The Bansko App story first started in October 2011 and version 1.0.0 was launched 14th February 2012. In this time there have been 40+ iOS and Android app update versions released. But now the app gets to take big step forward. It’s the best version so far. I take a closer look at Bansko App v2.0.0 (iOS) (Android version 2.0.0 launching early December).
Here’s my video demo and review of the app:
This version 2.0 is a rewrite of nearly every line of code. It fixes issues on iPads and offers faster response and fewer crashes, all whilst providing some completely new and revised features. In this article I review the reasons behind the changes and explain some of the new features.
I sincerely hope this new version of the Bansko App will save you time, money and bring the best of Bansko to you in your pocket.
Version 2.0 in screenshots. Your comments below or on Facebook are very welcome.
The home screen
Usability, the UX and the UI (“user interface”) are key watch words for any app but especially a resort app. Many different languages, and cultures, must be able to understand in an instant the meaning of the icons.
The app must also be useful for those working in the hospitality industry in Bansko so that they can quickly explain directions in the resort.
Talking of directions, the navigation of any app must be quick and easy and mustn’t demand any thinking time to work out what to do.
We are all overloaded with data these days. This overload makes us impatient to get to what we want quickly. My task on improving this aspect off the Bansko App meant I had to remove the “hamburger” menu. For its replacement I decided that swiping right to left was going to be the new way to navigate — not least because it is becoming the most natural gesture I use in many other apps on my phone. It’s even standard navigation in the Apple and Google Play stores.
The big win was that in-app slider navigation was a better way to show more of the functions than before. There was now no need to hide app features in a long scroll down the page or on a, very rarely used, side menu.
Nasko, my business partner at App Factory Ltd worked on changing the icons that were larger and clearer. At first, I was hesitant to change them but, after several iterations and my obsessive approach, Nasko produced an icon set that I was happy with.
App icons have to strike a balance between being clear, recognisable and consistent. We then worked on the feature sliders at the top and second from bottom row to add a friendly, characterful and human touch. On one of the many afternoon app design sessions the idea of keeping the blue hue with a highlight of colour in the lower slider images was born. A really good “light bulb” moment that I will remember for some time to come.
There is still more work to go on the top slider and, over time, you’ll see more images and links in the top and middle sliders. I can easily change images and links and can accommodate special events and featured articles, at short notice.
Live web cams
Live cams are a huge part of the build up to visiting Bansko. I love the anticipation of a trip and the app is designed to “scratch that itch”! The cams are part of my morning routine before setting up for a day up on the Pirin.
There will be 3D touch menu for 6s and 6s plus users in the next version. This will allow a nice shortcut to the live cams, chat, weather and blog. I’m now considering other places 3D touch will enhance the experience — I will add it is this feature that makes the iPhone 6s so nice to use now.
The cams that are not currently being viewed by the user are stacked below the cam that is being viewed. This saves time going back to the web cam list, on the previous page, to view another cam.
I will addd here that the livestream cam will work when it goes live, which will be closer to the start of the ski season.
One of the best features of the app is the venue listing capabilities. It has undergone a big upgrade for version 2.0
It is very feature rich, all the venue details are there including menu, cuisine type, telephone number, location and email for reservation as well as plenty of photos.
The map view is handy to see what is around you and to plan your evening out. Tapping on a venue will give you the option of taking you to a live map to guide you to your destination in Bansko.
The order of the icons will change to show ski lift operation and piste opening info when the ski season starts — 12th December approx.
Usability for all software is hard. There are always trade offs and it’s often about what to leave out, rather than what to include.
Clutter ruins the experience. Our eyes need plenty of white space on mobile devices to be able to focus on the important elements and avoid fatigue.
The redesign was dual purpose. It had to be good when commuting on a train, sitting on the sofa or at the work desk, but it also needed to have extra clarity for use in the mountain — skiing, snowboarding, walking, biking.
Ski goggles may be wet, sunglasses may have smudging — visibility is not always great. Different levels of eye sight are experienced by users. After many hours testing, this slightly oversized “child-like” look attempts to place accessibility as the top priority. Accommodating a wide range of users — and in a wide range of mountain conditions — is paramount for me because my eye sight has deteriorated with age.
That’s what I think — but do let me know what you think. Your comments, suggestions are welcome below or on Facebook to twitter.
A new feature in version 2.0. Chat, upload a photo, take a photo… version 2.0.2 may have the ability to upload your short video clips too.
Take a picture of any gondola lift queue, of the piste, in a bar. Help others find the best of Bansko on the day.
I can’t wait to see how this new chat feature works — I fear for abuse (albeit I can vaporise anything that should be vaporised). My goal with this feature is that is will enrich the Bansko experience for everyone. The power of sharing both the good and the bad will be a force for the good.
Weather forecast redone; top, middle and bottom
Without doubt, the weather page was the hardest element to redesign fro v2.0. I spent many hours tweaking the information and the look. It is a totally custom feature for Bansko App and is a fusion of existing weather apps I like, but comes with more detailed weather information.
