An app for members: our progress so far

In July we posted about our 10-day discovery into an app for members. Now, almost 2 months in, we’ve built the first version of the app. Here’s an update on our progress: what’s gone great, what’s not gone to plan and why we’ve changed our minds about how we’re going to trial it.

What we’re doing and why

Quick recap: one of the most common bits of feedback from store colleagues is that they’d love to see a digital version of Co-op Membership because they see members forget their membership cards and use temporary cards regularly. This prompted us to spend 10 days finding out what colleagues and members need.

Where we’re up to

We’re working with mobile app specialists Apadmi. So far, we’ve designed and built an app that will allow members to:

  1. Scan a ‘digitised’ membership card.
  2. Check their reward balances on demand.
  3. Choose a local cause for their 1% reward to go to.

This is how it looks.

Image shows three phone screens to show each thing the app can do. from left to right the first shows a log in page, the second shows a rewards balance and the third shows the total for the chosen local cause

Naturally, there are loads of ideas about what features we should include in the app but starting small helps us make sure we’re building the right thing. By putting the membership card on someone’s device, we’re creating a platform for more functionality in the future. We’ll iterate and grow as we learn how people use what we’ve built and as we test new assumptions. There are lots of opportunities we could explore that benefit the Co-op, our members and communities.

What’s gone well

1. The app’s testing well

Throughout the development of the app we’ve been testing our clickable prototypes with real members. Vicky Pipes has been leading the research and so far, the feedback has been positive. Members have been enthusiastic about how the app could change their shopping experience and have said they’ve found it simple and easy to use.

Photograph of member's hand holding phone with membership app at the checkout

2. We know what we might explore next

Chatting to users in context has also been really valuable in terms of thinking about what we might look at next. A significant number of members have mentioned they’d like to see offers and vouchers included in the app. We’ll explore this as we begin to iterate.

3. We’ve delivered more than we set out to

The team’s been super efficient and that’s meant we’ve had enough time to do more work on the local causes section of the app. Users can find and choose local causes within the app without being directed to the website. It’s a much smoother experience and this was outside of our original scope.

Alas, some things haven’t gone to plan

1.We’re missing some data

Part way into the project, we learnt that an important bit of data isn’t available to us. The data would allow us to show a member’s previous transactions in the app. This would be useful because the app shows members’ 5% reward balance so showing previous transactions would add context to that. This could be an important piece of data for future projects so we’ll work on fixing the issue. In the meantime, we’ll leave it out of the trial.

2. We’ve changed our minds on testing. Here’s why

Originally we planned to trial the app with colleagues in the shop at our headquarters in Manchester. We know the tills there can scan a mobile phone and we knew we’d be able to interview the members taking part easily. Trialling here would have been convenient but we know that our colleagues aren’t representative of our members. We realised that for the trial to be effective we needed to get the app into the hands of members in other stores to see how they interact with it and understand how it could grow.

Responding to change

Our research and insight at this early stage suggests we’re onto something. We’re learning all the time from putting ideas in front of users as early as possible, and iterating. Trialling an app like this is a powerful way to deepen our understanding of our members and how to engage with them on mobile, now and in the future. It’s this learning that will shape what comes next.

Keeping everyone informed

Membership spans the entire Co-op Group so there are many stakeholders and it’s been really important for us to work in the open to keep everyone informed. We’ve shared weeknotes, written blog posts and held regular show and tells to show exactly what we’ve been working on. We’re happy to hear feedback if you think we could do more but we hope working in this way has helped everyone understand what the trial is, and crucially why we’ve done it.

We’ll be recruiting a diverse range of members across different parts of the country to trial the app soon. 

Jack Sheppard
Interaction designer

Posters. They’re part of our culture


Our workspace in Federation House is shiny and new, open-plan and airy, and best of all it reflects our teams’ progress. Whiteboards show what we’re working on now and what’s coming next – they’re chocker with post-its.

But we’re also beginning to fill our walls with posters. Instead of showing work in progress, our posters show off overarching ideas, ones that don’t change from sprint to sprint.

We posted about our 10 Architecture Principles back in April. We’ve since made them into a series of posters. Putting them up reminds us how we’ve agreed to work and makes our workspace ours.  

Posters: words by Ella Fitzsimmons, design by Gail Mellows.

