We’ve built a new SaaS (software as a service) product that lets residents report their housing repair needs to their local authority. It takes about 5 minutes for a resident to use. We’ve built this to help local authorities all over the UK improve the housing repairs services they provide to their residents, while saving time and money at the same time.
We’re really excited to share this. It’s something quite new and different to what we’ve done before. Rather than working with different councils on individual housing repair services, we think it makes much more sense to build one application to address this common need. We’re really keen to hear what you think.
We’ve made a video about it, which includes some screen grabs of what it looks like. Take a look:
Benefit from the user research we’ve already done
The great thing about taking a SaaS approach is that anyone can benefit from the groundwork we’ve already done. User research is a good example.
We’ve done heaps of user research to make the product as easy to use as possible. That includes research with community groups representing people with lower digital literacy. (Thank you to everyone who took part. You’ve helped make this a much better product.)
We’ve designed the product using the GOV.UK Service Standard. And as a result of this research, we’ve done other things to make the product as easy to use as possible, including simplifying words wherever we can.
One thing we’ve tried and decided against is the kind of interface where you show users a picture of a room and ask them to select the object or area where there’s a problem. Though this may sound like an easy way for some people to report a problem, there are accessibility issues with asking users to interact this way – for example, for people with a visual disability.
The effort we’ve applied to making the product as accessible as possible means that the online service is usable by many more people. That’s quicker and easier for them, but also frees up your people’s time from answering phone calls and emails to focus more on your priorities.
And because this is a proper SaaS product, you won’t need to spend time understanding, maintaining or upgrading the product. We’ll do all of that.
Why we’ve gone the SaaS route
In case you’re not familiar with software as a service, these are applications that live in the cloud, and which are maintained and improved by the provider (in this case: us). They operate on a simple pay-as-you-go basis, and our housing repairs product is no different.
We think a SaaS product makes so much sense for solving housing repair needs. It’s a cheaper alternative to either building a new bespoke service, or making do with an out-of-date system.
And it makes things simple for you (the local authority). Because it’s SaaS, you pay a single flat fee. There are no add-ons or preferential rates. The costs are predictable. You don’t need to worry about maintaining it (because we do that bit).
Like all SaaS products, our housing repairs tool is never finished: we’ll go on improving it based on new insights and the feedback we hear from you. Everyone will see those updates roll out at the same time. There’s no extra cost for those updates – it wouldn’t really be a SaaS product if we did that.
It takes a little time and effort to set up, probably a day or 2, which we’ll help with. After that, updates should just work, with no more tinkering needed. But we have support on hand in case, provided by the people at Made Tech that actually built it.
This isn’t finished – and we’d love your help
We’ve already learned an awful lot while building this product. As we’ve mentioned, we’ve learned that a lot of the existing assumptions about what makes a good repairs service need challenging based on what the user research shows us.
But at the same time, this product isn’t finished, and it never will be. We’re pretty sure the product as it stands can help councils around the UK, but we want to hear from as many people as possible about how it can be improved to better meet the needs of local authorities and their residents.
One area still up for discussion is the possibility of doing away with logins, which we’ve done in the product as it now stands. There’s a lot of evidence to support this decision, as logins create a barrier to entry that turns some users away.
We’ve heard some arguments against, and the assumptions behind these are potential areas for further user research. But this is an area where we’re keen to hear from more people, so please do come to have a chat with us.
Another feature we’re thinking about is image uploads. There’s some evidence that letting residents snap a quick photo of the problem to upload with their report can help local authorities accurately diagnose the issue and reduce the need for repeat callouts. We’re testing a prototype in our latest round of user research.
This is our first SaaS product, but watch this space. Head of Research Robin Wyles and team are hard at work in their batcave as we speak.
See a demo
We haven’t gotten around to making a full demo video of the housing repairs product yet, as we’ve been doing some last-minute tweaks. But if you’d like to take a look at the end-to-end journey, we can jump on a quick call with you to do a live demo. That way you can ask any questions you have, or let us know where we’re going wrong (and we’ll put our case to the contrary, if we have one!) Just give us a shout via the contact form on our housing repairs product page.