Once a year Edinburgh’s population more than doubles with an influx of visitors arriving to take advantage of Edinburgh’s festival season.

A new iPhone app has many positive features to help punters through the maze of shows and venues, although some improvements can be made to support the user journey. 

The Fringe festival alone hosts around 21,000 shows from 60 different countries involving around  18,901 performers. For those who live in Edinburgh (I speak from experience) getting around during the festival season, findings venues and catching the hottest shows is a real challenge. For those who are not familiar with the city, it must be even more challenging. 

To try and address this problem, location-based application developers Loc8 Solutions have developed the ‘EdFest’ Edinburgh festival guide iPhone application. This festival satnav application, which aims to help users find the type of show they are after, when they want to see it and even guide them to the venue, has received attention from the press as well as festival fans.

Perhaps what is most remarkable is that this application development started only in June and is now available, after iterative approvals by Apple, with further improvements planned based on experience at this year’s feature.  I reviewed the application with my colleague Jamie Sands, a regular iPhone app user.

First Steps to the Fest

First impressions of the application show what appears to be a very useful and intuitive little app; on deeper inspection a few small issues appear, however these are more cosmetic than core functionality issues.

The app ask if it’s ok to use your current GPS location, with an option to specify a different location. This is standard iPhone functionality and gives the app its real power, in not only finding appropriate shows, but in being able to find those near you, show you the locationand give you directions.

Unfortunately the Main Menu is a bit of a letdown aesthetically. But in terms of functionality it does everything it needs too. It’s a clear list of show genres, each of which can be touch activated to go to a list of categorised shows. The selection of the genres is simple; however the plain list layout could be improved by presenting the options in a more colourful and entertaining way. Each genre selection could be differentiated better, and the inclusion of colour/shading could also help make each genre look inviting rather than a basic black and white list.

A minor ‘accessibility’ feature is the inclusion of an unnecessary ‘menu’ button, on the main menu screen. This button is therefore recursive, navigating the user to the page they are currently on.

Navigating to shows

After selecting a genre the page has some highly useful functionality. Being able to organise results by start time, distance from current or a specified location and providing the shows rating makes show selection very clear and supports the typical user journeys. 

Selecting a show provides you with a short review of useful information including show start and end time, location, description and even reviews. Currently most shows are missing a representative image however the later version of this service aims allow users to upload their own images of each venue and events, capturing a community aspect.

Functionality on these pages once again is clear, with buttons for the venue information, directions and direct calling all available. The iPhone’s own inbuilt map features are a great partner to this service allowing maps with multiple pins when a basic genre is searched, showing locations and offering the ability to get directions and see the Google streetmap view of the building itself. 

Three other main nav options are persistent at the bottom of the app, ‘Main’ (main menu), Search and Location. These options allow immediate and direct searches for shows, by date and time and to use the current or alternative location to search with.

Show listing titles are often shortened on the page, but to a degree that seems too severe for the page, a number of other characters could clearly fit on the page. As the show title is highly important information, this information should be wrapped to encompass 2 lines at least to give more title information.

Reviewing and filtering results

Shows for a selected genre are listed chronologically
from the current time, regardless of venue location.. Similarly, if the user
uses the ‘venue’ selector to find a venue, they once again get the next 20
immediate shows. It would be helpful to incorporate a date selector for this
function to allow users to skip ahead to future date ranges e.g. “I’d like to
find comedy shows on this Wednesday from 5 PM”.

The main menu allows the user to search by venue, however this is a venue search facility, and does not allow the user to search for the nearest venues from their current location. This may be a helpful addition to the application.

The ‘All’ and ‘half price’ tickets options open a colourful page where the user first selects which of the festivals to explore, before seeing listings. This page design is more attractive using the colours and logos of each festival to aid recognition. 

It would be nice to be able to complete the ticket purchase process using the app to identify and make a booking, however with the rather difficult and public failings of the festival booking facilities it is maybe a leap too far to expect this to be completed using the app itself. However for each listing the user can call directly to the box office to make the purchase. 

Conclusion – a good start to navigating the festival

Overall this is a very nice application, making the discovery of the listings, information and contact details very easy for most users. The main aspects that are worth changing are a number of cosmetic alterations to make the system look more appealing.

Additional functionality, such as using thumbnail images and uploading photos will serve to add to the aesthetic quality of the application and the possibility of ticket booking/purchasing would make the application an essential piece of kit for any serious Festival adventurer, and add a community element.

In the spirit of continuous improvement, Loc8 Solutions have another version to be released soon, which covers many of the recommendations above.