Designing innovative smartphone applications for visitors to New Zealand's National Parks.
This study examines key ways the new generation of mobile devices can enhance a user’s experience in New Zealand’s National Parks. With the growing adoption of smartphone and tablet devices, opportunities exist for this relatively new mobile computing platform to enhance visitor experience in New Zealand’s National Parks. Currently there exists a large number of mobile applications that could be considered relevant to National Park visitors, however, many are poorly conceived, poorly executed, or fail to take advantage of modern smartphone capabilities. Many existing solutions merely repackage existing print or web material and do not leverage the unique display and interaction capabilities offered by modern mobile devices. In this study, a wide range of existing iPhone applications are examined and analysed in terms of their essential or innovative characteristics. Critical elements for successful applications are identified. These are: location awareness (context sensitive information), immersive and compelling user experiences, integration with social networking, and engagement with the environment. A staged process is followed where three individual but related experiments systematically apply design methods of ideation, prototyping, and production to create an array of outcomes. These outcomes include extensive collections of application concepts (possibilities), rapid prototypes, semi-developed applications, and fully functional applications capable of being used in situ. All of these outputs have been informed by wide ranging IDEO ideation and production techniques, including: activity analysis, character profiles, extreme user interviews, fly on the wall, paper prototyping, quick and dirty prototyping, scenarios, try it yourself, and multiple site visits. When developing smartphone software, developers often assume the roles of Designer and Programmer. Design is considered a broad and complex discipline and consists of many subdomains (for example, interaction design, experience design, service design, strategic design). In this study, the application designer’s role involves aspects of interaction design, information design, experience design, and graphic design. In this research it is identified that during design and implementation phases there can be a tendency for ‘hybrid’ designer/ programmers to restrict ideas early in the design process. From this finding a simple guideline is developed to help mitigate this effect. While in some cases the hybrid designer/programmer role may need to be managed carefully, the input from this combined skill set is found to speed up development and encourage rapid iteration. This research identifies many opportunities for enhancing visitor experience through the use of smartphone technology. By using the tools and techniques identified in this study, a large number of innovative concepts were created and three iPhone and iPad applications were deployed to Department of Conservation sites around the South Island of New Zealand. Furthermore, it is found that the Department of Conservation may benefit from developing a national strategy for the development and deployment of smartphone applications to lead the creation of the next generation of interactive information, navigation, and exploration tools.
Advisor: Abbott, Mick
Degree Name: Master of Design
Degree Discipline: Applied Sciences
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: smartphone; design; National park
Research Type: Thesis