FixMyStreet’s surveys

By default, four weeks after a user reports a problem, FixMyStreet sends an email inviting that user to complete a survey (which we also sometimes call a questionnaire). The survey is presented as a page on the site that asks the user about the current state of the problem (for example, it may have been fixed), and lets them add an update too.

We recommend that you keep this feature enabled, because it gives you useful data about the problems that have been reported on your site, and an indication of the performance of the bodies that should be fixing them. Some users will report a problem and then won’t really think about it after that. We’re happy with this, because it’s how the site is supposed to work — reporting a problem is easy and doesn’t demand any further interaction.

That’s why sending a survey email a month later works well. It serves as a reminder, and it helps ensure that the reports that have been fixed have their states set accordingly.

Of course, it’s possible that the problem has already been marked as fixed (or indeed any other state). The questionnaire is an opportunity for the user who reported the problem to confirm or change this.

The email contains a unique link to a page on the site, inviting the reporter to set the state of the problem and, optionally, to add an update. Updates can include photographs, so sometimes users add a picture to show the repair or fix.

The survey link is authorised for the user who submitted the problem report, because it’s been sent directly to the email address they’ve registered with your site. This means that the survey is easy for them to access and complete.

Each survey updates and collects data concerning a single report. It’s not a questionnaire about the general performance of your site.

Follow-up surveys

If the user doesn’t confirm that the problem has been fixed, FixMyStreet will offer to send another survey in another four weeks. That’s an opt-in question: the process will repeat with a new email and survey in four weeks’ time, but only because the user agreed to this.

The survey email

The email that is sent out is made using the questionnaire.txt template. The default is in /templates/email/default/. Of course, you should override this in your own cobrand — see more about customising email templates.

The email message contains a link to the survey page that includes a token that authenticates the user who submitted the report (this is possible because it is sent directly to their own email address).

The basic wording of the email is shown below. We put more information in the footer (such as links to the site and related social media), and include the text of the report that was submitted.

Hello Anne Example,

4 weeks ago, you reported a problem using FixMyStreet.

The details of that report are at the end of this email.

To keep FixMyStreet up to date and relevant, we'd appreciate it if
you could follow the link below and fill in our short questionnaire
updating the status of your problem:

All the best,

The FixMyStreet team

What’s in the survey?

The default survey invites the user to make an update to the problem report:

  • change the state — for example, to fixed, because it’s been fixed (unless it was already in that state)
  • add a comment or description (optional)
  • upload a photo (also optional)

It also asks:

  • have you ever reported a problem to the body before?
  • (if the problem has not been marked as fixed) do you want to receive another survey email in four weeks’ time?

The default template is defined in /templates/web/default/questionnaire/*, with the questions in index. As with all templates, you can override these with your own cobrand — for details, see customising templates.

Note that if you want to collect other data in your survey, you’ll need to update the source code to handle this.

If the user changes the state of a problem that is currently fixed to something else, that is, they effectively re-open the problem, then the update comment is not optional.

How to see the results

You can see the collected results of surveys by logging in as an administrator and visiting admin/questionnaire in the admin (or click on Survey in the admin menu bar).

The survey results are shown as total counts and percentages. They provide the following numbers:

First-timers, or repeat users?

  • Reported before / Not reported before
    How many reports were made by users who had reported a problem before, and how many are first-time reporters?

We collect that information because it’s a key indicator of how much impact a platform like FixMyStreet is having. Is it encouraging and enabling people who had not previously engaged with authorities to do so?

How did the state change in the surveys?

  • Old state
    The state the problem was in when the user did the survey (remember that anyone, including the body or the user themselves, may have set the state already, before the survey was sent).

  • New state
    What state did they change it to?

  • Total
    This is the number of problem reports (also expressed as a percentage) that users have moved from the old state to the new state in their surveys.

How complex these results are will depend to some extent on the states that your site allows. For example, if you’ve allowed staff users to have more detailed states to choose from than the public (such as “fixed — council”, or “in progress”), then you’ll have more combinations to deal with. See the admin manual for more information about the report states that are available to staff users.

How to turn questionnaire-sending off

By default, your site will send out questionnaires.

If you don’t want your site to send out questionnaires, you need to override the send_questionnaires method in the Cobrand module for your cobrand. Surveys will never be sent if that method returns false. This is not controlled by a configuration setting, so you do need to edit the Perl code — see more about changing the Cobrand module.