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Developer update - Spaces

If you’ve been following Sign In App for any length of time, I’m sure you’ll have noticed we’re not ones to stand still. As a development team we’re always looking for ways to improve the product, either by building on what’s already there or by building something new. A key part of this is community feedback, which we actively encourage. By listening to ideas and suggestions, we stay in touch with our users’ needs and the changing needs of the workplace.

One of the features we regularly get asked for is meeting room booking. Some see it as a natural extension of the visitor experience, while others like our approach to software and hope we’ll help solve other pain points in their business or school. While we liked the idea, we’ve always been focussed on visitors and staff so it was never the team’s top priority. Then 2020 happened and we, like many others, had to pause and take stock of our priorities and direction.

It was clear that the global pandemic would have wide ranging consequences and a long lasting effect on people and the workplace. By then, Sign In App was already playing an important role in ensuring the safety of visitors and staff on site. The team however were thinking ahead to the workplace post-Covid and how this would change (for better or worse).

While we weren’t actively working on what would become ‘Spaces’ at the time, we already had a good idea of how we would approach desk and meeting room booking. From the start, the plan was to build a tool flexible enough to help facilitate coworking and flexible workspaces, as well as more conventional room booking. With workplaces around the world reducing capacity and looking to adopt a more ‘hybrid’ workforce, our concept for Spaces seemed like the perfect way to help the Sign In App community adapt to the changes.

Towards the end of 2020, the development team pushed forward with Spaces as our desk and meeting room booking solution, tweaking our initial plans to make sure we’d have version 1 ready for when it would be needed the most.

Our approach was simple. Make any space bookable, design it to be easy to use so it doesn’t require an expensive consultant or someone technical to set it up, and lastly make sure the process is enjoyable so people want to use it.

This last point is key and is something we’ve always believed in at Sign In App. If people don’t enjoy using your software, the project is doomed from the start. It’s why we put customer experience first (for those setting the system up as well as the people using it). This has stayed true for Spaces and many of our design choices were led by it.

Spaces includes an online editor to map out your workplace and set up your Spaces. Adding this drag and drop tool was a decision made early on to simplify the setup process and make it more enjoyable. Managing capacity was critical, so the team spent a lot of time building complex rules and logic behind the scenes to make sure there would never be too many people booked into any one area.

If getting people to book meeting rooms was hard enough, making sure everyone books a desk ahead of time seemed an uphill challenge. We know from past experience how difficult it can be to introduce new processes. For Spaces to be a success, we felt that most people booking desks would want to use a tool they already knew, always had to hand and wasn’t tied to a PC or hidden behind a login. With 50,000 active users, our companion app for smartphones was the obvious answer, giving users the ability to easily check availability from their phone and book their desk for the following day or beyond.

In February of this year we put Spaces to the test by inviting 200 Sign In App sites to try the feature ahead of its launch. The feedback we got was encouraging, with many beta testers excited to roll out the feature to their teams.

We were blown away by the detailed feedback we received from our testers who took a lot of time and effort to help us understand what worked well and identify areas for improvement. The team jumped on the feedback and have already implemented some suggestions into Spaces such as a floor plan upload option in the online editor.

One of the most exciting parts of the project is knowing that Spaces will help workplaces reopen safely across the world. The development team already has a roadmap of features and enhancements planned, with many suggestions coming directly from beta testers and our own team. Spaces will continue to evolve and become an important third pillar of Sign In App and we can’t wait to hear what our community thinks of it.