Andrea Tindall and Ivan Fernando have created an application that can turn your iPhone or Android phone into an interactive guidebook for Sri Lanka. Having moved to New Jersey, USA six years ago, the couple say they saw the potential in such an app after they last visited the island in early 2011.
Ivan, whose day job is as an Oracle Consultant for a financial firm, spent the next 10 months developing it. They released the app, which promises to deliver ‘The Best of Sri Lanka’ in late February this year.
“Our idea is simple. Find a point of interest, see it (pictures and videos), map it (see the location), get there (driving directions), enjoy it and rate it (share your experience),” says Ivan. “We started by asking questions, what will tourists need?”
They then broke these down into separate categories, such as accommodation, food and drink, attractions, transportation and shopping and then focused on a selected city/district to collect data. With all this information packed in, it was a real challenge to keep the app small and manageable, but Ivan says they’re pleased to have managed it without compromising on content or picture quality. “Also we paid a lot of attention to app interface design which presents the user with information in an easy to read format while inviting users to interact with apps dynamic contents and features.”
It’s a good looking app and Ivan says they’ve managed to find their pictures by relying on whatever resources were already available. “We took our images from the source web sites. For example: Ministry of Crab - this restaurant picture is taken from its website or its official Facebook Fan page. The videos are linked to their source which is you tube,” he says, adding that they took care to verify the content, double checking locations, contact numbers and addresses and then visiting each in person to mark the geo location on Google maps (the last means that any new highways or routes will definitely show up on users’ screens). “All information in our app is 100% verified by us,” says Ivan confidently.
The result is 1006+ points of interests, which includes close to 400 hotels and over 115 attractions. Ivan is particularly pleased with the feature that allows you to find distance and direction between any two points of interest. “For example: You can find how far you need to travel between to see a whale and an elephant or what the distance is between Colombo and Arugam Bay. The possibilities are endless with our 1000 plus mapped locations. This is very unique and a first in a mobile app,” he says.
The app is designed so that its content is dynamically updated without the need for releasing a new version of the app. This will help keep the information current and correct at all times, promise the designers. Users can use keywords to search for what they want in the app and a rating function allows them to give feedback to other users and leave a comment as well. While the app does cover the entirety of the island, the least covered district unsurprisingly is Jaffna.
They’re collecting more information though and Ivan promises it will be added soon and that once added all users will see the new content without having to install a new release. Currently, they’re racking up 10 – 15 downloads a day off iTunes. “We are still just 12 days after launch and very optimistic that it will increase in coming days,” says Ivan, adding that it will be free for the first few weeks.
Andrea and Ivan themselves confess to being app junkies while on vacation: “It saves a lot of time and helps us plan and identify things around us. We want the same experience for Sri Lanka. We believe our app will help tourists and locals find and enjoy the best Sri Lanka has to offer with ease.”