CASE STUDY: PIEROGI FEST™ DIGITAL EXPERIENCE
Last year, a mobile app was developed for the Pierogi Fest™, a festival in Whiting, IN. The Pierogi Fest is devoted to the town’s Polish and Slovak heritage. With walking, talking Polish pastries and the polka parade, Pierogi Fest™ is truly one of a kind, and draws about a quarter of a million people each year.
Performance of the app was strong for year one. But given the potential of Pierogi Fest™ crowds and the affinity of millennial fest goers for digital engagement, year one performance could still be much better. Upon reflection and after some research diligence, opportunity for strengthening 2017’s effort became evident.
THE CENTRAL PROBLEM
One central problem was discovered: the app and coinciding social media marketing materials had a cohesive style, but it was just that: a style. It lacked a solid brand. It certainly wasn’t perfect, and at times it was a little choppy. There were no initial guidelines, but for an initial effort, the 2016 app served its purpose.
The overarching Pierogi Fest™ dancing pierogis logo was there, but digitally, there didn’t seem to be cross platform connection. The style created was a nod to the festival signage that’s been used for over 20 years, but that was the only real connection this style had to the fest origins.
Considering the need to strengthen the digital brand, four areas of focus can help refresh our efforts for 2017 digital engagement.
WHAT MAKES PIEROGI FEST PIEROGI FEST™ + HOW DO WE TURN IT INTO A DIGITAL BRAND?
There are many, many things that make Pierogi Fest™ Pierogi Fest™. From the food vendors to the entertainment, to the characters and the parade. The history tied to the festival is rich in cultural and familial roots. The first Pierogi Fest™ was formed to celebrate the Whiting-Robertsdale area’s ethnic heritage and to honor previous generations through memories, customs and food. Through wacky homages to our cultural heritage, Pierogi Fest™ comes together to create an experience that represents family, fun and a sense of home. More deeply mining this history can help creatively express digital content to refresh our digital brand and social media channels.
A GOOD EXPERIENCE IS AN EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE
Pierogi Fest™ is a place where fun and family connect. When people come to the festival, they come to find a connection with each other using our cultural heritage as a backdrop. They come for good times with friends and family. In a sense (and often times quite literally), they come home. It is for this reason that so many in our community and beyond find Pierogi Fest™ special.
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT VALUES YOU WANT REFLECTED IN YOUR DESIGN?
This history and theme of connection is an integral part of Pierogi Fest™. Elements indicative of connectivity, relationships should be reflected in the design across our digital platforms. The Pierogi Fest™ logo, which features not one, but two happy, dancing pierogis should be an essential element. There is togetherness and joy inherent in our logo and it can serve us well in communicating the feelings and emotions essential to the festival.
It is important to note that the digital brand is not being redesigned–it is being refreshed. Simply put, it’s going to be cleaned up and the experience will be maximized. The sense of history and familial, human connection needs to be represented more through this refresh across digital platforms.
LEARN TO BE PLAYFUL AT TIMES WHILE BEING CONSERVATIVE IN SERIOUS SITUATIONS
Pierogi Fest™ in and of itself is playful. There are many ways to blend this idea of family and ethnic connections the fest inspires. By adding little visual cues in different areas of the app or certain phrases to social media posts will allow the theme of connection to resonate with users for a purposeful digital experience.
THE NEXT STEP: CHOOSING A PLATFORM THAT WILL ALLOW OUR CONTENT TO BE SUCCESSFUL
With the digital refresh in mind, we should also review the other element of the Pierogi Fest™ digital experience. Namely, the delivery method. Is a native app really the best platform to showcase our content and maximize audience reach and potential revenue? There are a variety of ways to make content available. The landscape of the Internet is changing fast, every day, and with those changes, products used to deliver content need to evolve with it.
Let’s take a brief moment to reflect on what we are asking of app users in their digital experience with Pierogi Fest™. We have a wonderful package of content for users that can not only make the Pierogi Fest experience more fun, but help fest goers get a lot more out of the fest. But to obtain that engagement, we are asking that users 1) log on to the iTunes or Android store 2) navigate the iTunes/Android store to find the app 3) download the app 4) log onto the app once it is on their mobile device 5) input contact info for more information 6) possibly deal with slow content loads or inferior content depending on their device or the app platform’s storage limitations. If we really want to better engage users, we need to consider content delivery platforms that can not only enhance their Pierogi Fest experience, but do it in a way easy to navigate. Who wants to invest extra time getting to the app and then figuring out how to navigate the app.
Our search for alternatives has turned up a solid opportunity.
PITCH: TRANSITION THE APP TO A MOBILE-FRIENDLY HTML5 WEBSITE
Transitioning our current native app into a mobile-friendly HTML5 website is an evolution that could not only make the content more satisfying and engaging for users but also increase our potential to generate the highest possible audience reach. This would entail refreshing the experience and aesthetic of the current native app and then migrating the new, higher powered content to the existing Pierogi Fest™ website.
