What is Gowalla?
Gowalla is a social travel guide available for iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Android and webOS. You can use it to “check in” to any type of place, whether it’s a restaurant, airport, office building, park — if you can visit, you can check in.
I’ve been a huge fan of the app from the first time I used it, but there are quite a few people who struggle with the concept and don’t understand the benefits. Here’s seven reasons why I think Gowalla is a must-have on your mobile device.
Gowalla is a lot like Twitter — the more friends you follow, the more useful it becomes. While I try to encourage friends in my city to join Gowalla, it’s not quite as popular here as it could be (most just use Facebook places, which is, let’s admit it, awfully boring). Fortunately, I do have a lot of friends in other cities who are very active Gowalla users, especially those in the conference circuits. Recently during my trip to attend An Event Apart Boston, Gowalla let me know when my friends were arriving at the airport, when they were arriving at the hotel, and which sights they were seeing while I was taking a different route. Travelling can be stressful and it’s time consuming to make personal connections to everyone. A simple Gowalla check-in can give your friends a tip on when they can be expecting you.
(Screenshot by Petra Gregorova)
Maps and Location
Instead of firing up Google Maps when I’m travelling, I use Gowalla as a one-stop-shop for checking in and seeing what’s around me. Want to see which restaurants, landmarks, or shops are nearby? No problem!
You visited New York City last year, and your friend is going next week. She asks for restaurant recommendations, but you just can’t remember the name of that sandwich shop you loved. No problem — check your Gowalla passport for a list of your check-ins.
Keeping Others in the Loop
While I try not to be that person who floods their Twitter stream with Gowalla check-ins that most people don’t care about, I do push updates to Facebook more frequently when I’m travelling. Some people (family, mainly) are interested in seeing the spots I’m visiting; and for those who aren’t, they can hide the updates in their friend feed.
Gowalla is an absolute pleasure to use. It’s quick and easy to check in when you’re on the move, thanks to a well-designed, intuitive interface. The rewards of items, pins and stamps keep users engaged and eager to earn more. There’s a dedicated Street Team with special tools available to update out-of-date, duplicate or misplaced spots. There’s a friendly support team who always seem to be available on Twitter to answer any questions you might have. All of these things contribute to Gowalla’s brand values and a better user experience for all.
I remember reading a tweet a few months ago which said, “In Foursquare, users play against each other. In Gowalla, users play together.” This perfectly describes my own feeling of the Gowalla experience.
Let’s face it, other check-in apps are severely lacking in the style department. Gowalla is not only the most beautiful check-in app, but one of the most beautiful apps available, period. Collecting the beautifully illustrated stamps and pins can quickly turn into a real-life scavenger hunt for the most famous landmarks on your trip.
Although Gowalla doesn’t have the same extensive deal or coupon system that something like Facebook Places or Foursquare has, it’s exciting to think about what’s around the corner. Currently, users receive random bonus items when checking in, and sometimes those items can be exchanged for a real-life prize. Take a look at this contest that A Book Apart held during the launch of Jeremy Keith’s HTML5 for Web Designers.
I have no doubts that the Gowalla team are working on new and exciting ways to bring even more value to users and businesses alike. While we’re waiting, I encourage you to grab your phone, download the app, and go out with Gowalla!
Note: I keep my Gowalla account private as it is full of personal information that sometimes I’m not comfortable sharing with the world. But, if you know me, feel free to send a follow request! If not, follow me on Twitter and don’t be afraid to say hi!