I was catching up on the day’s news, and saw this cool post at GOOD Magazine’s site called Wanderlust, which features an interactive map and multimedia about great journeys that have been undertaken throughout history, from real-life journeys like Magellan’s trip around the world to fictional adventures like Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. All of these journeys are amazing in their own way, and I think this site is a cool way to present these stories.
I think it is safe to say that if you have ever traveled, you have probably seen a Where magazine or guide in the lobby or in the rack of travel documents and brochures of your hotel. It appears that the folks behind Where are taking the online plunge into travel guides with their site Where Traveler. With online city guides for over 50 destinations in the US their site (which is in the standard Beta release) offers the same great content that their hard copy materials offer. I took a look at the guides for Raleigh/Durham (where I grew up), Chicago, and New Orleans. Each city offers a different set of navigation options, so the type of content changes between each city guide. R/D had a short list of options, mostly dining and navigation, while Chi and NOLA added info on entertainment, arts, etc. I have to admit that I always look through the print guides when I visit a new city, but I don’t think they are really written for folks like me since a large majority always seems to focus on local shopping.
The website interface is fairly straight-forward and pretty much hierarchical, but as a geographer/map loving person I was disappointed by the lack of any maps. There was great information about sights that are in close proximity to major locations or in certain neighborhoods, but only a push pin map to help you find your way. While the website is ok, the iPhone interface was not my cup of tea. With the recent release of Schmap’s far superior iPhone/mobile interface which includes search capabilities, rotate to map, and a much deeper set of information (which admittedly has its own draw backs when you are in a new place without a lot of free time) the Where Traveler mobile site had no chance of living up to my expectations. The need to drill down through the series of hierarchical menus to get to any details turned me off to this web 1.0 site. With the wealth of great mobile web apps that have been created in the last couple of years, it is hard to understand why Where Traveler couldn’t have included something as simple as search on the mobile version. The one thing I did kind of like on the iPhone version was the integration with the Google Maps app, though like the web site it is only used for a single location push pin, no option for looking at all the locations in a given area.
The upshot, the site and mobile app have potential since this is their first attempt (the aforementioned beta) and there is definitely an audience for the Where city guides online. On the flipside, companies like Schmap are doing great things in this space and it always seems that when print moves to online they still move at print pace. Check it out and see what you think at http://www.wheretraveler.com/
We have talked to the folks at Schmap a couple of times and I was pretty interested in what they do on the web and the desktop, but their iPhone/iPod Touch interface wins hands down between the three interfaces for me. They are rolling it out today, but we had a chance to play with it over the weekend and it has definitely earned a bookmark on my iPod Touch. This is another one of those sites that make me yearn for an iPhone for the ubiquitous connectivity. Along with their City Guide’s, Schmap provides a local search function as well. But at the end of the day it isn’t content or functionality that win my heart, it is the “Rotate ‘n Map” display where you view the guide or search with the device vertical, then rotate to the horizontal to see the results on a map. A simple, elegant display mechanism that is just plain handy. Head over to the Schmap website to find out more.