This post was hand crafted with love by Alexis Santos
Developing a custom application is difficult, but the possibilities are nearly limitless. Choose an easy to use, readymade consumer application and the constraints are uncomfortably visible.
That divide was made painfully clear when we collaborated with the Campus Archaeology Fieldschool this week to design a concept for a location based tour to help users interact with Michigan State University’s heritage.
We wanted to showcase MSU’s dynamic landscape and layers of history by following the fictional stories of three generations of MSU students who would each explain what campus was like during their time here. After the initial brainstorming meeting, we were tasked with building out the concept using a location based check-in service.
We chose Gowalla instead of Foursquare because it offered a mechanism to create tours or “trips.” However, we quickly ran up against constraints because the nature of our tour required a significant amount of exposition. Gowalla limits place descriptions to 300 characters and in the case of our 3 characters, we had to be very concise. We thought of using pen.io to extend our narratives and descriptions, but that wasn’t the most elegant solution since Gowalla doesn’t create hyperlinks within spot details. URLs that aren’t hyperlinked within tour descriptions would inconvenience users too much. Although we tried to adapt, a heavily customized experience isn’t possible using Gowalla.
Without the time and adequate technical skills, developing a completely custom tour experience wasn’t feasible. A framework that bridges the divide between the customization programming allows and the ease of use that comes with consumer applications seems to be missing. Such a framework would likely see great success with wide ranging educational and even business uses.
There are several applications that bridge the gap between technical skills and ease of use in other arenas. GarageGames makes several game engines that provide deep customization and relatively easy to use Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) for those who are less technically skilled. Although it still requires a fair bit of technical knowledge, GarageGames straddles the divide between programmers and a novices. The Indianapolis Museum of Art does a similar thing with its Tap Tours framework. Tap Tours enables users to create unique tours within museums and, for the level of customization allowed, it seems relatively easy to use.
If you know of an app that does just this for location based tours, please comment on the post and let us know!
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