Build your own NHS Track & Trace App in an Hour

Worried about managing all those paper forms? Will your customers even touch them? Worried about the security of third-party apps?

You can build your own tracker app in a short time with this handy guide. And use it to grow your mailing list in the process.

OK, I have a web design background, but I completed our own NHS Track & Trace application in about an hour using a third-party mailing list system, WordPress and a free online QR code generator (which really brings the magic). Here’s how I did it.

Step 1: Mailing List

I have used Campaign Monitor for many years, both when I ran my own web design business and now with my restaurants. It is a solid platform and you only pay when you send out emails, so gathering emails costs you nothing. There are plenty of other platforms out there and you may already be using your own, so the principles are the same. The important criteria for the mailing list are as follows:

  • You can have multiple lists in your account
  • You can segment the lists based on your own search criteria

The latter ability allows you to filter the list for old registrations (over 21 days) and remove them. This is the only manual step you will have to do administratively going forward but it’s a quick process.

I trust Campaign Monitor as their business is protecting your emailing lists and they have invested in ensuring this is done to the best of their ability. Other mailing list companies should do the same.

1.1 List Preparation

I have included screenshots of this process below from Campaign Monitor for reference.

  1. Create a New List in your mailing list program and call it something like “NHS Tracking.” In Campaign Monitor this is under “Lists & Subscribers.”
  2. Add “Custom Fields” to your mailing list. By default, most lists record the name and email address along with the date of registration. You will need to record Telephone Number also, so add this and make it a required field. As a bonus, you can also use this list for marketing to capture new emails, so add another field which allows the guest to say if they want to opt-in for marketing or just be recorded for NHS Tracing purposes.
  3. Then create a new “segment” within this list. This will be used when you need to remove people from the list after 21 days.
  4. The segment should pre-select people from your list who subscribed more than 21 days ago, and who have opted out of your mailing list. With Campaign Monitor you will have to change the date field every time you want to run it but you get the result you need. The segment will be empty at first and will fill up over time. You won’t need it yet.
  5. Get the code you need to allow people to use your new mailing list. Campaign Monitor provides 3 options here as follows. You can pass these to your web designer to implement, and Campaign Monitor allows for design customisation also.
    1. Get the HTML Code to add to your website
    2. Get a link you can use from your website (redirects to Campaign Monitor)
    3. Get the HTML code to make an interstitial pop-up on your site

1.2 Add the Form to your Website

I’m a supporter of WordPress as it can do pretty much anything you want to do for your website, from simple marketing to full-scale eCommerce. Here are the steps I took to add the form to my site:

  1. I took the raw HTML code from Campaign Monitor
  2. I created a new PAGE in WordPress
  3. I added some header text to comply with the government regulations – essentially telling the visitor this form was used for NHS Tracing information and data would only be kept for this purpose and only retained for 21 days. Unless they opted in for marketing communications.
  4. You can see my results here. Very simple, but it’s designed to be used on a mobile device.

1.3 Make it Easily Accessible: QR Code

You can then go and get a free QR code for the page you just created. I use The QR Code Generator (though there are others). It’s very easy:

  1. Go to the site
  2. Click the URL tab
  3. Enter the URL of the page you just created
  4. SAVE the QR code (there are multiple formats)

The last step creates a file containing the raw QR Code (mine is on the right which you can scan – easy, isn’t it?) You can then print this onto a flier with a bit of design and similar wording to what you have on your web page (you may need a little help here). You then present this to the guest or have it on display at the table or entrance and guests simply scan the QR Code with their phone and enter the details. You can also just print the QR code, trim it and stick it on your menus, etc.

You are then compliant and, hopefully, gained a new subscriber to your mailing list!

The QR Code is also your secret weapon for contactless marketing as it can be used to point your guest to anything you create that you would like them to see – online ordering (for takeaway), contactless menus (even just a PDF of your menu online), etc. Your imagination is the only limit.

1.4 Table Reservation Systems

If you use a table reservation system (like ResDiary, SevenRooms, Open Table, Resy, etc.) then this already captures the information you need. You could always use this to record walk-ins so you have the data in one place, but they may not have an “only keep my details for 21 days” option built-in but will be compliant with mailing list opt-in regulations.

Update: 24 September 2020

It is mandatory from today to display the official NHS COVID QR Code in your hospitality venue and encourage your customers to use it (though this is not mandated). Your customers will need to download the app to use it, assuming their phone is compatible.

Create a coronavirus NHS QR code for your venue (UK GOV)

The display and use of the poster are completely supplemental to anything you already do. You still have to record your guests using your own reservation system or an alternative tracking app (like the one I outline building above).

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