Bringing the Field Perspective into Software Development: Inspectors Help OpenGov Launch Mobile App

August 24, 2022 – Molly Brenner

It’s here! After months of development, testing, feedback, and user research with customers on-site, the OpenGov Mobile App is ready! This was quite an undertaking for our team, but we are excited to release a more enjoyable inspection experience for our inspectors.

Why is OpenGov releasing a new mobile app in addition to the mobile-responsive web application?

Inspector Ron Young of Cranberry, PA, holding up his iPad, hoping to upload a picture faster.

The short answer? Our inspectors asked for it! Departments of Inspectional Services come in all shapes and sizes across the country.

Most are responsible for only trade inspections like plumbing, fire, and electrical, while others have additional specialties related to health and code enforcement.

Inspectors generally spend their days “out in the field”, sometimes in places without internet or cell service, including rural areas or the basement of a building. To do their job well and efficiently, they need reliable access to OpenGov while they are out in the field, even in these areas of spotty internet.

The upcoming OpenGov Mobile App looks to solve this problem by providing inspectors the ability to conduct inspections offline.

How was the mobile app designed?

With our customers. When setting out to design this app, we first needed to check whether the assumptions we had about how inspections are conducted in OpenGov’s software were true.  We wanted to visit our customers “out in the field”, and talk to them about how we could make their experience even better.

Our product and design team interviewed inspectors from over a dozen communities across the country to understand how they use OpenGov today. Most interviews were conducted over Zoom, but we even donned hardhats to visit some of our inspectors in person.

18F Alumni and OpenGov designer Jen Ehlers visits construction sites in Cranberry, PA.

We followed inspectors as they worked, observing their day-to-day routine and how they used OpenGov to complete various types of inspections.  From building and electrical inspections to code enforcement violations, we watched inspectors use OpenGov to tick off the items on their to-do list and discussed what their pain points were.

At OpenGov, we believed that conducting our research with steel-toed “boots on the ground” was absolutely necessary, as it allowed our product and design team to feel confident in the plans we had for our mobile app. Thanks to the generosity of our inspector hosts, we were not only able to find areas of improvement in the design, but it also helped us make decisions on what features were most important to prioritize first versus later. Development for the first release is nearly done, but our government customers’ wishlist will continue to drive the roadmap and inform future updates.

At OpenGov, we’re feeling proud and excited to launch the mobile app to inspectors who helped build it – we hope it will make their day-to-day all the more efficient.  But we’re also proud to have found so many willing participants in our design process.  Among our customers, we have building officials, inspectors, IT leaders, and permit reviewers who have taken time out of their day to invest in innovation. 

mobile app inspection

“We are no longer stuck in our ways with how we do things. We want to be challenged. We want OpenGov to help us reimagine how we operate,” Township Manager of Hempfield Township, PA, Jason M. Winters said of his staff.

The reverse is equally true. By allowing our team to take a literal walk in their shoes, our government customers helped us create a product that not only meets their needs now but that is designed thoughtfully enough to last them for years to come.

The first release of the OpenGov Mobile App will be compatible with iPads (iOS version 14 or later). If you have specific questions about adding this tool for your community, feel free to sign up for a demo here. Current customers can also reach out to your Customer Success Manager.

It's here!

See a demo of the OpenGov Mobile App in action.
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