Top, middle and bottom station forecasts; freezing level, hour by hour forecast and lots of geeky weather info that I use to make my forecast in the snow reports. I usually make these forecast in conjunction with weather charts and local climatic knowledge.
To bring clarity to the weather, I utilised a set of easily recognisable weather icons from the BBC’s icon producer, Mike Afford. Weather is another top priority for the app. Mountain pursuits including skiing and snowboarding require proper clothing to be worn to suit the conditions.
Have I got the weather function right? You tell me… but I will say that after a huge effort, with lots of great input from others, I got the ultimate weather forecast page for me!
It’s now my go-to Bansko weather forecast page; I hope it will be yours too.
Ludicrous speed — “My Stats”
Now this function comes with a “health and safety” warning. This feature is for entertainment purposes only and in no way do I encourage ludicrous speed. In fact, the opposite; many people I see in Bansko are on too steep a slope, and going too fast, for their abilities. Excess speed hinders, rather than aids, progress.
That said, like driving a car, it is good to know what our maximum speed is and what our total distance travelled is. Sharing your “My Stats” results with your friends and family is quick and easy – it’a all part of the fun of a ski / snowboard trip.
You will also see location coordinates in the app which could be used in case of emergency. It’s your location.
I decided that a simple visual circular coloured rings to mark the progress of speed and distance was the best solution. Again, let me know what you think.
The Bansko App iOS version will come with an Apple Watch version launching soon. The goal will enrich the usability whilst on the mountain… so I do hope you get an apple watch this holiday season as I would love your feedback on this during the season.
App ratings and reviews
Your app reviews are much appreciated. It takes just a few minutes by clicking here. I need your rate and review, please. All reviews are reset to zero on the app store on every new app version submitted.
Reviews are the lifeblood of all apps — but especially niche apps like Bansko App. Your support by way of using the services in BanskoBlog.com and Bansko App help me a lot; I’m truly grateful for all you can do.
I must add that Bansko app is an independent app and absolutely no support comes from any other source outside the services it offers, business listings and sponsorship income. No EU money and no support from the lift company.
Your patronage is the only way I can keep doing what I do which includes all the content inside the blog and the app and upgrading the features of both. I apply the same attention to improving every season the lift pass, ski / snowboard hire, lessons and transfers services as I do on the technology tools to access this.
It’s not only the striving to offer services for the best value for money that motivates me, but it’s the only way I know how to work; to provide the very best I can.
Sofia airport info
The Sofia airport functionality was born out of real need when helping some friends in Bansko. Sofia airport info is found in the app on the second row of icons. It provides all the info you need for checking your flight arrival and departure times.
Scroll right to left to see the Sofia Airport icon. It can take a few moments to load the information into the page.
Discounted booking function for lift pass, ski hire lesson and transfers
In the bottom left corner is the booking function. Here are the every popular discounted lift passes, ski and snowboard hire, ski school, private lessons and transfers.
You’ll also see a separate transfers function. All Bansko Blog transfers are with free Wi-Fi and all members of your group receive a cloth piste for free (worth €5.00). Safe driving, clean cars and NO EXTRAS are standard.
Bansko App, the future
When I started this blog, I always applied a strict rule for myself. Only use what I personally like and don’t like to see. One example I can give you is that you’ll not see any Google ads here. They are ugly and often add no value to the user of a site. I always use copyright-free music in videos so there are no pop-up ads on videos.
In summary, I try to make things look as simple and uncluttered as I can. I have still some way to go.
Mobile battery consumption is a key priority for me and all users of apps. You will not see any pop up advertising to drain your devices battery and the size of the app is optimised (approx 17mb) to be mindful of phones that are full to capacity. I know, those photos pile up and leave with little spare memory left and you spend your time juggling things to create enough space.
Excuse my rant, but how I so wish that Apple, and some handset manufacturers, would stop selling 16 GB phones (as in October 2015) and forcing most people to upgrade to 64 GB or 128 GB iPhones.
Whether its finding your way around, discovering new apres ski venues, night clubs.. I like to think we have it covered in the Bansko App.
There is more to come in the future — for example, there are always new venues opening to be listed in Bansko. Then there is new technology that enables me to develop new features that will help all of us get a little bit more out of Bansko and to tempt us explore more of this fascinating region of the world
There are always bugs to be squashed and new venues to be added. These all take time to update in the app. So if you spot inaccuracies, then please let me know here or, in the chat. My same request goes for your favourite places in Bansko, Razlog and the surrounding areas that you would like to see listed. If you are a business owner then contact me to be added.
Thank you for reading. You made it to the end of this long article. I’m impressed.
Download the Bansko App iOS by clicking here and Android version by clicking here. For a rapidly expanding library of exclusive content I urge you to go Premium. It will enrich your stay in Bansko The Bansko history series, in the Premium section, will make you more of an expert on Bansko’s role in Bulgarian history than the vast majority of Bulgarian’s you will meet. You will impress Bulgarian’s you meet with your knowledge of their history.
And they will love you for that!
Oh and upgrading to Premium supports the work I do.
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