What features would you like in a mobile app promoting a town or city?
February 16, 2014 2:20 PM   Subscribe

What features would you like/expect to see in a mobile app promoting a town or city? How would that list differ if you were a resident or a visitor? How would it differ from a Tourism website? What would make you download it, keep it or delete it?
posted by terrortubby to Technology (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly, I wouldn't. Yelp has food covered. If I'm going somewhere there's a reason so I already have some plans.

Google would pretty much cover the rest. And doesn't require installing another app.
posted by theichibun at 2:27 PM on February 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd need to know why I would be installing another app in the first place just for "promoting" a town or city.

For it to be remotely useful, I'd want it to be a full "tour guide in my pocket" that would point me to nearby transport options and destinations based on my GPS location, provide information, etc.

I can't imagine having a need for a "promotional" app for a city I live in. I do have a 311 app for my city, but that doesn't promote anything - it just provides basic information and ways to communicate back with the city administration and report problems.
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:37 PM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe a walking tour app with routes and things that pops up with relevant audio guides based on your location (kind of like you get in a museum). So, for example, it sees you're near 72nd and Broadway and you can select a recording telling you about Needle Park, filming Die Hard 3, and other interesting tidbits.

For just general info or ratings, I wouldn't download/keep a dedicated app.
posted by melissasaurus at 2:40 PM on February 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

The only purpose I can see for something like this would be local events. And I'd only download a specific app if I were a resident.

The best would be if it could combine both calendar and map functionality, with the ability to provide directions (as Yelp does) and event specifics.

I'd also like something that could look into the future, ideally with indications of how likely something is to sell out. So I'd get a comic-con notification the week before the tickets go on sale that said, "Buy tickets ASAP, they always sell out the first day!", but I could use the same app to see what's going on tonight.

You should also be able to search by keyword or tag, so you could find free events, comedy, literary stuff, parties/nightlife, music, etc.
posted by Sara C. at 2:55 PM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Depending on how international the city is, I might like an offline map containing (at least) major attractions and their closest public transit options so that I don't have to use up my data plan. I had one of those in Paris and used it to great success.
posted by Mr Stickfigure at 3:39 PM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

As others have said, generalized "promotional" apps like this have some negative associations and will look to most people like some bureaucrat or executive decided "Hey, everything's apps now so we should have an app for our thing! I love apps! Here's a budget for making an app!" Things that are produced this way tend to be amateurish train wrecks without a real function or reason for being. For this reason, you're probably better off not trying to make it do everything, and you absolutely shouldn't be trying to duplicate the efforts of others (Yelp, Google, etc.) who have enormous resources and have already covered their niches better than you could hope to.

Your app should have a specific reason for being, and that reason should address something particular to the town that people can't already get from an existing, more generalized resource. It should also have a good reason for being implemented as an installable app rather than a web page (consider whether what you want to make might actually work better as a web page that just does a good job of catering to mobile devices, which is almost always the case if all you're doing is conveying information to the end user.) For instance, does the town have a quirky mass transit system that isn't already integrated with NextBus or Google Maps? Make a high-quality, up to date, GPS-aware bus schedule that can warn you if you're in danger of missing the last bus home. I keep trying to come up with another example, but everything I can think of works better as a web site. Are you sure this needs to be an app?
posted by contraption at 3:46 PM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

The only way I would download this app is if it had coupons and discounts that weren't available anywhere else. I try to save $ when I travel and it would be cool to have a lot of discounts at my fingertips.

Generally I get my info from web pages, not apps, and agreed above that I would tend to go to Yelp, etc. to get info about where to go.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 4:02 PM on February 16, 2014

I would love a local council app for my town. It would push event info, council news, council services information etc. I live in a rural area and only go into town once a week or fortnight and there is no central place for that info. Having an app that kept me up to date with information would be very useful for me. For example, the local Show was on in town and they had jousting. Real jousting with real horses. I didn't know till it was too late. Same with changes on tip times, waste chemical collection, road closures, council meetings (with agenda etc). All these would be tops for me, as a resident. Useless for a visitor though. That said, the council can hardly keep their website up to date so I would not expect an app to be kept up to date any better.
posted by Kerasia at 4:24 PM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

The biggest problem with these type of city directories (website/app etc) is that they need to be maintained very thoroughly if they're to be trusted. If a business is listed and I find that it closed a year ago, the directory is useless to me and I'll never use it again.
posted by davebush at 4:52 PM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Santa Monica has an app called GO SMGov that lets you report problems or ask questions. It's pretty neat. It's location-aware and lets you take photos along with your comments. Once you submit a ticket it lets you track them and alerts you when it's been resolved and/or when you've got a reply. There's no specific app for the city; they just have a mobile version of their site. I do like contraption bus/transit schedule.

