Cultural heritage is the legacy of both tangible artifacts and non-tangible established practices, culture and folk customs, to be maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations. It is no mystery that the current generation’s lives heavily depend on the usage of mobile devices – we can be approached through the mobile world and also expect to be communicated to in it. Consequently – is there a better way of bestowing cultural heritage upon the generation of today, than through a mobile application?
In LT1, we’ve begun working on the kulTura application. The application will seek to educated its users about the legacy of over 50 time-honored towns along the SLO-CRO border, starting with Črnomelj and Jastrebarsko. As with most other projects, we decided to conduct a thorough study of the state of the art before envisioning our design; after all, we aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. In reviewing over 15 applications, we recognized several of their aspects as good practises in diversifying a user’s – be it a tourist’s, urban explorer’s or local’s interaction with the world around them.
There are many non-heritage related functionalities that our application’s userbase can benefit from: weather and traffic information, ticket reservations, pathfinding etc. By integrating already polished, more focused solutions into their app, developers can dedicate more resources towards disruptive innovation, rather than work towards something that already exists. Although, we concluded that, to maintain a good user experience, applications should strive to implement third party services into their own user interface, rather than just redirect to it.
Gamification refers to the use of game design elements within non-game contexts. Some of the applications we reviewed during the process of our study focus on gamifying the acts of walking, sightseeing and exploration. Pokemon GO, for example, gamifies walking. We recognized that these game-like mechanics work best when designed with two attributes in mind: they have to be simple and diverse. In this way, the inclusion of gamification is most likely to reap its intended goal, fostering the continuation of goal-directed behavior: user engagement.
Augmented Reality (AR) is essentially projecting holograms onto the world with the use of the phone’s camera. We recognized that the user experience of applications that include these features are heavily reliant on the capabilites of the user’s terminal. Some of the better use-cases for such a technology (in this context) is to augment elements of one’s surroundings in the pursuit to showcase the state of an object or room in times past, or in a gamified situation.
Personalization is defined as the act of designing or tailoring to meet an individual’s specifications, needs, or preferences. With personalization, apps can sift through large arrays of their content and present only that, which is relevant to the preferences of the user. Global brands like Netflix, Google and Facebook use it daily to maintain our interest. We studied verious types of recommender systems and, in the end concluded that it would not be very cost and time efficient to work towards a bleeding edge solution in this field. However, there are some more trivial approaches, such as liking and tagging content, that could be used.
Throughout our review, we considered several other features, such as those specific to the user’s Geo-Location, like custom mapping and pathfinding. Offline usage is always important to look at, especially when designing an application for tourist purposes, with roaming charges still high in some of our neighbouring countries. Lastly, we also evaluated the benefits and disadvantages of both User generated and Curated content.
In the end, with so many features analyzed, we’ve come to a conclusion that, when designing an application, one of the key steps is to define its target audience. The application user’s demographic, interests and goals should be heavily considered when deciding on which of the above features to incorporate, and to what degree. This is the next step in making kulTura. We’ll be sure to keep you posted.