Following my previous post about this project, today we visited Great Yarmouth to walk along the Angles Way by Breydon Water, talk about prospective ideas to a focus group and also visit Burgh Castle to see what we could do there.
All photographs my own unless otherwise stated.
Angles Way Walk
We arrived in Great Yarmouth and met our focus group at the railway station. They were a group of adults with learning disabilities. We walked along the Angles Way with them from Great Yarmouth Rugby Club just off the Great Yarmouth bypass to a pump-house about an hours’ walk from the Rugby Club and spoke to several of the group members as we were walking. This is what we found out:
- On the whole, the group did not often do walks on the Broads.
- Most people in the group enjoyed the walk, with one person saying they were bored as we were walking back.
- Audio would be a welcome addition to any kind of accompanying app as it would mean that the user wouldn’t need to be looking at their device all the time.
- The group are used to walking with audio, a lot of them were listening to music on their devices using earbuds as we were walking.
- Regional accents were suggested to be included in the app to showcase heritage by one of the group’s supervisors.
Further to this, we also assessed that:
- The group were becoming a little tired and bored after an hour or so of walking and were keen to get back to Great Yarmouth.
- A lot of them were also commenting on the birds that they saw on Breydon Water, which the path we walked along goes right by. There were birds migrating from Breydon Water which interested the focus group.
- Some were also asking our representative from the Broads Authority about some of the windmills and other landmarks around Breydon Water.
- However, when the group was stopped and our representative explained about some of the landmarks, not everybody was interested. Some were keen to continue walking, others wanted to listen, others wanted to go back to Great Yarmouth.
With this input, we began to think that an app that ‘unravels a story’ at various checkpoints along the way could be a good solution.
- Audio could be used to tell the story
- There could be minimal interaction with the device
- The user could walk to a certain point and then close the app and return back to Great Yarmouth, then return to the same point at a later time and the app could continue telling the story from that point
- The story could include regional accents as well as information about the landscape, cultural and ecological heritage to satisfy all areas of the brief and also scale to a larger target audience with different interests
At this point, we have realised that the potential target audience is extremely broad if we are going to try and encourage residents from Great Yarmouth to go on this walk, so we need to try and build something that caters to as many people as possible.
Whilst we were walking, we ran continual speed checks on our mobile devices. On my Samsung Galaxy S8 (with Samsung’s ClearView case attached – it is important to mention this because sometimes cases can interfere with GSM reception) on Vodafone UK, on the Angles Way by Breydon Water I was able to achieve a download speed of 14.4 mbps and an upload speed of 23.0 mbps n 4G.
Research I conducted about a year ago indicated that the average broadband download speed in the UK in 2017 was anywhere between 15 and 35 mbps (depending on the source) and the average 4G speed in the UK according to data released by Ofcom in 2014 is 14.82 mbps. This indicates that the 4G speed on the Angles Way near Breydon Water at least is very reasonable and is easily strong enough to support downloading and uploading content from the web given that most UK households have slower broadband than this! We had no issues at all posting photos to social media and downloading photos from other people.
My colleagues achieved similar speeds on similar devices, the exception being EE, also on a Galaxy S8. EE’s mobile broadband is cheaper than other provider’s because it is weaker in rural areas and focuses mainly on urban areas. On EE, the speeds were typically half that of Vodafone’s along this trail, but were still perfectly adequate to support a digital solution.
App or mobile website?
After the walk we discussed what format our digital solution should be: an app or a mobile website. There are benefits and disadvantages to both:
- An app possibly allows for more scope in terms of how device sensors and functionality can be used to build an immersive experience.
- An app is possibly easier to produce for the kind of thing that we want to do.
- However, an app only runs on specific platforms and it would require time and testing to ensure that the experience was smooth on all platforms we needed to run it on. Android and iOS would be the obvious platforms to run an app on, but what about those who are using another platform such as a BlackBerry or a Windows Phone? The chances of this are slim (as explained in this blog post from a year ago and the full Windows Phone story can be read in this post), but it can happen!
