The challenge was two-fold, triggered by a pressing operational frustration but fuelled by the desire to create competitive, engaging experiences for guests.
Rarely Impossible were commissioned to digitise Haven’s activity packs, which were primarily paper based. Not only was this bad for the environment, it was placing a lot of pressure on admin teams within the parks, who were having to manually update activity information as guests checked in.
However, collaborative investigation of the challenge uncovered that the true brief went a little deeper. The solution not only needed to bring internal process into a mobile world, it needed to enhance the guest experience in a way that creates holiday anticipation and excitement before guests arrive on-park.
What started as simply digitising activity listings, turned into an all-round guest experience app enabling visitors to see what’s going on and access all different types of park information.
Haven is a unique partner for us in that they have the one of the most diverse target user groups, with guests ranging from 3 to 103 years old. We needed to be sure our solution would cater for different interests and information needs, not to mention smartphone and platform preferences as well as varying degrees of digital nativity and UX familiarity.
Extensive user research was at the forefront of our plan, by visiting parks across the country from Rockley Park in Dorset to Presthaven Sands in North Wales, we built a real-life understanding of what guests and owners experience on park. We did this disguised as everyday holiday-makers so none of the park staff knew who we were (shhh). We wanted to ensure we enjoyed a true and typical guest experience.
Our time on-park highlighted several important considerations from the importance of personal customer service, to the varied level of internet connectivity across parks.
We asked ourselves…
How do we create a mobile experience that is useful, personal and enhances a Haven Holiday before, during and after the park visit… for every guest… preferably without a heavy dependence on internet connectivity?
The app helps guests before they even book a stay. They can browse the details of all Haven parks across the UK, access travel directions via their preferred map application, call reception with a single press, view up-to-date opening times, useful FAQ’s, places to visit off-park as well as a complete list of venues and facilities on-park.
Haven guests can now start to plan their activities using the What’s On guide. They can favourite the activities they are interested in and even set automatic reminders for each event. Guests can jump to any date in the year to see what activities are on during their stay, up to six months in advance, as well as filter activities by categories.
We continually iterated on designs, in parallel to building the back-end integration with Haven’s existing system. We worked closely with the Haven development team to ensure we could deliver a real-time online experience as well as a backup view to default to in an off-line mode.
As a leading Xamarin Premier Partner, we are big advocates of the platform. With a C# shared codebase, Xamarin tools allow you to write native Android, iOS and Windows apps with native user interfaces and share code across multiple platforms.
With the Haven app is we pushed Xamarin’s UI Framework, Xamarin Forms, to the limits in creating what we think to be the most visually stunning iOS & Android app built in Xamarin Forms, maybe even Xamarin.
With any app, we build, we test on as many devices as possible to identify issues or bugs before the app is in the hands of users. The Haven What’s On app was no exception and due to its diverse user base, we had to be sure we tested on as wide range of devices as we could.
This is where we bring in Xamarin Test Cloud, an invaluable tool that enables us to test on up to 2,000 devices in the cloud ensuring we can even identify problems occurring on devices used by the smallest percentage of the market. Xamarin Test Cloud allows us to run tests on hundreds of devices in a matter of minutes and record the outcomes of the error logs to identify what caused the crashes so we can rectify before we deploy the app.
We went live on time and on budget with V1 for iOS and Android ready for the start of the holiday season. Priority launch features were kept simple focusing on the essential What’s On guide, digitising the paper-based activity listings and giving users the opportunity to browse on-park events. Within a matter of weeks V1.1 was released with a more distinct experience for caravan owners and holiday makers. We integrated new features with existing booking information creating fun additions such as the holiday count-down clock, as well as delivering informative content around guest booking details.
And we’re not done yet. Future ambitions include being able to book activities through the app and digitising fun passes that will act as e-tickets to on-park venues. V2 will also contain even more on-park and touring information, collected from wider data sources and we’ll be prioritising information on age restrictions for activities which is a request picked up directly from real users via app store feedback.
Once we launch an application, we don’t just walk away. Using Xamarin Insights, we understand the app audience, what devices they use and how. This helps us identify any issues so we can take a proactive approach to fixed. We also monitor what features are most frequently used to inform future enhanced releases.
In parallel we also monitor and respond to app store reviews advising reviewers, via social media and the app stores, when a fix is ready and been deployed.
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“Working with Rarely Impossible has been a fantastic experience, the team helped us create a brilliant mobile application for our guest to use across our parks to access their activities. This was the first of it’s kind for the Haven brand and the team at Rarely made this a fun and painless experience. No brief was too much and no development too hard. I don’t know what we’d have done if it hadn’t been for Rarely Impossible. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to our brand and our vision. You are a brilliant team!”Lauren Stewart, Marketing Manager, Haven Holidays
Shortly after launch, the Haven What’s On app was featured as the Top New App on the Android Play store, App Of The Week in the Sun Newspaper and held a spot in the top 30 Travel section on both iOS and Android.
Why not download the app today, we would love to hear your thoughts.
To help internal software teams in building Xamarin mobile apps and Alexa Voice Skills for their internal systems and providing knowledge transfer to the company.