Android App Beta Testers Wanted

In order to improve the reliability of our Android App release process we are looking for Beta testers.

If you join the Beta Tester team you will have access to new versions of our Android App before it goes on general release – and the process is all still managed through the Google Play Store so is as secure as the normal install process.

Permissions Screen Error
Oops! Permissions Explanation Screen Error

Our last release made the App unusable for users with Android 6.0 and above that had large text selected on their device. We want to try to avoid this kind of problem in the future and would like your help.

All you need is an Android device and an email address. Just send us an email at app@BlueBadgeParking.com using the email address you use on the Google Play Store letting us know you want to join the Beta team and we’ll get back to you with a link to join the team.

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October Update – more colour

Last month’s update involved a little green ‘s‘.

This month’s update involves colours everywhere.

If you click on the settings icon in the top right of BlueBadgeParking.com you’ll see that we’ve added a new section that allows you to select different colour schemes for the map.

Most of the schemes only involve subtle colour changes, while a couple are a bit more drastic.

That’s not all we’ve been up to, though, and we’ve released this month’s update a bit earlier than usual to allow us to get on with some other stuff – the bones of which are hidden away in this October update (if you’ve been watching our Twitter feed you may have seen a clue as to what’s coming soon).

The colour schemes themselves, though, are part of a bigger plan. We are looking into putting together a map colour scheme (or set of schemes) that make the maps easier to read for users with visual impairments. Some time early next year we plan to canvas opinion on this and we’ll be asking for help to build and test some new schemes that we can include. Or, if you already know of a map colour scheme that makes reading maps easier for users with any kind of visual impairment please let us know.

September update

Small change, big effect.

httpsIt’s just an ‘s‘.. that’s all.

That small change, adding the ‘s‘ makes a big difference, though, because it means that your communications with BlueBadgeParking.com are now secure.

You’ve probably heard that when you are doing your internet banking or whenever you shop online you should look for the padlock in the address bar that shows you that your communication with a website is secure – well this is the same thing using the same technology.

This is probably not a big deal to most people but if you are at all sensitive about sending data over the internet that could potentially reveal your current location, for example, then this little ‘s‘ should be good news for you. What it means is that any data that you send to BlueBadgeParking.com is encrypted end-to-end – the people that run the free WiFi in the coffee shop can’t see what you are looking up or where you are planning to go next, your phone provider can’t tell that you were looking at a map of parking spaces near the cinema (though why they would be interested, I don’t know!). And if you are adding or editing spaces, sharing locations, or downloading the database to your SatNav device, anyone snooping on the network can no longer see what you are doing.

Maybe more realistically, you may be planning to drive to a job interview or a clinic appointment while at work and you may not want your employer to know the details of where that is…

Whether or not anyone would be interested in this information is open to debate, but by implementing https we are no longer making it possible for people to gather the data in transit. (A snooper can still see you visited BlueBadgeParking.com, but not what you did there).

We’ve been able to bring this extra layer of security to the site thanks to the efforts of LetsEncrypt.org who are championing web security and enabling little self-funded sites like BlueBadgeParking.com add encryption without spending a fortune on encryption certificates. Let’s Encrypt share the same belief as BlueBadgeParking.com that the internet can be used for good and it shouldn’t cost to be good.

Note that for the time being you can choose to access the insecure version of the site at http://BlueBadgeParking.com as before – if you wish to use the secure version you should use https://BlueBadgeParking.com (with the added s after the http). At some point in the not-too-distant future we’ll switch the site to use https by default.

If you share any links from the site they will use the same secure or insecure version that you were using when you created the sharing links.

Small change, higher precision

2-maps Screen ShotWe’ve also made a small change to the way adding a new disabled parking location works.

The map view is great for seeing where spaces are in relation to roads and places etc when searching or navigating, but when adding spaces the satellite view gives you a real world view of the street or parking lot that allows you to position the marker far more accurately (and using StreetView as well should allow you to place the marker within a couple of metres of the precise location).

To that end, when you start to add a new location the map view will now automatically switch to the satellite view. You can always manually switch back if you wish, but we hope that this helps you place more accurate markers thereby helping everyone find spaces more quickly and easily when out and about.

Little Fixes

In August we introduced a ‘Loading Tiles’ background image to make it clearer when the web app was busy filling in bits of the map.

Unfortunately that same background image got into the Sharing popup making it pretty unreadable.

We therefore took the opportunity to fix that little glitch in this release.

Finally, during testing the https change we noticed that when sharing a StreetView view, the latitude and longitude of the location was missing from the top of the share page. We fixed that as well.


