based on which category has been assigned to each report. If it needs to be directed to a different council or body, you need never even see it — even if the report is originally made via your own website, it’ll still appear on the map for other residents to see, but it will be winging its way safely to the other authority.
Find out more about FixMyStreet Pro, and ask questions, at one of our regular Friday webinars.
What would Eddie Grundy do if he came across a pothole? And how would Linda Snell deal with flytipping on the site of the Ambridge village fete?
Fortunately, these fictional characters now enjoy the same access to FixMyStreet as the rest of us, thanks to the new demo site we’ve built.
The thinking behind it is not, of course, to gather reports from an entirely fictional world. We’re not that mad.
Rather, we needed a sandbox interface where we could show councils exactly how FixMyStreet works, and allow them to play about with both the customer end and the admin side, all without causing any major repercussions to the running of the standard site. Enter FixMyStreet Borsetshire.
Prospective buyers of the system from local councils can experience the various levels of administration that the back-end allows. Just log in with the credentials seen on this page and see exactly how reports can be shortlisted, actioned, or moderated.
So, we’re expecting reports of pigs on the loose, flooded culverts and perhaps even a flying flapjack. But if you’re hoping to find out the precise location of Ambridge, unfortunately you’ll be disappointed: the map is actually centred around Chipping Sodbury, far from the village’s supposed Midlands locale.
Keen to know more? Join one of our regular Friday webinars for the full tour.
We’re always making improvements to FixMyStreet. And the great thing is that, as a council that’s installed FixMyStreet Pro as your fault-reporting system, you get all those improvements for free.
With most SAAS providers, there’s no real incentive to keep refining a product once it’s sold — but FixMyStreet is a bit different. The same software that underpins FixMyStreet Pro also drives our nationwide site for the UK, FixMyStreet.com, and a number of FixMyStreet sites run by other groups across the world. When we make an improvement to the codebase, that’s rolled out so that everyone can benefit from it.
The latest updates can always be seen on the FixMyStreet Platform blog, where, as you’ll see, some recent additions include the potential to update reports by text rather than email, and some performance updates as well as bug fixes.
Because FixMyStreet is in a continual state of development, we are always happy to hear from councils about the features they’d like to see. Just let your account manager know, or, if you’re familiar with the site GitHub, you can raise a ticket directly on the public FixMyStreet repo.
And when we make announcements on the blog, if you see anything you’d like to carry across to your own installation, drop us a line and we can discuss how best to make it happen.
Image: Štefan Štefančík (Unsplash)