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Developer discusses challenges creating Conde Nast City Guide apps


describe the imageby Ron Miller
Ness Blogger

Back in 2010, Mark Lister, managing director at Imano had a monumental challenge on his hands. He was working with Conde Nast Traveller and he needed to figure out a creative way to repurpose all of the good travel information locked inside their print magazine into a mobile travel guide-iOS app.

The end result was the Conde Nast Traveller City Guide apps for iOS. Today, you'll find ones for Barcelona, London, New York, Paris and Rome. The apps provide information about neighborhoods, attractions, restaurants, nightlife and more, all gleaned from the print publications, combined with purely social and mobile functionality and more advanced features like audio tours and augmented reality. 

Lister explained that early on Conde Nast Traveller wanted to build an iPad app, but after the initial meeting, they decided to go with the iPhone to build a unique series of mobile pocket travel guides. "During the initial meetings we were able to detail the opportunity they had to almost redefine the travel sector on the App store. They had a readily available rich seam of fantastic content which is still the best starting point. We just helped create the vehicle - a pocket City guide for the discerning traveller. Once we'd all agreed it made sense, it was all systems go," he said.

In 2010, this was new territory for all concerned Lister explained, and a print publication and a digital agency specializing in mobile strategy had to figure out the best way to make this transformation. "Don't forget these were early days for transforming content from one format (a magazine) to another (an iPhone). They had a long form magazine with which to present their content and we were conscious that the medium of the phone is very different different. We needed to preserve the tone of voice and quality of the information, but acknowledge that the phone is a device of need where the City traveller has limited time to find and digest the content," he said. 

conde nast app 2Lister said, as the project developed the team looked for ways to bring the content to life. He didn't want it to consist simply of lists or it would have been rather boring and not taken advantage of the tools the iphone provided. So he came up with the idea to include a social component and augmented reality to really bring it to life. "We were the ones keen to push social which wasn't in every app at the time. Sharing seemed such a human thing to do. "I'm in New York doing something cool, and I'd like to easily tell my friends". It seemed an attitude and approach that was universal." 

Since this was early days for iPhone developers, and there weren't as many options for developers as there are today, Lister said they relied on a native development approach, but he says he might do it differently if he were developing these apps from scratch today. "The App store was still a new distribution channel for discovery and they gave better coverage to apps that featured interesting use of the phone's sensors. These days there is much more open approach, at least to the notion of a hybrid. As apps have developed we all agree that real-time updated content is what brings you back to travel, sports, news apps so the use of a hosted web service to serve the updates is often inevitable. If we started again today it would be a hybrid," he explained.

Lister said it was definitely a challenge to create the first one, but since then they have added three more and these applications still feel modern and useful as they did back in 2010 when they were first developed. And the project proved, if you take good content and take advantage of the delivery platform's features and services, you can create something great.

Note: Imano is a Ness Technologies Company.

Photos courtesy of Conde Nast Traveller.

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