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Tuesday22 July 2014

Biennale iPhone app reviewed: maps useful, but functionality misses a trick

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The Venice Architecture Biennale iPhone app has been launched to ease the journey from one pavilion to another, help visitors manage the hectic schedule of events, and find and book restaurants.

Three main tabs, Pavilions, Events and Restaurants, provide listing and location information, linking to the iPhone maps app to provide routes based on your current location.

The screen is divided between a map and a scalable information panel you can expand and minimise. If you click on the Pavilions tab and select one from the list, a title-marker appears on the map.

App creator Theresa Simon says she designed the app from firsthand experience. “You have to walk everywhere, you get lost because it’s a complete maze ­ it’s a logistical nightmare.

“Your time there is at a premium, so we’ve condensed all the information you need so you don¹t waste any time.”

Simon has plans to include a Twitter feed to the next version so people can post their “critical opinion”, adding to the idea of being more economical with time by visiting recommended pavilions.

The Biennale app was launched by Theresa Simon & Partners and Flint PR and is available to download for free from iTunes.

BD’s verdict

The Google maps-styled blue arrow on this marker doesn’t have any functionality attached to it unless you use the various country flags on the map to select a pavilion, in which case it changes the content in the information panel. Using exactly the same visual design as the iPhone maps app but slightly changing the functionality is a little confusing.

All the pavilions include a “Find route” button. This opens the iPhone maps app and by default routes you from your current location to the selected pavilion. This will be great for on-the-fly navigation or if you are lost, however it limits the ability to anticipate how you might get from one pavilion to another ahead of time.

Event details and locations are listed by day, without the ability to find a route. However you can find and book restaurants using toptable.

The “bookmarked locations” tab includes some useful pre-saved areas such as the Arsenale or the Stazione di Venezia. You can also save your hotel, but essentially all this does is bookmark your current location without giving you the opportunity to enter the details manually.

Considering the timely release of Facebook’s location service, Places, this week, and the increasing popularity of location sharing social networking apps such as Foursquare, it does feel like they have missed a trick by not including the ability to be able to tell your contacts where you are, or to add a rating to a pavilion.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Thanks BD, for the interest in our app and I just wanted to feedback on your verdict.

    Firstly, I want to say that this is the first version of the app and that we will be improving on it continually, taking on board comment and criticism, as well as implementing elements that have been in the planning all along, but that we have not had the time to instigate at this point.

    The first issue of the Google map style blue arrow. This does something different on every iPhone application. In our app, it changes the content in the information panel, but you might not notice that if you've got the panel hidden, or if you're already viewing that content. Another issue is that if you tap the arrow when it is behind the black stripe on the right hand edge of the screen (underneath the bookmark button), nothing happens. This is an Apple bug and our designers put the
    strip there to try to deter people from tapping on that area of the screen. Simply scroll the screen (and hence the arrow) sideways to the left, to reach an activation spot.

    Re route finding, we intend the next version to offer a degree of customisation and interactivity, so that you can plan your routes ahead of time.

    Event details have addresses and are map located - see the pink stars - so you should be able to find your way from your current location to the star. Again, that will be a customisable option in the next version.

    Saving your hotel location ahead of time may be difficult, as it involves correctly inputting addresses and, in order to avoid confusion, we decided to make it as simple as pressing the button as soon as you get to your hotel, to log it in there and then.

    Finally, the comment on rating experiences is spot on. Our next version will include the ability to rate events and exhibitions, upload comments and photographs from users' experience of these - generally get more feedback out there about the Biennale so that other users can decide what to visit, when. Our aim was to have a 'what's the buzz' section, which we will do via Twitter this time round (follow us on @biennaleapp for updates, particularly during the vernissage) and we are considering a 'find a friend' function, so that you can locate your friends and then make your way to them, using GPS. This has privacy implications, so we will ensure that you can only find people who want you to find them!

    Enjoy the Biennale

    Theresa Simon

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