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How The Great Exhibition of the North and Shout Digital showed visitors the way forward

Shout Digital was highly commended in the ‘Travel, Leisure or Sports’ category at The DADI Awards 2019 with its ‘All Features Great and Small’ campaign for Newcastle Gateshead Initiative. Here, the agency reveals the challenges faced and the strategies used to deliver this successful project.

 

The challenge

The Great Exhibition of the North was a summer of exhibits, technology, live performance, displays of innovation and culture celebrating the North. The free, family-friendly exhibition took place in and around Newcastle and Gateshead.

In November 2017, GEOTN commissioned Shout Digital to develop the exhibition’s Wayfinder App, following a competitive procurement process. A total of 15 companies from across the UK submitted proposals. In addition to the development and build of the app, the project required consultation to understand and compile user journeys, app management (user acceptance testing, app rollout, updates), maintenance and support training.

A prime function of the app was to help visitors navigate and discover content across each of the three walking trails. Visitors could build their own unique experience, play games and interact with the installations in new ways, and having the most valuable experience of the Great Exhibition of the North as possible. The app helped to incentivise audiences, particularly younger families.

The brief set out the overall outcomes of the GEOTN objectives, including the individual KPIs for delivering the app. These included:

• Delivery of an outstanding user and visitor experience.

• To integrate and share elements of data and content with the current GEOTN website.

• Allow for further features to be developed by third parties from across the north and integrated into the app, in the lead-up to and even during the exhibition.

GEOTN onboarding
 
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The strategy

A primary challenge for the project was the volume of venues and exhibitions that were available to visit. It was important to ensure that, within the app, users were presented with this information in a way that was clear, efficient and user-friendly. It was imperative to provide a solution that maximised user engagement and ensured that the app was a tool to support users’ visits to the exhibition rather than something that confused them.

To overcome this, we developed a simple and intuitive onboarding process that navigated the user through a series of questions about their time of visit, demographics, interests and those of the people they were visiting with. This process provided users with a natural, user-friendly way of choosing the elements of the exhibition that they wanted to see. This process was vital for those visiting the exhibition from outside of the North East region and with little knowledge of the area.

We set out to design and build an innovative app using gamification to help families have a personalised and immersive experience while exploring the exhibition. Knowing that no two families are the same, the team had to create an app that would encompass each nuance and needed to build a unique experience.

With children and families being the heart of the GEOTN, initial planning stages consisted of eleven focus group sessions involving 90 school children and the local community, to ensure we created something that had real people embedded throughout it.

A primary function of the app was to help visitors navigate and discover content across each of the three walking trails. To boost audience engagement further, we collaborated with gaming company Ubisoft to incorporate characters Bud the robot, satellite Pod and the mothership M.O.M within the app.

Our team consulted with over 600 local school children on the choice of characters, the usability of the app, and test the user experience.

GEOTN user engagement
 
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The campaign

The GEOTN app was designed for both iOS and Android platforms. For iOS Shout Digital developed to support iOS 10+ and for Android 5.0+ was supported with an agreed selection of focused devices for testing purposes.

To add to the immersive experience, Geofencing technology was used to trigger content to the user at each venue and exhibit. This was brought to life with the use of gamification, allowing app users to collect crystals when arriving at a venue or exhibit, take related quizzes, and interact socially by uploading images of their experiences via the app to the GEOTN related social platforms.

The GEOTN team managed content for the event, with a requirement for the app to provide this content when offline. To facilitate offline functionality, the app stored content in a local database on the device and updated the content when online and changes in the content occurred.

Online functionality allowed integration with the Google Maps Directions API as part of the 'wayfinding' feature, allowing the user to navigate safely along the trail he or she had selected. The app also retrieved content through several web services hosted in Microsoft Azure.

Alongside App Store Optimisation (ASO) techniques we implemented Power BI, a Microsoft business intelligence tool which provided the client with anonymised business analytics around visitors to the exhibition and their behaviours. This data was vital in the client being able to report on the success of the exhibition to The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), the government body backing and exposing the GEOTN.

The GEOTN app was designed, developed and implemented over seven months with a total delivery effort of 238 days. As the lead delivery partner, all-digital design and development work was completed in-house.

Shout collaborated closely throughout the project with Accenture who acted as Project Managers for the client and with Ubisoft who provided design input for the gamification section of the app.

GEOTN wayfinding
 
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The results

The success of the GEOTN Wayfinder app was measured by evaluating numbers and profiles of audience types using the app, how and when they used the app to engage with the GEOTN and their good and bad experiences of the exhibition.

The app supported over 3.8 million visitors across a three-month period and attracted more than 12,000 downloads across both iOS and Android platforms by visitors both nationally and internationally during the period between 22 June 2018 – 9 September 2018. The app achieved an impressive rating of 4.8 out of 5 on iOS.

 

“Working with Shout was essentially like working with an extended team. They were fully on board with what we were trying to achieve and rose to the challenge of meeting very tight deadlines and a complex brief.

“Great Exhibition of the North involved multiple stakeholders and the app itself had to consider the added complexity of health and safety guidance given its core wayfinding functionality.

“The main purpose of the Exhibition was to showcase great art, design and innovation and having the privilege to work with such a dynamic, northern-based organisation like Shout reinforced our aims. We have since collaborated once again with them on an app for the EPCR rugby finals which took place in May 2019 and I certainly hope we’ll be able to utilise our invaluable learnings on future projects going forward.” - Carol Bell OBE, Executive Director of Great Exhibition of the North

“From the outset, Shout delivered a properly thought out discovery process holding workshops with a wide dimension of potential users to ensure the delivery of an outstanding user and visitor experience. The UX and UI experience when entering the platform is one of the best I have ever seen, and I still reference it today.” - Steve Blanks, Digital Champion of Great Exhibition of the North

 

This project was highly commended at The DADIs 2019. Click here to register your interest in 2020’s event.

 

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