We weren’t actually expecting to push out any changes this month as we have a few big developments that we want to get started on, but one of these was a quick win for better accuracy and the security upgrade seemed too important to wait so as soon as it was ready we’ve pushed it live.

August Update

Well, August is almost over and we’ve been testing the latest BlueBadgeParking.com updates for a few weeks now…

Loading background

screenshot_2016-08-29-12-45-18_1.jpg
The loading tiles screen

When the web application is first loading, or is loading map files for a new area, a ’tiles loading’ animation is down in the background so that you can see what is going on. Not only is it informative, it looks much nicer than the old full grey map background 🙂

User setting / preferences / localisation

Up to now BlueBadgeParking.com has displayed everything in terms of metres and kilometres.

No more.

By clicking the ‘settings’ cog in the top right of the screen you can now choose imperial (miles) based units.

screenshot_2016-08-04-11-12-46_1.jpg
The settings screen

Cookie control

In the last update we gave you the option to accept or refuse cookies. With the August update we give you even more control – in the settings screen you can choose to delete and disable cookies if you have accepted them in the past.

More spaces

Over the last month a lot of new disabled / handicap parking spaces have been added to the map. It looks like France has had a lot of attention, but that’s not the only place.

If you’ve been meaning to add spaces that you know of that we’re missing, had over to http://BlueBadgeParking.com#edit now – it only takes a couple of minutes to add a space.

Android app users

Users of our Android app will automatically see these updates without having to update the app as they are pushed via the web app.

July Updates

We’ve been busy for the last few months working on a few new features and some backend changes.

New Features

  • Add new space at Latitude & Longitude
  • Tips & announcements

Improvements

  • ‘Add at My Location’ now adds at your most up to date position available (previously it used your last position fix)

Backend

  • European Cookie Law compliance

This last item probably needs some explanation.

As BlueBadgeParking.com is a global resource it falls under the requirements of the European Cookie Law. This law requires websites to seek permission for any Cookies that the site uses and to explain what Cookies are used.

Cookies are small text files that a website is allowed to store on your computer so that it can remember things about you.

BlueBadgeParking.com uses cookies to remember which announcements & tips you have already seen. In the future we will also use cookies to remember your preferences for units (miles or kilometres etc), map type (road of satellite) and to enable other new features we have planned (remembering where you have parked, for example).

Cookies also enable things like the expanding and collapsing if the left menu (by remembering was is expanded and what is collapsed) and also allows us to use AddThis which enables a lot of our advanced sharing functions for when you want to email a link or share it on social media.

Finally, like many many websites, we use Google Analytics which tells us how BlueBadgeParking.com is being used. This in turn enables us to work on the features our users find most useful. Google Analytics will, therefore, also store cookies in order to tells us how you use our site.

Note that if you only use BlueBadgeParking.com via our Android app you won’t be asked to accept cookies as installation of the app implies acceptance.

What are you doing for Access Day 2016 – don’t forget to tell them about the parking…

dad_logo_roundel-2016

Disabled Access Day is an annual event that encourages people with disabilities to get out and try something new. In their own words “It’s super simple. Just visit one new place that you’ve never been to before, whether that’s a café, a museum or a football stadium – the choice is entirely yours!”

Not only is this great for people with disabilities and their families, but it encourages venues and businesses to take notice of what is really needed or those with various disabilities to access and use their establishments – and also allows those businesses to access the enormous spending power of those with special access requirements that might otherwise spend their money elsewhere.

Obviously it would be great if there were no need for such an annual event – if everywhere and every business accommodated those with limited mobility or other access requirements by design, every day of the year. Sadly, that is not the world we live in, so for one day a year we can all do our bit and raise awareness by visiting somewhere new that has an Access Day event arranged, or even contact a venue that doesn’t and encourage them to arrange one.

This year, 2016, Access Day is on 12th March and it is a global event. BlueBadgeParking.com wants to help you get involved either as a venue or a visitor.

Helping Venues

If you are hosting an Access Day event and are promoting it via your website or social media (or even in printed materials), BlueBadgeParking.com has tools to help you.

You may have arranged ramps to access areas with steps, you may have arranged guides to help those with visual impairments. Whatever you have done to prepare for Access Day, one key consideration for a lot of visitors is access to suitable parking.

BlueBadgeParking.com can provide you with links for your website that direct your visitors to a map showing your venue and any disabled parking locations nearby. You can even personalise those links with the name of your venue, or the name of the event you are holding.

