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App . Xamarin . UI

Edinburgh Fringe App

A cross-platform ticketing app for the world’s largest arts festival, integrating with complex services to deliver an excellent user experience.

Background & Objectives

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world with over 50,000 performances and 2.2 million tickets sold in 2015. Lasting for the month of August and taking over the whole city of Edinburgh, it attracts visitors from all over the world and has been the launch platform for dozens of well known artists and acts.

Since launching its first mobile app in 2010, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society has been continuously improving its offering to festival goers. The launch of a new, mobile-optimised ticketing site in 2014 lead to a corresponding increase in customer demands on performance and functionality, and in 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society commissioned Screenmedia to give the app its first major overhaul in years. This afforded the opportunity to not only to bring in a fresh new user interface which conformed to modern design standards and user expectations, but also introduce brand new features to provide festival goers with the best experience possible.

We set out to build a solution which not only matched the previous app's high popularity and user ratings, but also deliver a cost efficient and future proof platform for Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society going forward on mobile technologies by using the Xamarin cross-platform development suite.

Features Both Familiar and New

To deliver on our ambitions and satisfy the expectations of the users, we envisaged an app with a broad range of features and functionality.

  • A simple, yet engaging user interface
  • 'Nearby Now' contextual performance discovery
  • Easy filtering of over 50,000 performances
  • Advertising capabilities
  • Advanced search and display using a large range of parameters
  • Personal calendar and scheduling tools
  • Secure ticketing and ecommerce integration
  • Social media integration

Our Process

The highly complex technical architecture demanded of the app was matched by equally complex UX and design challenges. The sheer volume of shows, performances and venues demanded careful analysis of primary and secondary audiences to determine the many ways in which users would best search and navigated their way to show and performance information. As advocates and practitioners of design thinking, we began by exploring the app's target audience, undertaking extensive user and business requirements gathering workshops with Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, followed by the creation of app user flows, user journeys and wireframes. By following a clear UX planning process we were able to build an information architecture and blueprint an app experience which worked for every user in the right context and at the right time.

From signed off wireframes and user journeys we moved into UI Design where we applied the existing Edinburgh Fringe brand guidelines to the creation of a modern, contemporary, clean and cross platform appropriate UI design. Taking care to deliver a simple content hierarchy through appropriate use of type styles we drew out the Fringe's wide ranging palette of colours across each of the core genres whilst at the same time keeping the core UI sufficiently minimal.

From design we were able to confidently commence our development sprints and using an agile development methodology we worked extremely closely with the team at the Fringe as well their software development partners, ticketing solutions partner, and Virgin Money sponsors to consume the relevant APIs and contextual content required to deliver each unique and complex piece of functionality within the iOS and Android apps.

Designing The Ultimate Festival Companion

Planning out the journeys through all areas of functionality required multi stage prototyping. Using a series of lo-to-hi fidelity wireframes, we worked with our partners Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society to build a solution which encompassed all of the features demanded of users, while accommodating the individual preferences of multiple user personas. We carefully considered and mapped each use case and user journey through the app from sign up to finding and purchasing tickets end to end to ensure that the resulting application delivered a consistently high quality experience throughout. Our planning and design team then sprinted alongside our development team to refine and enhance solutions as development and technical integration challenges were met. This multi disciplinary approach meant we could overcome technical challenges quickly and efficiently and without compromising on the end product.

Our team leant on their UX expertise to develop an intuitive, impartial filtering system for finding and selecting shows. To further aid in simplicity of use we applied a clean but bright, upbeat interface which conformed to best practice and looked and acted natively on both iOS and Android platforms. By mixing extensive filtering options with contextual performance suggestions, we were also able to satisfy all kinds of festival goers within the same interface.

Easy Access to Extensive Information

Designing and developing an app which would experience a very high volume of users focused over just one month meant that there was no room for error. Our team designed a complex and stable technical architecture that provided an excellent platform for the app to consume and handle multiple API calls and data integration points with the Fringe's back office software, online user management system and the existing ticketing workflows and protocol. No mean feat, the app relies on a network of communication protocols and sophisticated state handling in order to deliver a seamless and simple customer experience.

What's more with over 50,000 unique performances of all kinds, each with a long list of metadata and associated information, we knew we faced a complex UX challenge to keep the user experience of the application simple and easy to use. Performances could be categorised using a long list of parameters, and at the heart of the application we needed to build a filtering system which was both exhaustive but could also satisfy the casual browser. In addition, the app had to satisfy the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society's policy of impartiality in not promoting or showcasing one show over another. A unique and commendable feature of the Fringe Festival, we were proud to hear of such a policy that promotes all acts equally and as a result were extremely keen that the resulting app stay true to this long standing policy of impartiality.

Go with the Flow or Find Your Perfect Show

Having developed detailed audience personas, we were aware that while some people meticulously planned their festival experience, others were more spontaneous. For the planners we developed personal calendars, where festival goers could build an itinerary for their experience, favouriting shows and booking and saving tickets in advance. For the more carefree, features such as Nearby Now and the Half-Price Hut allowed them to quickly find and enjoy shows to match their mood.

The Perfect Cross-Platform Solution

By using the powerful Xamarin cross-platform development suite, we were able to cut the cost of developing the app without compromising on a native, high-quality user experience. It also allowed us to have just one team working in sync to develop both Android and iOS apps using a shared codebase, ensuring a simultaneous launch and a more consistent experience for all users.

Since launch, the app has already garnered rave reviews and was featured by Apple in their Hot This Week category in the App Store. The bright and intuitive UI has been well received, and users have responded to the slick yet simple navigation within the app with glee.

In overhauling its app, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society has succeeded in keeping its offer current and modern, taking advantage of market-leading technology and meeting and exceeding customer expectations. The Edinburgh Fringe app complements and enhances the festival's position as a world leader in arts and achievement, with more than 2,000,000 user sessions expected in the month of August.

Building with the Xamarin cross-platform development suite allowed us to complete the delivery of two apps concurrently within a demanding timescale and to an immobile deadline. It also allows Screenmedia to continue to support the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society cost effectively, and build on enhancing the user experience and keeping it current with emerging market trends.

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