Today we were introduced to staff from The Broads Authority who in turn introduced us to the project.
The project aim
The aim of the project is to encourage residents of Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Beccles and Bungay to visit the Broads – these towns are notable because they are all situated on a Broads path called ‘The Angle Way’, which runs from Great Yarmouth to Thetford via Beccles, Bungay and Diss along the River Waveney and then along the River Little Ouse into Thetford. Naturally, we’re (myself and my BSc peers) are going to try and achieve this using technology.
Why are we focusing on this area?
The length of the Angles Way is 93 miles, so due to project time and ensuring that the scope is viable we will be focusing on a ~20 mile section of it between Great Yarmouth and Bungay. Some of the towns in these area suffer from deprivation (for example, all 10 of the worst streets for crime in the Waveney area between February 2017 and February 2018 were in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth was one of the worst places in England for social mobility in 2017) and the Broads Authority would like to encourage people in these more deprived areas to come out and enjoy the Broads via foot. Walking is cheaper and more accessible than hiring a boat or a canoe.
The Broads Authority in general feel that not enough people utilise the footpaths and walks around The Broads – a lot of people feel that to enjoy the Broads you need to hire a boat or a canoe – which isn’t the case!
Who will the user be?
The first question that should always be asked and answered is this one!
The answer is that we don’t know yet. This is up to me to decide using formative user research and interviewing focus groups.
The Broads Authority didn’t state who they wanted to attract, but did recognise that different age groups would expect different things from an app or other digital solution to encourage people to walk along the Broads. They recognised that what might excite and interest an older person likely wouldn’t do the same for a younger person.
What are the challenges that this project presents?
The biggest challenges are:
- Defining the target audience
- Coming up with an idea that utilises digital technology and encourages people to visit the Broads (specifically the Broads on the Waveney near Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft)
- Coming up with an idea that is ‘viable’ and can be done!
The challenges are listed in the order that they need to be completed in.
How are these challenges going to be overcome?
Target audience is going to be defined by conducting user research in the form of interviews of existing footpath users and perhaps some public surveys to get the opinions of people who aren’t regular walkers already. Stakeholder interviews may also be required, as might looking at online blogs about the Broads and people’s experiences and any comments that people have made about them.
Ideation will be done by researching existing ‘apps that you can use as you walk along a trail’, such as the WymTrails app located in my town, Wymondham. I wrote a short case study about that trail on my personal website, here. The idea needs to be suitable for the target audience, so this needs to be defined first. The app idea must also be suitable to the area that it is going to be used in, so visiting the area to find out what is there and who might find the area appealing will also be critical.
We also need to consider the application of the idea, which falls into both ‘ideation’ and ‘viability’. The app needs to be useful and improve the experience, without taking the user away from the nature and beauty of their surroundings. The Broads Authority have said that the app must focus on:
- Landscape heritage
- Cultural heritage
- Ecology and biodiversity
Viability will also be determined by site visits. The main things to consider with viability are:
- What kind of devices does our target audience own?
- What is mobile reception like out on the trail?
- Could our idea be implemented by a team of software developers?
Formative research and national statistics will hopefully indicate which devices our target audience likely owns (and potentially give clues to their technical ability and interest) and site visits will help us determine the quality of mobile reception. The Broads Authority are considering building some Wi-Fi Direct hotspots for this, so potentially mobile reception isn’t a huge problem if Wi-Fi Direct can be used instead and content can be downloaded from local servers connected to those.
We’re visiting the trail area on Friday 18th January and we’ve been advised to visit with a completely open mind to get ‘pure’ first impressions and ideas (being a Norfolk boy and growing up close to this area, I have some ideas of what to expect already though!) but some initial ideas from our discussion today were:
- A ‘secret history’ app – an app that tells you things about the trail and the surroundings that you may not know!
- ‘Mystery trails’ – an app that generates a route for you to follow which is always random – it could tell you interesting things along the way.
- ‘Towns and social history’ – an app that tells you the social history of the towns and the Broads – there used to be a surprising amount of industry on this particular part of the Broads and a lot of the towns around the area were key industry and shipping locations.
- A ‘quiz app’ – an app that asks you questions based on your surroundings and possibly tells you about the history and some interesting facts.
There needs to be some kind of reward or payoff to motivate the user to use the app:
- Could AR, whether it’s ‘fake’ or ‘real’ be a motivation to use the app?
- Could enhancing the natural environment be a motivation?
- Could learning about the area be a motivation?
- Could some kind of tie-in with a pub or restaurant or cafe be a motivation? Discounts if you use the app?
Of course, these are just initial ideas that have been thought-up without doing any prior research.
The next few weeks are going to be very busy with this project. There’s so much to do! There’s research to be done, site visits to be made, concepts to be considered and ultimately an app prototype and presentation to be delivered. To help manage the time I’ve made a Gantt chart showing the tasks that need to be completed and the dates that they are going to happen on. Some, like site visits, are set in stone and others are a little more flexible and may happen over the course of a few days. The below is an approximation of the timescale and when I think that these things will happen. Previously I’ve had trouble sticking to timescales like these, but this time I’m going to try harder to stick to it because if I stick to it then all of the tasks will be completed on time for the big presentation which will be happening on February 12th. In this presentation all of the work that I’m going to do will be shown to the Broads Authority.
The site visit on Friday 18th will involve also speaking to some focus groups to start gathering formative research and to find out more about the site and what it has to offer.
I’ve thought about how to conduct interviews and find out the required information to complete the formative research, below are my thoughts:
- Ask ‘big open questions’ to set the scene and get conversations moving.
- Ask the people in the focus group to share experiences and focus on specifics, such as ‘why do you like the Angles Way?’ and ‘what might help make walking the Angles Way a more enjoyable experience?’, ‘how have you organised walks before?’ and ‘why have you done these walks before?’
- The open questions can encourage chat and conversation and then the specific details can be taken from this.
- Asking yes/no questions can be good too to get very blunt answers.
- It’s important to ensure that all focus group members are heard.
Other ways of conducting formative research are:
- Talking to stakeholders (a little bit of which has been done already)
- Reading online blogs and comments from the public
- Surveys which could be distributed online (target people in the Waveney area, maybe post on Waveney forums and Facebook pages if allowed)
- See what is advertised on the Broads website in relation to the type of people in the focus group
The focus groups are not the only ways of collecting formative research.
Matchett, C. (2018). Revealed: Top ten worst streets for crime in Waveney. [online] Lowestoft Journal. Available at: https://www.lowestoftjournal.co.uk/news/revealed-top-ten-worst-streets-for-crime-in-waveney-1-5482498 [Accessed 11 Jan. 2019].
Powell, L. (2017). Parts of Norfolk are some of the worst in England for social mobility, study finds. [online] Eastern Daily Press. Available at: https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/parts-of-norfolk-are-some-of-the-worst-in-england-for-social-mobility-study-finds-1-5298564 [Accessed 11 Jan. 2019].