Co-op Digital team

Our Digital plan (July to December 2017)

Today we’ve published our Digital plan. It describes what Co-op Digital is working on from July to December 2017. It helps colleagues understand our priorities and provides a baseline to help us track how we’re doing with delivering our milestones.

Working in the open is important to our values so we’re publishing a non commercially sensitive version here on the blog.

Read our Digital plan (July to December 2017)

Co-op Digital team

Steve Foreshew-Cain: our Digital plan, Wuthering Bytes and good news for The Federation

(Transcript) Steve Foreshew-Cain: Hello and welcome to this week’s Co-op Digital update.

This week we shared our Digital Plan for the rest of 2017 with our colleagues right across the Co-op and we’ll also be sharing this with our Members Council today and publishing it in the open on our blog next week.

We’re working on some great things at the moment to improve the service and experiences for our members, colleagues and customers. And an important thing that we’re doing is using digital tools to bring communities together and make it easier for them to collaborate.

Some top-line things that the plan covers are clarity on our purpose, responsibilities and the priorities of the Digital team in 2017, launching The Federation as a co-operative digital community for the north west that supports local businesses and startups, not-for-profits and other co-operatives.

And, in partnership with Funeralcare transforming at-need funeral service to give them more time to spend with clients. And in partnership with our Food business making it easier for colleagues to find information about how to do things and manage their schedules and tasks. And finally improving our Co-op’s approach to managing data so that we have all the insight we need to make informed decisions. We hope that you find it useful and of course any feedback is always welcome.

It’s been great to support Wuthering Bytes this week which is a festival of technology in the Peak District, so thanks to Andrew Back and the other organisers for letting us be involved, and plus a big thank you to Ian Drysdale for sharing his thoughts on festival day about building communities.

This week our Membership teams, including Digital Engineering, moved into their new home on the sixth floor of the Federation.

And in news just in we’re delighted that The Federation has been shortlisted as one of the most Inspired Spaces North 2017. This is brilliant news and a testament to the hard work of the whole team.

Also, this week we welcome Zirca Ali who joined our agile business community welcome to Zirca, it’s great to have you on board.

We’ve also said goodbye to a couple of colleagues in the last few weeks so I’d like to say a massive thank you and good luck to Ella Fitzsimmons who’s been doing great work helping our teams talk about their work, and to Jason Tang who helped us kickstart our journey to being trusted with data. Thank you again and please keep in touch.

Well that’s it for this week you’ll find our latest vacancies on our blog. Don’t
forget to subscribe to all of our updates and follow us on Twitter. We’ll see you next week.

Steve Foreshew-Cain
Group Digital Director

Introducing ‘Open’, a series of accessibility meetups in Manchester

On Wednesday 27 September, me, Nate Langley, Becky Arrowsmith and Katherine Wastell are holding our first accessibility meetup, ‘Open’. We want to challenge the way we think and talk about accessibility.

Aptly, the meetups are open to everyone. Accessibility is something each member of a digital team should be thinking about and we’d like attendees’ roles to reflect that.

We want to encourage people to come together and talk about how they approach accessibility and begin to share what they’ve learnt when writing, designing and building services for people.

More than screen readers and colour contrast ratios

A lot of the time when we talk about accessibility we focus on visual impairment but, although an important thing to consider, there’s so much more that can affect how someone experiences something we build. There are any number, and combination, of barriers someone could come up against that we should consider. This could be visual, audible, cognitive, contextual, cultural or something we haven’t even considered before.

Let’s talk. It’ll raise awareness

Nobody sets out to purposefully make something inaccessible but a lack of awareness of accessibility issues can lead to us alienating huge groups of people. With Open, we aim to challenge current attitudes towards accessibility and begin to raise awareness of the many ways we could be excluding groups from our products and services. We’ll also be talking through ways we can reduce those barriers and make things open to everyone.

Cooperating to make things better

In the future, we hope to partner with organisations throughout the north west. We think that by cooperating, we can raise standards and bring accessibility to the forefront of what we do.

If you have an interest in accessibility and making things better, get in touch. We’ll be looking for speakers for future meetups.

You can follow Open on Twitter.

Jack Sheppard

Open 01 will be at Federation House at 6.30pm on 27 September. Get your free ticket now.

Why using jargon can alienate your wider team

Working in an agile way is now the norm for software development, IT and digital professionals (two thirds of companies describe their way of working as ‘agile’ or ‘leaning towards’ agile). And it’s how we work at Co-op Digital.

