Pollinators hosted a “Brains Trust” session on how to discover and share the best of Geraldton. This blog posts summarises some of the thinking and opportunities shared by those who attended from government, business, community organisations and even some tourists. We’ll introduce some ‘design thinking’, background to the project and share some interesting discoveries and conclusions.
The reasons for considering the topic is that there’s actually a LOT of cool stuff in Geraldton, even in the CBD. From urban Laneways art to cool cafes, historical buildings and interesting places to sit, talk, play or explore. However, there’s not way to discover them and even when you’re standing in front of them you may not know what they are. The typical tourism maps don’t give that level of detail, the historical plaques don’t guide you to the next historical building, and the urban art is hidden in back laneways. Local government, cafes, visitors, artists, and even locals all have an interest in making these things more discoverable. So, it was thought that a website or app or paper guide could serve the purpose to highlight and identify these places of interest.
Rather than leap straight into ‘what app should we use’, we though it best to start with a bit of clarification about who the target audience was and what might be the experience or features they were most interested in. This approach (identifying and empathising with the end user) follows along the lines of design thinking which we covered in a previous post.
The group came up with the following audiences this app might be useful for:
- Visitors (people whom come regularly e.g. workers, friends of locals)
- Tourists (people who come once)
- Locals (who may not know their own town)
- Potential visitors and tourists
And the sort of things they might find useful:
- Tours and trails that you can follow
- Information linked to locations e.g. audio, video about art or historic sites
- Guides e.g. to the best coffee, best art
- Insights, stories and the local knowledge about a place
Doing this step first in the design process meant we had a good basis for reviewing the sorts of apps, sites and maps that could serve this purpose.
Below is a list of the apps and some of the thoughts from the day on each.
Crowd-sourced collections of stories:
These apps are about non-experts providing insightful commentary for non-commercial purposes. Some examples:
Travel Eggs a very basic app in beta phase (you can find it in the App store for IPhones only), but does have this functionality where you can upload your own videos to tell your story about a location you love. For the local, they can share their stories. For the visitor, they can discover all the locals’ stories via a map and then create their own tours. A great idea, but no reach and uncertain development timelines.
Murmur is a beautiful way to access stories of a place through your phone. Created in the pre-smartphone era as part of the Connecting Identities project in Geelong. to use it you would find a location where there was a bright green sign, enter the displayed number in your phone and get access to the recorded stories. You can also listen online and do a ‘tour’ of all the different sites. Again, a great idea, but no ready-made platform to adapt or use in Geraldton.
Socially-shareable recommendations for commercial businesses:
Focused on crowd-sourcing information about the best or trendiest cafes and shops, these apps are commercially-focused but driven by crowd-sourced content:
TripAdvisor is a very popular and highly-functional commercial site, but is not very ‘local’ and only enables reviews, not able to give you the stories, history or help you discover little secrets. A good guide platform, but not an app you could use to discover or interpret pieces of local art.
Posse seems to be a personally-curated set of recommendations for businesses you like in your location. While Posse say they will add non-commercial attractions, it’s not a feature right now. Similar to TripAdvisor, but coming from a different angle and with no opportunity for users to upload their own photos, stories or audio to enrich your experience of a place.
Location or theme-focused guides:
These apps usually have geo-location technology and rich descriptions of places you’re interacting with. Some examples:
MoMA is one example of a place that has an app especially for it, providing commentary and themed tours to explore the Museum of Modern Art in New York. You can imagine a rich sort of experience for a small town like Geraldton, but it would be a significant undertaking even if most of the information was crod-sourced.
Geo Street Art is an example of an app for discovering street art. At this stage only focused on London and New York, but the same idea could be used for Geraldton. You’re not going to list cafes or nice places to sit on here, and it looks like it’s curated i.e. only certain administrators can add new commentary of information.
All-encompassing repositories of tourist information:
There are a bunch of these sort of apps for the pure purpose of tourism, taking over from the printed visitors guide or in some cases creating a new local platform that defies categorisation. Examples include:
EverythingGeraldton does what it says ‘EverythingGeraldton’. It’s like an online newspaper and you can find movie times, speed camera locations, a job, a car or even the latest sporting results. You can’t find urban art or reviews of cafes, but it is a very popular and local platform that could be adapted.
Kalgoorlie-Boulder visitors guide also does what it says, if you’re a visitor. You can imagine something being developed for Geraldton by the government or visitor centre, and being focused on providing services to tourists. It could become a popular alternative to paper-based guides or going in to the physical centre. It’s probably not going to be the way to crowd-source, share or comment on local art, favourite cafes or beautiful picnic spot.
After discussing all the apps in depth it became increasingly apparent that this was a BIG deal to do properly, and that the major constraints on its success in meeting the needs of the audiences identified were how up to date the information was (useful) and how findable the app / site was (i.e. was it an existing popular platform or widely promoted by everyone in Geraldton already). This meant that there were three main options for the participants in the room if they wanted to progress these ideas to discover and share the best of Geraldton:
- Use an existing app or platform to document and share your favourite things around town e.g. If Posse or EverythingGeraldton allowed non-commercial locations (art) to be uploaded and then it could become popular,
- Create a rich website specifically focused on a theme or place e.g. Art on Marine Tce. Whether it’s a blog or similar, it could at least become a useful guide that is referred to by other platforms or sites,
- Get the local government to lead on development of a more comprehensive guide (electronic or otherwise) to the best of Geraldton i.e. coordinated maintenance of centralised information, including art as one category.
Everyone in the group was interested in further ideas so we’d welcome contributions from anyone in other cities or towns with recommendations!