Over the last year or so there has been a huge amount of debate surrounding responsive sites, dedicated mobile sites, and native apps. Specifically, debate is focused on which is best and what you should develop. Recently I came across an example of a native app that's fit for purpose whereas the other two mobile formats wouldn't be. The app in question is the official 2013 Sónar Festival app. Sonar is the International Festival of Advanced Music and New Media Art which takes place in Barcelona for three days every June. Apart from 3 days of multi-venue, non-stop music, there is also Sonar+D which offers workshops, hackathons, interactive installations, product demos and a lot more. Presented by such breadth of... stuff, I initially felt overwhelmed, and the official lineup did not help at all. How was I going to manage my itinerary for such a three-day feast? Their solution was a native mobile application, which I downloaded (for free) not expecting to use it much at all.
The best bits
After a frustrating and lengthy attempt at organising my time I turned to the app for help. Much to my surprise, it did just that, helped. How it helped:
- There was a great feature which allowed me to be able to bookmark my desired performances and events and create my own calendar which then alerted me a few minutes (5, 15 or 30) before every selected show. With my personalised itinerary mapped out in advance I didn't need to worry about missing any shows
- Using the app I could listen to the festivals official play list which were directly streamed from the app using Deezer (a music streaming service). There was also Deezer stream for each artist which was easily accessible along with a synopsis of each artist or activity. This was useful as I could browse and listen to all the artists from one location before and during the event. The collaboration between Sonar and Deezer was great, I've never tried Deezer before but now I might give it a try and potentially rethink my Spotify subscription.
- For a festival with such a plethora of acts and activities they had present this information in an user friendly format, which they did. Details on the venues was divided into 'Sonar by day' and 'Sonar by night' as well as integrating Google maps and information on transportation. Similarly, in the 'Artists and Activities' tab, the three types of events, the music, Sonar+D and SonarCinema were separated to avoid confusion and results for each were displayed clearly in alphabetical order with photos. In general the usability of the app was brilliant
Any UX glitches?
As a UX consultant, I am always aware there is room for improvement:
- It's not easy to find out how to mark an event as a favourite for it to then be added to a schedule
- The app has some very detailed, interactive indoor maps of their venues. However, It's not obvious which parts of the venue maps you can interact with
Despite a few small problems its assortment of user centred functions won my heart. It was great to use a festival app not primarily used as a sales tool, it was to help better the user experience. Have you had an experience with a great festival app? If so, please do share it with us, we would love to give it a go!