The local paper lists all the daily or weekly road work, maintenance and detours. It would be cool if you could input custom routes and have it alert you to upcoming problems. Other than that as a resident I don't really need another app. Unless it's another one that let's me complain.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:55 PM on February 16, 2014

posted by Dansaman at 5:10 PM on February 16, 2014

Give me something that uses GPS data to (1) show me a map of where I am, (2) pull in data from sites like Yelp and show me locations on the map, and (3) have a historical/walking component of places to see and do, and (4) add in a time component (what's happening now, soon, on X date, etc.). Coupons, as noted earlier, would also be a great addition.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:18 PM on February 16, 2014

I use ScoutMob for this if the city I'm in has it. It gives me deals close to me & also has a section with events happening that week. Maybe add some sort "permanent attractions" tab for tourists, some sort of news tab for locals (interesting local stories, school closings, traffic etc.) and yeah, map capabilities with interesting tidbits about things close to you.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 5:47 PM on February 16, 2014

Offline Maps and up to date and curated content such as tourist attractions, weather forecasts, non-expired coupons, and seasonal events
posted by askmehow at 6:02 PM on February 16, 2014

I think the app would probably cover cultural and historic places to see. It should also highlight events that are happening and maybe even show friends who will be there. After all, websites like Yelp do have food covered. So the app should focus on the unique sights that give a city its character. User-submitted reviews and photos are helpful, but I'd also like a baseline description and photo from a quality, neutral source.

One feature I've never seen that would be great is something that can map your day for you. You say "I want to visit x, y and z" and the app does it in the most efficient order or something and gives you directions.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:08 PM on February 16, 2014

AppleTurnover, Route4me does the best routing functionality you mentioned.
posted by Dansaman at 7:47 PM on February 16, 2014

Locations of public parking would be useful.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:09 PM on February 16, 2014

Play Melbourne is a good example of a government-initiated, city-specific app that works. It lets visitors (and locals too, I guess) discover the city in a serendipitous sort of way, without trying to do too much or replicate the functions of other apps like Google Maps or TripGo. I downloaded it last time I visited, but it's stayed on my phone, and every now and then I open it and think, "Hmm, I really ought to take another break in Melbourne...". That kind of ongoing engagement would suggest the app was money well spent for Tourism Victoria.
posted by embrangled at 10:13 PM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

As a resident: contact info for various city departments. Public works, police non-emergency line, etc. public transportation, taxi cabs, tow companies. Updates about city events. The airshow, the steam and gas engine show, coffee with a cap events. Drunk driver checkpoints coming up.. Community center classes and activities.
City council meetings, agendas, minutes. How to get on the speakers list, rules for speakers.
Stuff like that
posted by SLC Mom at 10:31 PM on February 16, 2014

Features I'd be happy to see in a city info app:
- walking/driving tour of the city podcast
- architectural history of the city
- collection of historical images / postcards / memory boards
- links to local restaurants that deliver
- best place to get [hot dog|pizza|sushi|etc] user voting / message board system
- randomizer of suggested things to do in Citytownville when you're bored (Not necessarily touristy things, simple low-cost, low-planning one liners like "Feed the ducks at Garden Park pond" or "Go check out the candy-making demonstration at Sweets Chocolate Shoppe")... maybe allow user submissions/voting
- links to area non-chain shops (Not just a list of shops-- is there something cool/unique/special in the area?)
- a similar curated list of events with links to venues (our newspaper's events calendar tended to get spammed up with individual daily entries for frequent or ongoing events like "high blood pressure screening at the mall all week" or "the house band is playing at the bar every night this month," which made it unusable)
- locally-made product info ("Wow! I had no idea there was a sweater factory!" and "Citytownville Sausages are really made in Citytownville?" not "Oh you make engine widgets for ships?")
- parking info
- info about other attractions within "day trip" distance
- info about parks, hiking trails, etc.
- links to all bus lines/trains/taxis/shuttles that service the area (+ schedules!)

I'd use all of this as a resident, potential resident, or visitor. You can live someplace your whole life and still miss out on some local treasures.
posted by Gable Oak at 11:46 PM on February 16, 2014

- List of restaurants/stuff to go see/places to visit, tagged with different categories, e.g. family-friendly, wheelchair-accessible, free, cheap, extravagant, good-in-the-winter, good-in-the-summer, good-if-its-raining, good-for-picnics, romantic, etc.
- Bus route maps
- Parking info
- Upcoming seasonal events (parades, festivals, street markets, etc).
- Links to local cinemas'/theatres'/gig venues' "Now Playing" pages.

I'd delete it if it was obvious anything was out of date, e.g. the latest "upcoming event" was 3 months ago, or the bus routes were different to those in the app.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:41 AM on February 17, 2014

I would never download it in the first place if it was marketed as "promoting" a city. It would have to be offering features I'd want to use and couldn't get elsewhere. And the features need to be something I can use repeatedly, else I'd rather get one-time info from the web than an app.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:21 AM on February 17, 2014

Garage/estate sale mapper.
posted by Scram at 5:45 AM on February 17, 2014

As a visitor: offline available content is a big plus

As a resident: linkable contact info for city offices - phone, email, website and physical address.

As both: interesting walking tours with commentary in both am audio file and text.

As a visitor to other cities, I have downloaded city specific apps and then deleted them. I will put them back on my phone if I go back to the city.
posted by soelo at 10:23 AM on February 17, 2014

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