Mobile User behaviour User experience

Sydney Design has an iPhone app

Everyone is doing apps.

It might not be the decision of choice for us ‘web people’ – our friends at the Brooklyn have recently agonised over similar decisions – but in the end actual user behaviour wins out in the short term over what we might consider best practice. (Of course, modelling on actual user behaviour is best practice!)

So here’s the Powerhouse Museum’s free iPhone app for Sydney Design 2010.

The festival starts on Friday and the App is basically a pocket what’s on calendar and map with the ability to favourite events for your own calendar as well as quick aggregated access to the Sydney Design Twitter and Flickr feeds.

We agonised over whether to just build a mobile version of the website – that would have been the easy choice, especially as the festival site has, for the last 4 years, been built entirely on WordPress (with this year’s theme developed by Boccalatte) and adding a mobile theme would have been comparatively trivial. But in the end we went with the bulk of target users – whose mobile device of choice was overwhelming an iPhone – and whose preferred behaviour was an app over a mobile website for ease of access. There’s also now a sense of ‘expectation’ that these kinds of events ‘should have’ their own app – perhaps grounded in aspirational hype, but an expectation none the less.

MOB Labs built the app which uses the dataset directly from the WordPress backend. This means it can be periodically updated over the air without requiring a full app versioning process – essential given the approval process. This core bit of functionality wasn’t without its own problems and MOB worked hard to make sure that the way that the website uses tags and categories to provide the key navigational elements on the website were sufficiently able to translate to the app without requiring app-specific data.

First releases are never without their bugs and we’re using this time-limited trial as a means to gather the necessary learnings for some exciting upcoming things . . .

Collection databases open content

Malcolm Tredinnick on some problems with working with our collection dataset

Down at the recent Pycon we were excited to hear that Malcolm Tredinnick had taken the downloadable collection dataset from the Powerhouse and was using it to demonstrate some of the issues with working with (semi-)open datasets.

His presentation reveals what every museum knows – the datasets that exist in our collection databases are inherently messy. But we’re always working to improve the quality and structure of these datasets. Without them being publicly available to be worked on in new ways by non-museum people we’d never discover many of the flaws in them.

Here’s his presentation which is well worth watching if you are a developer or museum technologist and thinking of making your raw data available.

There’s some modifications and improvements coming to our downloadable data very soon – data release projects can’t just be a ‘set and forget’ arrangement.

Malcolm’s code for cleaning up our data is up on Github.