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Road test: NileGuide makes for "simple and intuitive" travel planning

Posted on 09 Jun 2010 at 22:57 pm by Carl Griffith

NileGuide’s tagline is ‘All You Need to Plan your Perfect Trip’. That’s quite a claim so it was with high expectations that I made my first visit to the website to see what was what.

I used Amsterdam as my destination and began going about creating my own personal guide. NileGuide is essentially about browsing through all the bits and pieces of your planned trip – hotels, restaurants and places of interest – and creating your own personal guide that you can then print off or turn into a pdf and take with you. 

It’s not a radical idea but I liked the simplicity of it and I also liked the way it supports how we all used to go about doing this kind of planning when we ploughed through a destination guide jotting down notes or circling the relevant bits of information.

The navigation through the site – the planning journey if you like – is also simple and intuitive, and creating my personal guide was a simple and pleasurable activity.

I’m presented with a number of tabs after selecting Amsterdam and these sensibly reflect the kind of bits of information I’d be looking for and in an order that makes sense.

I should say at this point that, unlike other web-based travel tools, NileGuide does not support my research around getting to my destination – there’s no flight planning etc. I can look at hotels, things to do and check out bars and the like. There are some nice touches that I appreciated when using the site. 

For example, in selecting a hotel I was able to do my own search or choose one for a list based on various criteria such as the ’10 most hip hotels’. When presented with a list of hotels I was able to add the details of a specific hotel directly to my guide from the list level or dive further into the details of one particular hotel and then add to my guide from this level. This was a nice touch.

The hotel details as with the details of all the other categories are simply laid out with some attractive photos. I felt that the designer of the site had really considered the need of the users as the right level of the right kind of information was there on the screen when you need it. The site allows for users to rate the individual hotels and restaurants and I got to see a star rating. There also seems to be some notion of a ‘local expert pick’, which is interesting.

After selecting my hotel I was able to browse things in the vicinity of my hotel. I could then see those things on a map and here’s my first gripe with the site. The default map scale meant I saw the ‘things to do’ all nicely color-coded but, at the same time, all on top of each other as the map scaling did not reflect a sensible level of detail.

This was resolved with 3 or 4 clicks to zoom in but it was a niggling hiccup on what was a great interface experience up to that point. However, a nice touch was the events tab showing me a list of upcoming events that were displayed in chronological order starting with something happening this month – a seemingly obvious way to display events but nevertheless the type of simple touch so often overlooked by people designing web sites and other interfaces.

While I was browsing the site I saw that NileGuide also provided an iPhone application and I immediately thought what a great complementary aspect this will be to this whole process – I could take my Amsterdam guide that I had just spent an hour creating with me on my phone to Amsterdam. 

I should say that I was all ready to embark on a minor tirade because the first application I downloaded (at nearly 3 USD) – NileGuide ‘WhatsNext’ didn’t allow me to log in. In other words it seemed that I was unable to recall the guide I has just created under my login id on the website.

I was able to create a new guide and browse information but not recall what I had stored earlier. But, as I write this, I searched the Apple app store again and found another NileGuide application – NileGuide, ‘Guide To Go’ which allowed me to browse my own guides as well as other guides created by ‘local experts’. This was all a bit confusing and I’m still not sure why there are two applications. Interestingly the two applications have quite different designs to them suggesting they came from two distinct developers.

Anyway, despite this slight confusion when I was getting set to take my guide with me, I like NileGuide a lot. It supports the way I like to research my trips and provides me with a simple automated way of collecting the bits of information relevant to me. And it then supports me in letting me take that information with me on my trip.

All this is done in a way that suggests that someone has taken the time to look at how we like to do things and approached the task by helping us do just that in a slightly better way rather than trying to re-invent the way we like to do things.

Tags: Nile Guide , Amsterdam