Improved DCI app helps visitors navigate downtown

Just in time for the All Star Game, Downtown Cincinnati Inc. (DCI) is launching a new version of its Downtown Cincinnati app.
The original app, released in 2011, had started to become ineffective for users.
“The app was out of date, and we’re really excited to add more functionality to it,” DCI Director of Marketing Tricia Suit says. “Two things have changed since the first app was released. First, the technology of apps has improved significantly, which has increased people’s expectations about what an app can do. Second, we have more and better information in our data center. So people will be able to sort information in different ways, which makes it more useful.”
DCI worked with US Digital Partners to redesign the app, based on user feedback and USDP’s digital expertise.
“Everyone who has seen the beta version of the new app has been really excited about its usability of,” Suit says. “Our testing has been really positive.”
The app features four primary content areas — eat, shop, stay and play — to match the functionality of DCI’s website.
The original app “had categories like ‘full fare,’ ‘daytimers’ and these words that described a restaurant but didn't match how people searched for a place to go eat,” Suit says. “In the new version, you can search by type of cuisine, brunch, happy hour — much more about what the user would be looking for in a search.
“Also, the listings will show all open hours for a business with the current day in bold. There’s nothing worse than when you’re looking at a place and it just shows their hours for today when you’re planning to be there tomorrow.”
Other new features for the revamped app include links to tours and major events from the start page.
“When you first open the app, the screen lists the big events that are happening — right now it’s the All Star Game — as well as three or four other seasonal features,” Suit says. “Each of those listings gives you the option to see a complete list of events that is updated weekly.”
The front screen also features a “tours” button to connect content from the DCI website tours page, including a public art map and itineraries. There are links to Queen City History Tours, Segway Tours and other tour options for experiencing the city.
The app covers the entire urban basin area from The Banks to Findlay Market, including Downtown, Over-the-Rhine and the West End.
“There are defined Central Business District boundaries,” Suit says. “But when people come downtown, they come downtown. They go to a Reds game and eat at Fountain Square and grab a drink at The Lackman. They don’t think about whether they’re at The Banks or in OTR or the CBD — they’re just downtown. So we include everything that’s downtown.”
DCI developed the app with visitors and residents in mind.
“The app is usable if you’re standing in the middle of Fountain Square trying to decide what to do,” she says. “But if you live in Cincinnati and don’t come downtown often, it will give you walking directions from where you park to the restaurant or store you look up.”
DCI is working closely with the hospitality community to ensure the 200,000 visitors coming for the All Star Game know the app is available, as well as promoting it on an ongoing basis to conventions, meetings and visitors.
“If you know you’re going to be visiting Cincinnati, you can download the app and make some plans, see what’s going to be open on the day you’re going to be here,” Suit says. “See what tours are available and actually use it for trip-planning as well as the ‘day of’ tool.”
In addition to helping promote downtown businesses, the app may also help DCI with its annual perceptions survey.
DCI typically uses its e-newsletter and website to encourage residents and visitors to complete the survey. According to Suit, “there is certainly an opportunity for us to reach out to app users to take the downtown perception survey this year in a way that was not possible with the previous version.”
Survey results are used by DCI to inform its annual work plan and performance measures while tracking data that can be used to evaluate business development.
The new Downtown Cincinnati app is available for both Android and Apple products.

Read more articles by Julie Carpenter.

Julie Carpenter has a background in cultural heritage tourism, museums, and nonprofit organizations. She's the Executive Director of AIA Cincinnati.