- An app also needs to be downloaded, which:
- Can be hard to encourage people to do (advertising is needed)
- Can take a long time if there is a lot of content, so it needs to be done at home which makes using the app a ‘planned event’ rather than an ‘oh that’s cool – I’ll do that!’ experience you have when you start walking.
- The app size may be inflated as it downloads content, some of which the user will never need or want.
Read the quote below from my review of the WymTrails app which explains the disadvantages of using an app that needs to download content as a solution to this kind of problem.
Downloading and installing the app was interesting. On the app store for Android and iOS the app is listed as being just a few megabytes big, however when you first open the app it then downloads several hundred megabytes of additional content. It took me around 20-25 minutes to get all of the content downloaded on my Wi-Fi. This caught a lot of users out who had downloaded the app and then had to wait a long time before they could use it, not to mention most of them downloaded the app at home and then didn’t open the app until they got into the town centre and had to download the additional data on mobile broadband which was slow and expensive. It would have been better if all of the content was downloaded from the app store with the app itself in a single download.
This makes for a poor experience and many users would give up in frustration or annoyance. People were arriving in Wymondham, opening the app that they thought that they had downloaded and installed, only to find it was then downloading a lot of other content and taking a long time. Many just gave up.
Additionally, an app may:
- Need to be updated, which then has to be pushed to all of the devices again.
- Need to be verified by Google or Apple before it goes onto the respective app store. This can take time and in the case of Apple, cost money.
- Be removed from the device by the user after they have finished with it, meaning that they’re probably not likely to return to the walk and certainly not use the app again unless they remember to download it again.
- May interfere with other apps installed and there is sometimes a privacy concern, especially when using phone sensors such as GPSes to determine user location.
A mobile site on the other hand:
- Should be able to run on just about any modern device as long as the browser is supported.
- A link to the website in the form of a URL that the user types into the browser or a QR code that is scanned could be placed on signs and posters along the Angles Way, making it a more ‘sporadic’ decision to use the digital solution.
- Can be updated without having to push anything to devices.
- Does not need to be downloaded and installed, so less marketing is required to encourage people to access it (all you need are links on visible signs).
- Additionally, the user can easily return to it without having to worry about anything ‘useless’ consuming space, downloading updates or ‘spying on them’ on their device.
But, it may be harder to implement certain features using device sensors. W3 web standards prohibit the automatic playing of audio and video, which could also be a concern. Different devices and different browsers handle this differently.
We decided that a mobile website or a mobile web app was the way to go. This suited the Broads Authority because they are planning to install several ‘mobile servers’ along the route that the web app can connect to in order to download content to the user’s device. However, with 4G speeds being decent, this may not be so much of a requirement – but it would be nice if the user wasn’t required to use mobile broadband to use the experience.
Access to the Angles Way
Access is very poor indeed. We assessed this after discussing the platform for our solution.
It is easy to get hung up about accessibility and actually getting people to the start of the trail in the first place, but this challenge will be looked at in a few month’s time when we begin collaborating with other NUA students and at the moment this isn’t really our responsibility.
There is no free parking anywhere near the start of the trail – you have to pay to park in the nearby railway station and the nearby Asda only has parking for 3 hours and you have to be a customer. There is a cafe in the Asda so perhaps walkers could get something to eat and then do the walk, but not everybody wants to do this. Once you have parked, you need to walk over a bridge, through an industrial estate that crosses the river, through a vandalised underpass underneath the A12 Great Yarmouth bypass before finally arriving at the beginning of the trail. It is not picturesque at all since this area of Yarmouth is rough and worst of all, bar a small information board located close to (but not in or really that near) the station, there is no sign-posting or way-finding at all.
