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.

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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.

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.

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.

New features and updates for October

We’ve been busy tweaking and working on new features for you again. Here are the details of what’s new as of today.

Closest 5

Closest FiveThis new functionality adds two new features to the map to help you find and navigate to the nearest disabled / handicap parking spaces to your current location.

The first thing to notice is that the markers identifying the five closest locations to you appear slightly different to all of the other location markers on the map. The closest five location markers have a green wheelchair logo (as opposed to white) and are slightly darker in colour.

The second thing to notice is that when you click on the ‘You are here’ marker you now have the option to show the five closest locations. Clicking this button will pop up a list of the nearest locations with buttons to quickly show the route and driving directions to these locations. If you’re on a smart phone or tablet you’re given the option to open your SatNav app to navigate there as well.

What’s more, if you are using the improved ‘Follow Me’ function, detailed below, your nearest five locations will update on the map automatically as you go so you can always see at a glance which are the five closest!

These options are obviously only available if BlueBadgeParking.com knows what your current location is (i.e. when you allow the website to use your current location) and the closest locations are calculated in a straight line rather than by driving distance. (When you view a route or directions the actual driving distance and estimated time is calculated.)

Closest Five functionality was added as a result of user feedback… Let us know what else you think would improve BlueBadgeParking.com for you.

Traffic

Traffic ButtonYou can now display the latest available traffic information directly on the map just by clicking a button!

Under the map type selection buttons (at the top of the left side sliding menu) you now have a new button which will overlay colour coded traffic information directly on the map.

If it’s green, the road is clear. If it’s red, there is heavy traffic (see screenshot below).

Follow Me ButonMassively improved ‘Follow Me’ function

Follow Me and TrafficWhile BlueBadgeParking.com is not intended to be a replacement for a true SatNav device (this is why we allow you to download our database into your real SatNav!), we do recognise that some SatNav-like functions are useful.

For this reason we have made some big changes to the way the ‘Follow Me’ function works.

Follow Me is activated by clicking the ‘two footprints’ button on the right of the map.

When activated, the map will follow you – hence the name – and shows your location in the center of the map.

Previously your location would update every five seconds and BlueBadgeParking.com would make do with whatever location accuracy your device chose to give… not any more.

With this latest release the site specifically asks your device to provide a high accuracy location (if available) and updates your location on the map whenever you move.

This means that the Follow Me function is now far more accurate, much more responsive and far smoother.

But that’s not all – The marker that indicates your position now also shows your heading, so you can see at a glance what direction you are heading in on the map, helping enormously with orientation!

All in all, this brings some essential SatNav-like functions to BlueBadgeParking.com that are especially useful when following a displayed route to a disabled parking location (if the blue arrow is following the blue line, you’re heading in the right direction).

New Google widget set

Google has updated the controls for map applications and we have adopted these new controls as of this update.

The new controls free up even more of the map for viewing, but they do remove the pan control meaning you will need to use cursor keys or drag the map to move around.

Street View Enhancements – including Full Screen

The updated map controls also extend to Street View where not only has the colour of the controls changed, but you now get the option of a full screen view – the button is in the top right, next to the Exit Street View button.

Full screen StreetView works particularly well on large screen devices, such as laptops, and gives you a great over-view of the area in which a parking space is located allowing you to assess whether or not there might be other obstacles you need to consider before heading off to park there.

Some of the other info is now displayed slightly differently in Street View as well making for a cleaner overall look.


As well as the above we’ve also crushed a couple of bugs and made some progress towards our next feature additions by adding some of the background stuff. Watch this space for more news about upcoming features…

And if you have any ideas about what else we could add that would be useful, let us know below or via social media.

New features added 21st July 2015 – Smart phone & tablet SatNav integration

We’ve just rolled out a few improvements, new features and bug-fixes…

wpid-screenshot_2015-07-22-15-28-43_20150723095517835.jpgSatNav integration for smart-phones and tablets is the main new feature, but there have been other improvements as well – see below for details.

For all platforms:

  • Fixed a long standing bug where buttons disappeared from info bubbles after editing a location.
  • Changes to the wording on the navigation button in the info bubble (now reads ‘Show Route’ to show the route on the map, then ‘Directions’ to show the text directions.
  • Clicking the ‘share’ icon in an info bubble when in Street View now shares the Street View rather than the map view of that parking location.
  • When viewing a Street View, the browser location bar will display an address which will link directly to that Street View – so you can share the exact view you are looking at simply by copying the address bar contents.

For desktop PC / Mac:

  • wpid-screenshot_2015-07-22-11-09-05.jpgInfo bubbles now contain a QR code link that will display a QR code for that parking location. Scanning the code with a smart-phone or tablet will give you the option of opening your SatNav application pre-loaded with that parking location as the destination.

For smart-phone and tablet:

  • Info bubbles now contain a QR code link that will display a QR code for that parking location. Scanning the code with another smart-phone or tablet will give you the option of opening your SatNav application pre-loaded with that parking location as the destination. Alternatively, tapping the QR code will also attempt to open the SatNav in the same way.
  • A button has been added to the top of the route directions view that will attempt to open the SatNav app on your device with the parking location pre-loaded as the destination.

The Web-API has been updated to include the new Street View linking functionality as well – so if you run a review site or a business with disabled / handicap parking nearby, feel free to link to the BlueBadgeParking.com Street View of the location to give your visitors an alternative view of the parking available.

Putting down routes and directing traffic

wpid-img_20150707_100425.jpgWe were so excited about launching this feature that we almost let it escape the development farm a week early…

We held on for another week of testing, though, and yesterday route display and driving directions went live.

When you click on any Blue Badge Disabled / handicap parking location on BlueBadgeParking.com you’ll now see an extra button – “Drive here”.

Click the button and a (usually wiggly) blue line will appear on the map indicating the route from your current location to the selected parking location.

Once the route is displayed, the “Drive here” button will be replaced by a “Show route” button.

Clicking the Show route button, or clicking on the blue route line will allow you to view a set of text directions leading you directly to the posting location.

This is just the start, though. We’re far from finished with this functionality and you can expect further announcements in the future about enhancements to routing and directions. We thought it was such a useful feature that we just had to get it released as soon as a working version was ready.