Gas APPliance Safety Check
Not just a checklist
The Gas Appliance Safety Check has been one of the most technically demanding forms we have designed so far.
Before doing so, we needed to solve some very tricky design challenges, which included having a summary table that would dynamically add or remove rows depending on the assets tested. And to output only the necessary number of pages needed—no more and no less.
Sometimes we don’t know what is possible until we give it a go. This was certainly the case when we were approached by a Melbourne–based plumber/gas fitter who had a specific idea about the form he needed when conducting safety inspections on gas appliances.
He had previously worked for a business that undertook these inspection services for property managers. Part of that job was to generate and send a complex report, which often first needed to be edited with a PDF editor. These reports were sometimes 20 or 30 pages long, and let’s just say the format was awkward and not pretty.
Now running his own business, this gas fitter had recently opted to setup with ServiceM8 with the hope that he might find somebody who could design a similar report, only better.
When we first discussed the brief over a phone call, it was to create a Service Checklist form for the testing of gas appliances. It didn’t sound too difficult.
But as we learned more it evolved into something that was going to become a serious undertaking.
We eventually grasped that the idea was to allow the gas fitter to test up to 5 gas appliances, each having the possibility to be run through an AS4575 Service Checklist with 25 questions with multi–choice answers and a comment if needed. Each appliance required 16 informational fields and 25 checklist questions plus optional comments, which totalled up to 330 questions.
And then there was another asset, the gas fitting line, with its own set of Service Checklist questions. And each asset/appliance needed to be on its own self–contained page with up to 4 photos. And they each needed an option to include a quote description and price for any recommended follow–through work.
And lastly, there should be an entirely new section/dedicated page for any other general plumbing observations, together with a quote option and photos.
We were also tasked to come up with a new layout of our own design that could accommodate all these variables, while avoiding the issue of generating a report that was 20-30 pages long (like the old one).
The Solution Design
This form was all about the customer experience (CX). It needed to clearly convey the status of compliance while also drawing attention to recommended or necessary remediation work and cost. The form also needed to feel modern and on-brand for the gas fitter.
We worked out that the ServiceM8–side of the form itself was going to need 487 questions, most of which requiring conditional logic.
For the summary table on the header page, we experimented a lot and ended up developing a new technique to generate a table that could add new rows to itself based on assets tested. Let us tell you that we had a nerdy ‘eureka’ moment when finally, we figured that one out. We also created lots of custom code that could generate an entire page for each tested asset/appliance.
And we invested significant effort into coming up with a layout that could efficiently accommodate the appliance information, the optional 25–question Service Checklist table if needed, as well as reveal a section for a quote description and its price. Finally, we opted to use the small photo size to be able to squeeze up to 4 photos along the bottom of the page.
If you have ever played Tetris, then you can imagine the iterations we had to work through before finally settling on a design and layout that worked.
In all, we were able to develop a report that would have between 2 pages (1 x header page and 1 x appliance) right up to 8 pages (1 x header page, 1 x gas fitting line, 5 x appliances, and 1 x general plumbing observation page). This was a significant page reduction from the earlier 20-30 page report this gas fitter was used to.
The form wasn’t perfect. The ServiceM8 app does at times struggle to save forms that have a lot of photos. Sometimes it can take up to one or two minutes, and other times it appears to not save at all. These performance issues are things outside of our direct control, and if the form doesn’t successfully save the first time it usually saves during a second attempt.
This was extraordinarily complex form to pull together, and we invested more than 40 development hours in its creation. If we had charged full price, this could have come to $5,000 plus taxes.
However, we saw the potential to re–use and resell this form and we offered to commission this at only a part of this cost—and something this gas fitter was incredibly happy with. We couldn’t do this for every form we are commissioned to build, but if we can justify reuse and resell potential, we may take a punt like with this one.
We are now revising the form so it can be used by others. When we are done, we will be making it available on the ServiceM8 Form Store for purchase and download soon.