Talking Travel Apps with Stay.com’s Interactive Designer
You may think guide maps are a thing of the past (or only privy to the Hawaiian shirt–wearing tourists). But Stay.com is revolutionizing guide maps with its multiplatform app called City Guides, Offline Maps. Stay.com was originally founded in 2010 by the man who headed up Norwegian hotel site Hotellweb, and it let users create their own travel guides on the web and download ready-to-print PDFs to take with them on their journeys.
Since the world seems to be going paperless, Stay.com spent 2011 creating City Guides, Offline Maps. The app still lets you download guides, but now they’re downloaded to your mobile device. When you arrive at you destination and can’t get coverage, you can access the location's maps in offline mode. More importantly, you can access the site, restaurant and activity recommendations from more than 40 Stay.com experts.
We love the idea behind Stay.com’s app, not to mention its neat design, so we caught up with Interaction Designer Asgeir Hoem to talk about the work that went into creating City Guide, Offline Maps.
- Tell us how Stay.com is able to offer its app in offline mode (without an Internet connection).
The idea is that you download a city while at home on your Wi-Fi. The one-time download includes any personal guides, a range of curated guides, a fully searchable catalog of the places in the city and a complete city map. A city download is between 15 and 50 MB.
When you arrive, you can freely use the app (including finding your location!) without worrying about roaming charges. Any changes you make while offline will sync up as soon as you find a hotspot or connect to your hotel Wi-Fi.
- What was it like developing an app for both Android and iOS devices?
Each platform has its own challenges. Developing for iOS, you are following quite strict guidelines, and the Apple review time adds several days to each update.
The Android platform is more open and lets us push updates almost instantly. However, with an excess of different devices, different screen sizes and different OS versions, it is practically impossible to test every scenario.
- What is your personal favorite feature of the app?
My favorite feature is the Facebook check-ins, which we put on the map for you. Arriving in a new city and seeing that a bunch of people you know have eaten at a particular restaurant makes for an easy choice!
- What does the travel app’s future look like? Can you share any sneak peaks?
We are always focusing on improving our content and adding new cities. In the coming months, we will be redesigning how the featured city guides are created and displayed.
In the future, you will find a lot more exciting guides by interesting personalities on Stay.com. These will be great starting points for building your own city guide.
- Besides City Guides, Offline Maps, what is your favorite app right now, and why?
My favorite app at the moment is TripIt. It has made traveling almost frictionless for me. It even supports the smallest, domestic, bus-with-wings–type airline in Norway. Great tool!
Apps I Love
Eating Healthy is a Snap with Dr. Oz’s App Pick
Photo credit: Getty Images
Dr. Mehmet Oz, famous cardiac surgeon and star of TV’s The Dr. Oz Show, spends much of his time giving nutritional guidance to his show’s viewers and patients. But we bet he never thought advice could get as simple as “take a picture of your food.”
Dr. Oz told USA TODAY that he likes the Meal Snap app. Just use your smartphone to take a photo of your food in front of you, and the app calculates how many calories you’re consuming. Bam—food recording is done.
Of course, the app is not always 100 percent accurate, but we still think the simple act of recording our food helps us be more conscious of what we’re eating. You can share your meals on Twitter, Facebook and foursquare if you want some extra motivation, and you can even view your eating patterns over time.