It’s a way of building products and services in gradual phases, instead of delivering it all at once, at the end. It means giving value to the people who will use the product as early as possible and letting them influence the direction of the product . It puts the user (in our case the customer, member or colleague) at the centre of the design and development process.

But agile comes with its own set of terminology and jargon. Search for ‘agile jargon’ and you’ll be met with a collection of dictionaries, glossaries and jargon-busters to help you understand the specialist vocabulary. ‘Sprint’, ‘kanban’, ‘scrum’, ‘MVP’, ‘retrospective’: there’s hundreds of terms that make up these aids.

What is jargon?

The Oxford Dictionary defines jargon as:

“Special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand.”

Sometimes jargon can be used as a shortcut to communicate a complex concept. It can be used to show that a person is a specialist in their field or connected to a certain community.

But, if we use jargon, we restrict the audience to those who understand the terms — it’s only understandable to those who know.

Why jargon’s a problem

As with many agile teams, Co-op Digital works with more traditional parts of the business. Recently, I’ve been working closely with Co-op Food. We couldn’t build a successful service without our Food colleagues’ knowledge and expertise. The least we can do in return is talk about these services in a way everyone understands.

This collaboration also gives us the opportunity to show the value that the agile way of working can add to a project and the rest of the business.

Agile often works best when it converts people — when it’s demonstrated an effective way of working to people who were initially sceptical. We should make the effort to make this transition as easy as possible for people.

But, by openly using agile jargon within a wider setting, we risk isolating the very people we want to help work in this way. If someone does not understand the vocabulary being used, it can be unnerving, alienating and mean they misinterpret an important part of what’s being said. Research shows that the less people understand, the less they trust the people telling them the information.

Using jargon can be inaccessible, ineffective and damaging.

What agile teams can do better

However we communicate, we should be inherently humble of what we assume. And good communication should not assume any specialist knowledge of the audience.

When we write for users of Co-op products and services we learn about the language that they use and make a considered effort to speak to them in a language we know they understand. We should do the same when we’re speaking to the wider team about our processes.

That means not using specialist terminology (or, at the very least, adding a plain English definition at the point any specialist terms are used) if we’re communicating:

  • publicly about our work
  • to people outside of our immediate team
  • to people who are new to a team or organisation

By doing this we’re not only removing barriers to comprehension, but showing that we’re open, transparent and respectful of our audience’s time.

Joanne Schofield
Content designer

Read more:

Steve Foreshew-Cain: a visit from the City Council and Leading the Way showcases its work

(Transcript) Steve Foreshew-Cain: Hello, and welcome to this week’s Co-op Digital update.

This week we welcomed Joanne Roney who is the CEO of Manchester City Council to The Federation, along with Alistair Asher and Ian Ellis. They were able to see the progress that’s been made, and met with one of the ‘Friends of the Federation’, Northcoders. Thanks Joanne for taking the time to come and visit us all.

And as I’ve mentioned before, we’d love to show as many of our colleagues around the building as possible. So, if you’re interested, please do get in touch. We’ll also be holding some open days just for Co-op colleagues very soon so keep an eye on the blog for more details.

On Wednesday, the Leading the Way team had the opportunity to meet with Pippa Wicks, Helen Webb and Ian Ellis from our Group Executive team at the Ashton on Mersey food store. They showed them the work they are doing as one team with our Food business to make life easier for our colleagues that work in store. Take a look at Anna Goss’s blog post from last week for an update on just some of the work that’s going on in that programme.

Last week we all gathered as a Digital team as we regularly do, and as part of that it was my pleasure to recognise 3 of our Digital colleagues for their work ‘being coop’. Thank you to Gary Traynor, who’s worked for Co-op for 30 years, Jo Schofield for working with our Food store colleagues, and training them to write great content, and especially to Scott Bennett for his work on our Prides across the country. Thank you again for ‘being Coop’.

And finally a hello to Aaron Omotosho has joined us for a few months of work experience with Danielle. It’s particularly great to welcome Aaron, as we’ve been able to support him during his studies at Loretto college. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from Aaron on our blog.

That’s it for this week. You’ll find our latest vacancies our blog. Don’t forget to subscribe for all our updates and follow us on Twitter.

See you next week.

Steve Foreshew-Cain
Group Digital Director