More than two years ago a couple of passionate Basingstoke businesses got together and started hatching ambitious plans.
The not-for-profit event company Destination Basingstoke were planning a quirky sculpture trail around Basingstoke, featuring 17 large pig statues. Each pig would be hand painted by local artists and inspired by the history, culture and people of Hampshire; The Hampshire Hogs sculpture trail was conceived.
As part of their idea, Destination Basingstoke envisioned an app built specifically to boost and enhance the visitor experience. So they got in touch with Basingstoke-based App Development Agency Apptaura.
Proposals were drawn up, early development meetings were held… And then the pandemic hit.
Best laid plans went out the window and the Hampshire Hogs exhibition was put on ice.
As restrictions were slowly lifted, it became clear that what had originally been seen as a fun, local venture, actually stood to be much more important. With retail centres struggling and the public reluctant to return to their pre-pandemic habits, the Hampshire Hogs sculpture trail was an opportunity to encourage visitors, families and tourists back into our town centre. The exhibition was outdoors, allowing for social distancing, and the pig statues were ‘immune’ to Covid. With local hospitality and retail so badly hit by lockdown, an event like this could provide vital footfall, and potentially even bring a wider staycation audience to the town centre.
However this greater ambition meant that the initial design, for a playful companion app, now needed to work much, much harder. Destination Basingstoke no longer felt comfortable providing people with potentially contaminated printed maps and guides so Apptaura went back to the drawing board and began crafting an entirely touch-free tourism app designed to guide visitors around the trail.
The original app concept had been targeted at a relatively tech-savvy audience. Now faced with the need to completely replace physical maps and paraphernalia, Apptaura went back to basics and reworked the app UX and UI. With a wider array of people to cater for, they had to deliver an app experience that was as simple and as self explanatory as possible.
Other considerations intruded. Menus, colours and fonts were tweaked for improved visibility in direct sunlight. User interfaces were simplified for optimal experience across varied audiences. New features were added to encourage users to visit more of the hogs, and to help navigate from one hog to the next using familiar technology, be it Google Maps or Instagram.
The Apptaura developers worked closely with their designers, marketers and the brilliant team at Destination Basingstoke to come up with an early prototype. Taking inspiration from apps like those used by visitors to Disneyland Paris and National Trust sites, the team trialled a range of stylistic approaches before settling on an approach accustomed to users of mobility style apps, like Uber or JustPark, which combine a real time map location with enriched POI.
Apptaura CTO and regular TechJuice contributor Tom Colvin notes
“What is it they always say? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? We wholeheartedly embraced that approach in our drive to create the best possible experience for the widest possible audience. The Hampshire Hogs trail only runs for a few months, so unlike the apps carefully crafted for theme parks and mobility services we won’t have the chance to gather user data to adapt the app as we go. The pressure was really on. The app needs to be pretty close to perfect from Day 1. So we spent a lot of time preparing and researching, looking at what worked for apps in similar areas and at apps designed to appeal to wide demographics and audiences. That research process has been immeasurably valuable”.
The redesign didn’t stop there.
Apptaura refocused their efforts on increasing visibility and branding opportunities for the businesses sponsoring the apps, to better reflect the financial commitments each of the sponsors had made, despite the economic strains caused by the pandemic. Now each individual Hog Sculpture page included a shout-out to the sponsor and a link through to their website – driving additional engagement for their brand within the local community.