The key strengths of this idea are twofold. First, we need to leverage the ingrained behavior users have of accessing websites through their mobile devices. People are adept at employing search directly from their devices. This paradigm allows users to arrive at Pierogi Fest™ content with fewer clicks and less time. Secondly, housing Pierogi Fest™ content on a site vs. within an app opens the door for more robust content than can be housed in an app. In short, users have the ability to get to more, better content faster.
This is not to say that the native approach is the wrong way to do things. Instead, transitioning to a mobile-friendly HTML5 website experience would allow the digital presence of Pierogi Fest™ to be more forward thinking, and therefore put itself in a position to easily and readily evolve with the changing landscape of digital products.
BREAKING IT DOWN
A good strategy should consider the following points when trying to decide between a native app and HTML5 redesigned site experience. They are listed below; the sub points further explain how redesigned site experience would be beneficial at the present and in the future:
- User experience
- Would stay relatively the same
- Would allow for smoother and different types of interaction
- Would better and widen audience reach
- Better integration across social platforms (ie., can better link to specific sections. “Wondering where to park? Click here for more info” and takes you straight to page, where that is not possible in the app.)
- Would provide attractive opportunities for greater advertising space within the content, therefore opening doors for additional revenue
- Availability of programming expertise
- Would be using a web-based software that is similar to what was used for the native app, but instead is more forward thinking in allowing content to easily transition cross type of screen and platform
- Timeliness of new OS innovations
- This HTML5 based platform would allow for more flexibility in form, function and overall user experience as the landscape of the Internet evolves
- Updates and distribution control
- Eliminates the barrier of download before being able to access content.
PROBLEMS THIS PLATFORM TRANSITION WOULD SOLVE
The app itself currently is not perfect. There were many functional frustrations that caused problems across the board: certain elements in different parts of the app based on a user’s phone storage wouldn’t load and inconsistencies in navigation and aesthetic. There are many ways that an HTML5 transition would alleviate these frustrations:
- The map section (which includes vendor, parking and local dine, shop and lakefront maps) would be more streamlined and easier to navigate. Whether that is a more finessed illustrated map with interactive popups (something that is not currently possible in the software or a more brand-focused and customized Google Map, the possibilities to make this section are greater in this platform. The map section is one of the most important parts of the app to users, so being able to provide a platform in which they could view it with ease is a beneficial point to consider.
- Storage is another huge issue to consider. The way that the different phone operating systems are set up, particularly with Android devices, makes it hard to gauge how long it will take or if a section will even load on a device. This is due to how the software sets up their development system. Currently, each element of the app is a picture, and each picture needs to be saved out and uploaded for it to function within the app. Saving out this picture gives it a file size, and that file size will determine if it will appear in the app. The problem with this is that Android devices each allot a different amount of space to storage and in different ways, so there are some devices in which maps and galleries worked and others that they did not. Creating in this new platform would eliminate this problem completely.
- Developmental limitations (these feed into the above problems as well):
- Not being able to include popups (this would have been beneficial on the map section)
- Scrolling video (we can only fit about 3 in the section now due to software limitations; why should we let this limitation hinder our ability to push out more content?)
- Grouping and scrolling
- Social integration isn’t where it could be
- Users could use their browser’s back button to take them back to the exact previous page they were on, instead of just going back in a roundabout way via the main contents page
- Each section could have more meaningful, playful and purposeful user interactions to enhance the experience.
POSITIVE SOFTWARE FUNCTIONS
Within this new software platform, there are ways to display vital functions of the current app that aren’t being developed in the easiest way.
- Email capture is a feature that is essential for the Chamber. There are areas of this software that allow insertion of a form with the software itself instead of using a third party service like Google Forms.
- Easier map integration for the dine, shop and lakefront maps.
- Provides a way to add more robust multimedia galleries (ie., allows for scrolling video and also does not set a limitation on file sizes/load times)
- Provides a space to better showcase our sponsors, which would also open up doors to more advertising, and digital-only sponsorships.
This solution does come with some minor drawbacks. See the list below, with sub points including suggestions and possibilities on how these can be easily alleviated.
- The ability to have push notifications is lost
- We would lose existing app downloads (there are currently about 1,400) (But can send push messages out to current users directing them where to find 2017 content)
- The host space for the Wickedly Whiting app would cease to exist.
- This would provide opportunity to also redesign the current Wickedly Whiting website to function like the WW app, similar to what could be done with a Pierogi Fest™ site redesign
- OR this could spark discussion about creating a site solely to function as the app functions and include a section for each event.
- This could be a positive point too, because while there were still some people that downloaded the app there was confusion as to why they were downloading the Pierogi Fest™ app and not the Wickedly Whiting app
This doesn’t have to be a permanent solution to solve the problems that came with the app. We could conduct an A/B test this later in the year to interview users and better understand how they use and experience our product. This testing would help us gain insight into which product resonates better with users and maximizes the goals of Chamber.