When it comes to fleet management software, the mobile apps available are pretty limited and they are typically one-size fits all. They were developed to do a few specific tasks and don’t normally encompass very much from the entire system.
What if everything that you do in your fleet management system could be done from a tablet or phone while you’re away from your desk? And by everything I mean EVERYTHING: Update custom fields that you’ve had your software provider added for you over the years (if they can do that), perform tasks you work normally, or run every report?
Mobile responsive software makes it possible.
Where it came from
In a nutshell, mobile responsive software is a web-based application that uses a mobile responsive design (also known as “adaptive design”) to display the pages you access through the web browser…whether it’s a computer, tablet, or smart phone. When the page is loaded, the screen adjusts itself for optimal use on that device.
The concept of mobile responsive design emerged from a couple of issues that came about in the mid 2000’s:
- Mobile devices were being produced quickly in all kinds of sizes, widths, and resolutions. Companies would design their website or software for one type of device and another one would come out the next week, making it difficult to keep up.
- People began using mobile devices so much that they wanted to be able to do as much as possible on them as they could on their computers.
- Users began to be annoyed with a “mobile” site. They wanted to access to all the same information on their mobile device as if they were on a computer.
Although it started out primarily with websites, the mobile responsive concept eventually moved over to more complex web-based software with companies that wanted to offer a better user experience for their mobile users.
The biggest issue of using mobile devices when they first came out was the constant pinching and zooming that was required on non-optimized pages. The text would appear so small that you’d have no choice but pinch and zoom to read it. When another page was loaded, it would reset and you’d have to do it again. And again. And Again. It was a very frustrating experience for most users.
Mobile devices were designed to be easy to read and scroll. Text should be large enough to see without zooming in and scrolling with the flick of your finger makes it easy to see more information. Anything interrupting that flow isn’t ideal.
How it works
Let’s take a look at how it works and how you can benefit from software that was designed with the mobile user in mind.
To demonstrate, I’m going to show a couple of screenshots from collectiveFleet, Collective Data’s web-based, mobile responsive fleet management application.
Desktop Layout Example
Down below is the Maintenance Request screen of the Collective Data system when accessed on a computer. This area of the software is where users go to report issues or request service for equipment in their fleet:
This is a pretty basic screen, but you can see that there are a lot of navigation items available at the top in order to go to other parts of the system, access reports, and search for items. The main area also also contains a filter area and fields that layout in two different columns.
Tablet Layout Example
With mobile responsive software, there are no apps being installed on the mobile devices. We are just accessing the same web-based software through the tablet’s web browser. Here’s a look at the same Maintenance Request screen when it’s viewed on a tablet:
Do you see the difference? The screen has changed to be more user-friendly on the tablet:
- The buttons are larger on the tablet than the desktop layout, which makes it easier to push with your finger
- The text and field have also been enlarged for easier reading and easier interaction as you scroll through
- The need to pinch and zoom is gone (cheers!)
Due to the limited space on mobile devices navigation elements typically need to be re-arranged to fit. A mobile responsive application’s goal is to allow a similar feel to your desktop application while still being easy to use. This allows you to still access everything even on smaller screens.
As seen below, when you click the mobile navigation button in the upper left (often called the “hamburger” icon) the system shortcut menu becomes available to easily navigate to other screens as seen below:
Phone Layout Example
The same concept applies to smart phones. Phones have even less room on the screen but the screen translates over nicely if the software is well designed. Here’s a look at the Collective Data Maintenance Request screen on a phone:
This layout makes it easy to scroll through with one hand, select items, and type in details when necessary. The buttons are large enough to help make it easy to push and all of the main menu items are accessible through the top navigation icons.
A quick re-cap of what we’ve covered:
- Mobile responsive software is not an “app” that gets installed on your tablet or smart phone.
- Everything is accessed through the web browser and the screen adapts to the device you’re using.
- The goal of mobile responsive software is offer the best user experience on any type of device. “Pinch and Zoom” during data entry is the enemy.
How can you take advantage of it your fleet operation?
Now that you know more about how mobile responsive applications work the question is: How can I use it in my fleet?
The most important thing to remember is:
If you can access or do something in your software on your computer, you can do the same thing on your tablet or phone with a mobile responsive system.
This opens up a whole world of opportunities for you as a fleet/maintenance manager. You are no longer restricted to a couple of functions that the software developer decides to put into their mobile app. You can have your staff use any part of your fleet management software they need to get better and quicker data no matter where they are (as long as they have Wi-Fi or a satellite signal with data plan).
Here are a few suggestions for integrating this type of mobile responsive software into your operation:
1) Run reports where and when you need it
We aren’t talking about simplified, “mobile” versions of those reports that you might see mobile apps. Mobile responsive software runs just like your computer since it’s browser-based. You would have the ability to run the same exact report that you would at your desk. A scenario that comes to mind would be when you are asked for specific information on the spot at a meeting. Imagine the power to pull out your phone and say “Sure, let me pull up the report real quick”.
2) Give your technicians a tablet with a rugged case
Does your shop have access to Wi-Fi or have a strong enough signal for data plans? Tablets are relatively cheap these days compared to laptops and can offer some productivity improvements in a variety of ways. It could help remove the back and forth between kiosks (or remove kiosks altogether) and offer quicker access to equipment histories for example.
3) Have your drivers perform inspections electronically
Give your drivers access to perform inspections on their equipment through the software on their phone or tablet. First, you remove the wasted money on paper inspection checklists. Second, you don’t have to re-enter the data later. And third, who enjoys filling out paperwork anyway? At least entering the data would be a little more enjoyable/fun than filling out a sheet of paper.
I hope that this post has helped you learn what a mobile responsive web application is and some of the ways you benefit from implementing this type of web-based software. If you are currently looking at purchasing a new fleet management system, I encourage you to explore all of the options out there including a mobile responsive system like Collective Data’s. If you’d like to learn more or have a demonstration with one of our solution specialists, request a demo.