To create a heritage trail app in Belfast Cathedral Quarter that promotes awareness and understanding of the built environment.
“Look up and discover the rich architecture of Belfast’s former commercial heart”
The Cathedral Quarter Tour app provides an illustrated guide to the rich architectural heritage of the Cathedral Quarter, an area of cultural and historical importance focused around St Anne’s Cathedral. This area contains many listed buildings which date from the 18th Century to the 1930s. The Cathedral Quarter Tour app recounts the history of these buildings and, through them, the story of the commercial heart of old Belfast.
We wanted to create an app that atmospherically tells the stories of Cathedral Quarter buildings and their inhabitants to bring the architectural heritage of Belfast to life. The first task was to identify a target audience. We chose the Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s ‘Mature Cosmopolitans’ and ‘Culturally Curious’ markets as they demonstrated an interest in history, culture and architecture. This target audience defined the language level, and indicated that the design of the app should be kept simple and intuitive.
Our extensive research of the history and architecture of the buildings in the Cathedral Quarter enabled us to plan the route of the heritage trail. We identified a number of listed buildings in the area; which became the skeleton of the route and various trails were plotted, tested and assessed before we decided upon a circular route of 12 points of interest (POI).
We discovered that the architectural language used to describe each building’s merits contained many technical terms that were unfamiliar to a general audience. Our solution was to match photographs of the features with their architectural description and to interweave the architectural detail with the stories of the original inhabitants
As the trail is located in a built-up area we decided global positioning system (GPS) would not be able to track the user accurately so we used a map interface with clickable regions for each POI.
The resulting app features a trail of twelve POI, each featuring a group of buildings of particular historical and/or architectural merit. At each location the app provides a short text description, a video and an annotated image gallery that tell the story of the buildings using a mixture of historical and architectural information. The videos feature photographs of the buildings, maps and historical documents animated in time to an audio commentary. The audio commentary directs the user to particular architectural features of each building and recounts key elements of the location’s history using simple and accessible language.
For: Ulster Architectural Heritage SocietyLocation: Cathedral Quarter, Belfast
Responsibilities: project management, research, archive, narrative, storyboarding, trail development, writing, actor recruitment, studio, photography, video, app design and coding, user-testing and promotional material.
Platform: iOS & Android smartphone and tablets
“Digital Key stood out for good value, and demonstrated an understanding of our needs and aims for the app … with a passion for communicating the subject matter in an accessible manner to our target audience.”
Leah O’Neill, Heritage Projects Officer, UAHS