We avoided walking around the outskirts of Yarmouth to get to the walk by instead parking at the Rugby Club and walking from there, but this isn’t a public car park and is a little bit of a pain to access since it is only accessible from the A12 Great Yarmouth bypass when you are travelling northbound. If you are travelling southbound then you need to turn around at a roundabout and drive back up the A12. An inconvenience.
The Wherryman’s Way, which starts at the Breydon Bridge and goes around the top of Breydon Water (the Angles Way goes around the bottom) is easier to access. There is a path from Asda that goes underneath the bridge and then puts you on the trail – but the issue with parking and lack of signage persists.
Asides from the small information board close to the station, there was only one other sign that mentioned Angles Way – it was on a fingerpost on the walk itself!
The railway station has some advertisements for local attractions including Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, The Time and Tide Museum, the Sea Life Centre, the Model Village and various other things to do in Great Yarmouth (including, weirdly, an advertisement for Pleasurewood Hills – which is actually in Lowestoft and not accessible by train whether you go to Yarmouth or Lowestoft!) but besides a nice mural painted onto the platforms and a few Broads boat tour leaflets by the entrance, there is nothing at all mentioning the broads or even walking destinations around the area. The station’s waiting room is fairly large and also fairly empty since the advertising posters hang from the ceiling and there is a lot of unused floor space. A lot of these are faded and worn and look unattractive. I suggested that a nice sculpture of a windmill or a sailing boat (both associated with the Broads) located in the waiting room could be a nice way to sign to the Angles Way and other walks. Perhaps the sails of the windmill could act as directional signs. Another one could be placed outside of the station and other tourist destinations could be placed on it too to make it more affordable and help Great Yarmouth as a whole. The station is located a long way out of town in a rough area, so anything to help move tourists into the centre would not go unnoticed.
It was obvious that the Angles Way is at least known to dog walkers, not necessarily down to the number of dog walkers we saw (it was a cold day), but rather the amount of dog mess that was on the trail.
Afterwards we went to nearby Burgh Castle, a Roman fort of which 3 of the 4 walls remain! It is free to visit and features a 1 mile circular walk (which takes under an hour to complete) with information boards, car parking and even hard-standing wooden paths by the reeds and windmills on the Waveney valley which is very ‘Broads’. Norfolk County Council reported in April 2018 that ‘more than 426,000 people attended the ten sites run by Norfolk Museums Service between April 2017 and March 2018, a nine per cent increase on the previous year,’ so with Burgh Castle being a tourist attraction on the Angles Way there is definitely scope to do something digital here.
It is on the Waveney valley which is where Roman ships once sailed and there were wars fought at this location. A digital ‘reenactment’ could be something fun, interesting and educational for users.
It would be interesting to find out the demographic of visitors to Burgh Castle to help determine who a digital experience at Burgh Castle would need to be aimed at.
4G broadband speed at Burgh Castle was excellent and definitely good enough for what we need.
On Friday 25th January we will be doing similar activities in Someryleyton, Oulton Broad and the Lowestoft area of the Angles Way. The following Friday we will be doing the same around the Beccles and Bungay area. After these visits we should have enough user research to have an ideation session and to start designing some prototypes for an app.
We are also hoping that we can speak to the disabilities focus group again to find out more information from them. We mainly observed today to get this information from them.
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Sweney, M. (2017). Average UK broadband speed slower than most of Europe, report finds. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/aug/08/average-uk-broadband-speed-europe-germany-spain-singapore [Accessed 27 Feb. 2018].
Bradley, S. (2017). You shouldn’t be surprised that UK broadband speeds suck. [online] Wired.co.uk. Available at: http://www.wired.co.uk/article/uk-broadband-speed [Accessed 27 Feb. 2018].
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Norfolk.gov.uk. (2018). Record-breaking year for visitors to Norfolk Museums Service – Norfolk County Council. [online] Available at: https://www.norfolk.gov.uk/news/2018/04/record-breaking-year-for-visitors-to-norfolk-museums-service [Accessed 21 Jan. 2019].