Love Newham?

17 Mar

Why would you build an app like this:

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When your mobile website looks like this:

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Apps are all well and good, but you need to build different versions for different phones – iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and so on. A properly designed mobile website will work on all phones, plus tablets (the Love Newham app is only designed for phones), and doesn’t require citizens to go through the extra steps of visiting an app store, signing in (assuming you already have an account – if you don’t setting one up is another step), downloading and installing. They just work.

And they provide access to the full range of online council services.

But if people really want a dedicated app for reporting problems, why not simply point them to MySociety’s FixMyStreet app? Point 2 of the Government Digital Service’s design principles says it best: do less. If someone else is doing it — link to it.

I don’t know who’s advising Newham council on digital strategy, but if it was me I’d put developing a mobile version of the website a long, long way ahead of building an app.

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4 Responses to “Love Newham?”

  1. Craig March 21, 2014 at 11:56 #

    They didn’t build it. Someone else was doing it.

    http://bbits.co.uk/

    It’s just a rebranded app sold to lots of local authorities.

    That makes it a “platform,” no less. Much like a www platform, but you get to blame someone else when it doesn’t work properly 🙂

    Plus the GPS and photo integration is much easier for users than doing it via a mobile website.

    A tablet might be in their briefcase, but their phone is always in their pocket, ready to whip out and snap some fly-tipping on the way to the station, so it’s sensible to primarily target those devices.

    Seems to me a good way to lower the barrier to action. Residents fed up with the state of the place can do less undirected moaning and more focused clicking.

    Whether LBN can keep up with the resulting volume of reports is a different question…

  2. Craig April 11, 2014 at 14:42 #

    Now here’s a thing. A troubling thing, I find…

    When you install the Love Newham app (on Android, anyway,) you can give an email address, mobile number or both.

    Updates and confirmations are sent to whatever address you provide.

    If it’s an email address, you get sent a link to validate the address.

    All fine. I opted to give an email address and have been receiving confirmations from
    “Love Clean Streets”

    Now suddenly I’ve started receiving confirmations from
    as well.

    These confirmations from LBN, however, state my name and postal address, neither of which I provided when installing the app.

    Turns out that if Newham have the email address on file already, they link all your Love Newham reports to your My Newham account, if you have one.

    I don’t know why I feel uncomfortable about that, but I do.

    I certainly didn’t give permission for it, and I can see potential for errors.

    I suppose it then also becomes about tracking an individual rather than tracking and addressing problems on the street.

    I really don’t like that.

    The app itself already provides visibility of problems and their resolution. It should be all about those problems.

    I installed the app in order to contribute something to civil society, not to be tracked.

    I may uninstall it and not bother.

    • Martin Warne April 11, 2014 at 14:47 #

      Thanks for the update. I have a My Newham account but wasn’t asked to provide details when I installed the app on my iPhone. What’s happening to you is a little worrying.

      • Craig April 11, 2014 at 15:37 #

        I called Blackburn IT Services (that’s what bbits stands for) to complain. They have a London office in Hanover Square: 020 3126 4885. Nobody available to deal with Data Protection issues on a Friday afternoon. The lady who answered the phone promised a call-back.

        This is the fairly horrific privacy policy linked to in the app’s settings section (which of course I didn’t read before):
        http://lovecleanstreets.com/help/lcsprivacypolicy

        (Hope these comments allow links – the email addresses, understandably, got filtered out of the previous one, hence the blanks!)

        Anyway, I didn’t give permission for my email address to be used in the way it has been.

        Definitely uninstalling.

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