The brand Sud de France was launched by the Languedoc-Roussillon region in June 2006. It is one of the first initiatives of territorial marketing in France.
Developed by Bull and N-gin innovation, without integration follow-up from Intactile DESIGN, a first version of the application has been available on the App store since May 2013.
This was the record time taken to design the mobile version of the tourism application Mon Sud de France – Destination Languedoc-Roussillon. Intactile DESIGN was approached by the Regional Council in June 2012.
List of Events - design preview on iPhone
Configurator - design preview on the iPhone
My shared travel diary - design preview on the iPad
Configurator - the design preview on the iPad
With this statement, the Languedoc-Roussillon region committed, in 2012, to what it calls the "e-transformation" of tourism. The objective? Easy and portable access to the whole "Qualité Sud de France" tourist offer of the region.
As a result two new tools were set up. Whereas the internet site destinationsuddefrance.com was designed to help with holiday preparation, the mobile application Mon Sud de France - Destination Languedoc-Roussillon – co-designed by Intactile DESIGN – took over for online users within the territory, giving them advice on things to discover in the region and the activities on offer.
These tools come at just the right time to support the development of e-tourism. The study done in spring 2012 for Sud de France Développement evaluated the sum already generated by e-tourism in Languedoc-Roussillon at €1 billion. That is 15% of the total of the regional tourist industry. In 2012 Intactile DESIGN was asked by the Languedoc-Roussillon Regional Council to give more shape to an existing outline for an e-tourism project in the pipeline for several months.
Representatives of the Sud de France Développement Company, the Manager of the brand and Sud de France destinations and many representatives of regional services (SIG - Geographical Information Systems company, tourism, communication, etc) all met to come up with collective ideas – exploring and modifying versions of the future application on paper.
As designers, we observe and question the end users of the tools and applications that we create. We need to study the relationship that they have with existing objects to better understand their needs from new products and services that we could design.
Because the application we needed to design is for the general public, each person round the table – whether it be Regional tourist representatives or companies responsible for the application development – must be able to easily put themselves in the place of any future user. As a result we chose to use a sort of role-play, where each person invents a character discovering or revisiting the Languedoc-Roussillon area. When designing software this process, often called ‘persona’ or ‘user figure’, helps us to define the different application user profiles. Using post-its, each participant described their character.
User identities created during the participative design session
Who are they? Age, nationality, family situation, where they live, etc.
How did they find out about the application? Place, time, etc.
How do they intend to spend their time in Languedoc-Roussillon? Visiting, activity, rest, etc.
How do they want to use the application during their stay? Organisation, planning, surprise events, etc.
We are then faced with a dozen profiles, sometimes detailed, some humouristic, because in each persona you find some of the personality of the person who wrote it.
As well as defining objectives, that we re-confirm at the design stage, this moment of relaxed creativity provided a good opportunity to bring the project stakeholders together. Coming from various departments or companies, participants had up till now different objectives concerning the implementation of this application. Now the objectives converge, meeting the needs of our users.
“I am a 60-year-old Swiss tourist. I have come to Languedoc-Roussillon to play golf. My wife wants to relax. My hotel suggested I download the application. I came with my holiday planned well in advance. I expect the application to give me pleasant and surprising ideas, and quality!”
“We are a couple from Lyon, in Montpelier to attend a concert on Saturday evening. At the venue a flash-code on a poster enabled us to download the application. We would like it to give us ideas for activities for the next day.”
“We are group of Spanish girl-friends, in Montpellier for a hen-party. We downloaded the application from the advertisement in the TGV on-board magazine. We’ve just checked into the hotel and have some free time before our planned evening out.”
Many regions and countries have already started moving over to e-tourism and there are many companies that offer applications to assist users in discovering an area or organizing their holidays. We shared these references with the group to discuss the positives and negatives of each. Very soon, everyone was talking about their concerns and wishes by comparing the future Sud de France application to the references that we posted on the wall.
“When the application is released there will only be very few Sud de France certified offers. To show the richness of the area the database must also include activities of quality which are not necessarily certified. So how can we highlight the already certified activities?”
“A lot of applications have filters which are too precise and give a zero search result: how do we avoid this pitfall?”
Our role as designer is, at this point, to sketch out solutions for the problems raised by the group.
With the help of key words and rough outlines we started coming up with the first concrete ideas.
- The certified activities will always be at the top of the list with a symbol on the photo, which will immediately identify them as high quality activities.
- The application will include all the tourist activities in the region, divided into six categories: culture and heritage, well-being and health, accommodation, eating out, sports and recreation, wines and flavours. The search for activities will go through the categories using sliders. The user chooses whether he wants some, many or no activity in each category. By default, the position of the sliders will be 50%. So we reduce the possibility of getting zero response for this type of query.
The application did not already exist, but had to be presented to the Regional Tourism Board in six months. Our task would last two months during which we would co-create the application interface for iPhone and iPad and work on the graphic design.
The sessions continued with making of paper mock-ups. This participative tool and materialisation of ideas allowed us to co-design the main working principles for the interface.
Between each session we refined the principles of interaction, using a story-board to give feedback to the group. This series of annotated photographs of the model can imitate the sequence of screens, transition animations, and moving from the list of results to the visualization on the map. Of course it also provides the scenario for the needs and wants of the personas previously defined.
By being filmed the interactions played out using the paper model make the scenarios for the use of the application legible and understandable in a very short time. These few minutes of film enabled us to share how the project was progressing and to validate the design with the different regional participants.
The different screen applications drawn in Illustrator
The creation of the Mon Sud de France application was done in two distinct stages:
1. Design of the navigation principles and graphic design creation
2. Development of the HMI and connection to the database
The use of storyboards as well as the specifications for integrating graphic objects contributed to the original specifications document given to those requested to do the development. Intactile’s part in the process stopped here.
Despite the most thorough design work possible it became obvious during the integration phase that there were certain grey areas and difficulties, which had to be clarified and resolved.
In the case of the Mon Sud de France application, the lack of communication and collaboration between designers and developers meant not being able to achieve a solid application. Menus, icons and functions were added to the application; indeed so many additions that required design work coherent with what had already been done. Certain objects are diverse; certain interactions are badly integrated and, as a result, access to information is made difficult.
If the design had allowed for a quick validation of intentions by the Regional Services, collaboration at the implementation level in a situation with real time connection to the database, especially in the spirit of agile development, would have resulted in a more comprehensive application.
Design is better when it is integrated using agile development methods.
The lesson we have learned from the project is that design creation and development must not be compartmentalized.