Creating a link is as simple as searching for your venue on the map and clicking the share icon in the Info Window, or right clicking and dropping a Share Marker on the location you wish to share. The sharing popup gives you loads of ways to share from simple links and images to social media sharing etc. We’ve even integrated bit.ly link shortening. More info on how these links work can be found here on the feature launch announcement.

Try clicking here for an example showing the Lyric Hammersmith’s audio described performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.lyricEventLink

(If the disabled parking locations near your venue are not shown on our map, it is very easy to add new spaces to the map so that your visitors can arrive informed.)

5steps

Help for visitors

We are encouraging venues and review websites to include links to our free, global online map of disabled / handicap parking spaces so that you can find parking easily.

Our website is mobile friendly and even integrates with your SatNav to give you driving directions straight to your chosen parking close to your destination venue.

Even if a venue hasn’t provided BlueBadgeParking.com links, you can still search our map by venue name, address, postcode or even just an area to see what parking is available near the venue.

Our database isn’t exhaustive by any means, but it is growing all of the time – and if spaces are missing from the map you could always add them to help out future visitors.

BlueBadgeParking.com relies on people just like you to help build our database of parking locations and visiting a new venue is the ideal time to help us to grow that database thereby sharing that information instantly with others around the world.

A date for the diary & a bookmark for your browser

Access Day 2016 is just around the corner now so put 12th March in your diary and plan a day out. The Access Day website has a searchable database of accessible events to help you find something in your area.

While you are at it, bookmark BlueBadgeParking.com and always have access to our latest disabled / handicap parking maps from home or on the move.

February’s BlueBadgeParking.com update – new and enhanced features

We originally planned to release this update in November but as we developed more ideas for enhancements just kept coming.

So, this month we have released a whole host of new features and feature enhancements to the web app.

Info Windows:

  • Info Windows now have direct SatNav links when the web app is used from a smart phone or tablet. Just look for the little car icon.
  • The Info Windows for searched places now contain more information and action buttons (see below as well)

Sharing:

  • Sharing searched places
    lyricEventLinkWhen you search for a place via the search bar you get a little red marker appear on the map showing the location of that place. Clicking the marker brings up an Info Window as always, but now you have a ‘Share’ icon that allows you to share that location and you can even add your own title to the share.
    Adding a title is particularly useful if you are holding an event at a venue, for example. So, if you are holding a conference at a public venue you can use the title to include the name of your conference in the share.
    Give it a go, and note that the titles that you add to your share are only visible to people you share the link with – the titles are not added to the map for other visitors to see!
  • Sharing your location
    When your location is displayed on the map its Info Window now contains a ‘Share’ icon that allows you to share your current location and even add your own title to the share.
    Titles added to ‘Your Location’ shares work in exactly the same way as searched place share titles in that they are only displayed to people that you share your link with  they are not stored on the map for others to see.
  • Ad Hoc Sharing Marker
    screenShot-shareMarkerIf the location you want to share is not searchable and not tied to a particular Blue Badge / disabled / handicap parking location you can use the right-click menu to drop a ‘Sharing Marker’ anywhere on the map.
    A sharing marker gives you the ability to specify a title and address for the location and to share that location with anyone you like.
    Once again, the title and address are only visible to people you share the link with. The shared location marker is not added to the map for other people to see, just those who receive your link.
  • Sharing via AddThis
    When you use the ‘AddThis’ icons across the top of the sharing screen to share any location the share will include more specific information about the location being shared.
    For example, if you share a searched place the place name will be included, and if you add your own event name/title that will be included as well.

General improvements

  • Follow Me / Tracking enhancement
    When ‘Follow Me’ is switched on (i.e. when your location on the map is being constantly updated to show your position in real time) you can now unlock the centering of your location simply by dragging the map. This allows you to display a whole route and monitor your progress towards it.
    To re-enable the auto-centering simply tap the ‘Go To My Location’ button and the Follow Me function will move your location to the center of the screen and maintain it there.screenShot-mapTypeSelector
  • Improved Map/satellite view buttons
    The map and satellite view buttons now have an indicator showing which view is selected.
  • and a few bug fixes…

Android App news

Some of the above features were directly related to the work we are doing on a completely new version of our Android App.

We are completely rewriting the app as a native Android app so that we can bring you a far better app experience including offline functionality. We have a lot to do, and it is taking a long time, but we hope to launch an interim version very soon. This interim version will effectively be an enhanced version of the web app (and as such will not include any offline functionality), but will put you on the release channel for any and all new app features as we launch them.

As always, there’s more going on behind the scenes as well, so watch this space for further announcements.