Dartington Social Research Unit (DRSU) are an independent charity who perform social research on behalf of various organs of government in order to better understand particular social issues and create more effective and workable policy, these projects are often called "Public Social Partnerships".
Much of this research involves in-person interviews and recording the data that results from them.
Because the DSRU regularly perform in-person research on social issues, interviewing individuals and families while using pen and paper forms, this led to the need for lots of manual data entry. Put simply, the workflow involved performing the research, gathering the data on paper and upon returning to the office, inputting this data from paper to a digital environment manually.
DSRU felt that if they could leverage the mobility of tablet devices they could greatly simplify this workflow, removing the need for manual data input and allowing their social researchers to directly input this data into a digital back-end instead by issuing them with mobile devices that possessed the ability to do so, but to do this, they needed an app that could host their surveys in a way that worked for them.
Specifically, they felt that they wanted to trial this approach on one of their most important projects, "Families in Crisis", a randomized control trial that evaluated families deemed to be in crisis and looked at the short and long term risks to children. Based off of this, a list of requirements were drawn up for any mobile app solution.
Firstly, apps that sat across iOS, Android and Desktop devices were a necessity, so that DSRU weren't locked into using any particular kind of platform.
Secondly, the app needed to facilitate offline caching of the answers that were inputted, in layman’s terms this meant that if the iPhone or iPad didn’t have an internet connection at the time the researcher was inputting them, it needed to save these choices and upload them to the back-end when an internet connection was re-established.
There would need to be two different types of survey, one for parents and children and one for children on their own.
Finally, the surveys themselves both needed to have advanced logic, meaning that, for example, if a researcher selected one answer for one stage of the survey, this in turn greyed out or opened up answers after that point depending on the choice that was made as well as needing an easily usable back-end to store all this data.
DSRU spoke to YUDU’s Creative Services team, who have a wealth of experience dealing with web development projects like these, about how these problems could be breached and what the workload involved would be.
Our native iOS, Android and Air-based desktop app frameworks provided an ideal platform solution - meaning DSRU would have a presence across all major platforms. The fact our delivery method was already in place and could be deployed with comparative ease with a key selling-point as far as DSRU were concerned.
Another key requirement they highlighted early was the ability to capture data both with and importantly without an available internet connection. We were able to cache the results of the survey within the app in lieu of an internet connection, to be sent out when the app detected a new connection had been established.
Hosting two surveys was a simple matter of employing YUDU Publisher’s upload functionality and then employing our creative services team to quickly illustrate both separate surveys in a visually pleasing, user-friendly way.
Where our creative services team really showed their worth, however, was in developing the logic behind the surveys and a place for the data to go after it had been inputted.
Since a physical survey in pen and paper format required no such work or understanding, we needed to sit down with Dartington in order to establish which points in the survey triggered other questions and answers that were contingent upon them. Our team and Dartington finally decided upon using a custom MYSQL database solution to upload the data to, which worked fluidly.
The end result is that Dartington Social Research now have their own branded survey app which can be deployed anywhere – both on-site and in-office - with or without an internet connection. The workflow researchers traditionally employed has been greatly simplified, resulting in a significant productivity boost for the team.