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Under the Hood #1: Latest tech updates at BWCo


 

Hi all, and welcome to the inaugural edition of Under the Hood, where I plan to update you on what we’ve been doing with the inner workings of the Be Well Tracker and the Be Well Plan mobile application. I’ll be focussing on improvements and new features. Although I could wax lyrical about unit tests and reducing code complexity, I have been reliably informed that nobody cares about that.


First, introductions! I’m Ben Ashley the resident Software Developer at Be Well Co. I’ve been here for 5 months, which I think means I’m at that awkward point where the novelty of having me around has worn off and my propensity to leave Coke No Sugar cans on my desk isn’t quite endearing yet. Here’s a photo of me from the Be Well Co About Us page. You can tell I was forewarned about this headshot because I’m wearing a shirt. Inexplicably I still decided not to brush my hair…

A large portion of this first 5 months has been centred on familiarising myself with all the moving parts of the Be Well Tracker. Although the Tracker may not seem especially complicated when filling out a wellbeing measurement (or at least I hope not!), there are a lot of wildly spinning components in the background. Many of these are required as part of our commitment to keeping your wellbeing data private. There’s always a trade-off between security/privacy and ease of development, and I’m happy to say we err very much on the side of the former two, even though that has made it significantly harder to wrap my head around the Tracker.


We have released three major pieces of functionality in the Tracker in the past 5 months:

Theme Changes

When you move into a new house, it’s always tempting to give it a fresh lick of paint (or so I’ve been told by people handier than I). Well, the first major change made to the Tracker was to re-theme it to match the Be Well Co colours, replacing the existing pink and purple colour scheme. As part of this a significant effort was made to improve the contrast of key pieces of text in order to increase the site’s overall accessibility. As time goes on, we’d like to increase the accessibility even further.

Goodnight, sweet prince…

Direct Measurement Links

Any of you who have completed a measurement via the Be Well Tracker will be familiar with our measurement invitation process. You receive an email with an individualised link, which if followed takes you to the measurement. This works fine in many situations but does have some significant drawbacks in others. Obviously spam filters are the bane of our existence, but other issues can include obtaining the email addresses in the first place (more on that later), avoiding the “human spam filter” (we’ve all been trained very well to delete emails we’re not expecting… especially ones that expect us to click on a link…) and getting people to actually check their emails.


Direct measurement links have been set up to help with these problems, allowing dissemination of a single link that will allow anybody clicking it (and creating an account) to take the associated measurements. These links can be used instead of the existing invitation process, alongside the existing invitation process, or not at all, depending on the situation. A perfect example of when the direct measurement links shine is the free Wellbeing Check-In anybody can register for on the Be Well Co website.


As mentioned previously, one of the challenges associated with the existing invitation process is obtaining an email address. When offering free Wellbeing Check-Ins to anybody who visits our site, if we need an email address, the only option is to get people to register, and then use that address to issue an individual invitation. By replacing this process with a direct measurement link, we’ve cut down significantly on the time between realising you can take a free measurement, and taking it. Giving access to a measurement is as simple as putting a link in a blog post, like this link to Be Well Co’s Mental Health Month measurement!


Pulse Measurements

The full Wellbeing Check-In should take no more than 15 minutes to complete, which isn’t all that long in my opinion. However, according to Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals, that’s plenty of time to make some Crackin’ Crab Briks. So, if you’ve only got 17 minutes and you want to check your wellbeing and make some crab briks, well, then you have a choice to make, my friend.


Enter the pulse measurements. The research team at the Wellbeing and Resilience Centre in SAHMRI ran the numbers (and said a bunch of words this author didn’t understand), coming up with a small subset of the questions from the existing Wellbeing Check-In that give a good indication of how you’re doing in the 6 domains measured in the Check-In.


This measurement can be taken on its own or used in concert with the full measurement. You can imagine a situation where an organisation might provide its employees with the full measurement every 6 months, with the intervening months containing pulse measurements, to provide the full detail as well as monthly check-ins. This pulse measurement should take no more than 2 minutes to complete, meaning in your 17 minutes you can have it all. You can nourish your soul and your stomach. Unless of course you’re allergic to crab… in which case there’s a recipe for Winter Squash Penne that looks pretty good!


Looking Forward

We have every intention of continuing to work to improve the functionality of the Be Well Tracker, whilst maintaining the security and privacy of your wellbeing data. We have a number of exciting plans over the next few months. One, which I suspect will be welcomed by many, is to streamline the sign-up and login process, especially in regards to integration between the Be Well Tracker and the Be Well Plan app.

Speaking of which…


The Be Well Plan App

The amazing people at Codefish have also been hard at work, implementing features as part of the Go2Gov grant. Already released are improvements to the user experience, one extending the period of time users can remain logged into the app, and another allowing users to annotate modules within the application. Behind the scenes, the algorithm used to suggest activities based on your wellbeing results has been tweaked as well. Further changes are coming, so watch this space!


Until next time, stay safe and look after yourselves.