The Community Grocery App.
The Community Grocery was set up by The Message Trust to support individuals and families feeling the financial impact of Covid-19. The Community Grocery required an app that could register members, track their weekly visits and provide a function for volunteers to take notes on any members that needed additional help and support.
- The Message Trust
- Who they are
- A Christian charity that works to improve the lives of young people through work in schools, prisons and communities, including setting up The Community Grocery.
- What they do
- The Community Grocery set up grocery stores across the UK, offering a variety of food options at a fraction of the cost. They also provide a range of free support courses.
- The Community Grocery originated in Sharston, Manchester. Since the first lockdown, 12 more stores have opened across the UK.
- Build an iOS App to register shop members, capture member's weekly visits and store notes when people need additional help and support. The app also needed to capture member's interests in the free support courses available.
The Community Grocery required an app to support registering members and to capture information about their interest in the support courses available in their area. Previously, they had been manually adding new member’s details into Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge which was a time-consuming process.
Hive IT developed the Community Grocery iOS App which is now being used across all of their stores. The app enables store volunteers to register new members, providing them with a unique membership card. When members visit the store, their card is scanned to register their visit.
The timescale for completing the project was challenging as we started in February 2021 and the app needed to be built, released to the app store and ready for use by the start of April 2021.
Collaboration with the Community Grocery team was important for success given the short timescale and this included daily stand-ups to identify requirements, discuss ongoing processes and highlight any challenges or issues we encountered.
We had multiple chats with the Community Grocery to understand their requirements and to capture their ideas. Having got a feel for what the Community Grocery required, we designed and then presented Adobe XD Mock-ups to the Community Grocery. Once the Community Grocery approved our designs, we proceeded to quickly build the app.
Community Grocery uses a customer relationship management system (CRM) called Raiser’s Edge from Blackbaud specifically aimed at the fundraising and charity sector. There was a requirement to store all transactions with the Raiser's Edge CRM as a centralized source of information following data protection guidelines.
An Application Programming Interface (API) for Raiser's Edge is available allowing the App to directly interact with it using existing user accounts maintaining existing permissions and data protection. The API has detailed documentation but has several limitations in functionality and structuring of data which created challenges during the development process which we were successfully able to work around.
We used the open-source platform Expo which builds on React Native’s framework as the basis of the new app. This was particularly useful as it allowed our team to use tools and technologies that we are very familiar with from web development and easily transfer them into a mobile app.
Using Expo simplified the process of building and submitting the app to the Apple App Store. Furthermore, by using Expo and React Native, there is the potential for the app to be released to the Google Play Store for Android devices in the future, should this become a requirement.
To ensure that the Community Grocery team remained part of the development process we released updated versions of the app via TestFlight as features were completed. By using TestFlight, staff members of Community Grocery were able to test new releases and additions and provide rapid feedback. Once an iteration was approved, features would be released and could be used immediately.
Finally we used the monitoring tool Sentry to log and track any issues or crashes users may encounter, this successfully allowed us to identify and report an issue with the Raiser's Edge API and provide an interim solution to minimise its impact.
We used the following tools and technology to build the app:
- Raiser's Edge - Customer Relationship Management System
- Expo and React Native - Development of the Mobile App
- UI Kitten - General-purpose UI elements
- TestFlight - To test and gain feedback from users
- Sentry - Application monitoring, error and crash capturing and debugging
the finished product
We successfully delivered the app on time and the app is now used across all Community Grocery stores. Since the development of the app, the Community Grocery now supports over 10,000 families across 13 different stores in the UK.
The completed app is useful to the Community Grocery because it enables them to:
- Record payments and record shop visits.
- Track who is using the Community Grocery to prevent people from abusing it.
- Take notes of any special visits, for example when Christmas gifts are given out.
- Collect information on member’s interest in the free courses provided by The Community Grocery.
The app is not available publicly on the app store, but instead is exclusive to the Community Grocery.
The Community Grocery has helped so many individuals and families throughout the Covid-19 global pandemic and we are so pleased that we have been able to work with them. We are excited to continue supporting their in-house development team and any potential future enhancements required of the app.