Vegan Norway seems like a pretty simple project. It's just an app right? Well, it certainly started out that way a few years ago; just one app which covered one city. But it quickly evolved into something much bigger; an iOS app AND an Android app with hundreds of places listed in it, covering 4 cities. As well as making our apps we have built our own custom database too (the thing the apps are connected to). There is then of course all the outreach work we do; notifications in the app, social media, this website and the blog too.
It's quite a lot of stuff for Christian and I to stay on top of, especially as we both have full time jobs. We have felt the strain of this in the past few years, and after pushing ourselves to the limits a few times, we have begun to see that we need more of sustainable approach. Realising that we can't do everything, and that our health and happiness comes before our app has been a big thing for us this year. Instead of trying to talk at every event, organise pop ups, and be really hands on with social media, we have been focusing on the app and looking at how we can cut down on the other work we do. It's worked out really well.
One way we have done this is to meet every sunday for a little "business lunch". This has been part of our routine for a while now and has been a great way for us to design and develop together, test out feature ideas, and try out new places to add to the app. Our sunday lunches are super productive and leave us with more time throughout the rest of the week to do other important stuff, like hanging out with friends, working out, and dreaming up awesome vegan recipes!
Creating our own metadata...
For the past few months we have been working on adding some pretty big features to the app, one of which is tags. We have so many places in the app now that we desperately need a way for people to filter and group them. The only way you are currently able to filter the map is by what places are recommended, shops, or places to eat. We know that it would be awesome to be able to filter the map in other ways too, imagine if you could make it show you only new places, or only 100% vegan places? Imagine if you could filter by cuisine, or by which places were wheelchair accessible?
I began by going through all of the places in the app and noting down which cuisines were in there and which ones could be grouped together, I looked at popular searches related to finding places to eat and shop and patterns that other similar services were using in categorising their places. I also took note of what the most common question were that people were asking in various vegan communities, for example 'Where can I buy tofu in Oslo?' I wrote all the tags I thought would be useful on post it notes and began grouping them together, discussing them with our volunteers, Nick, and Christian.
We ended up adding 100 tags to our database. Now we had the mammoth task of going through the hundreds of places in the system and tagging each of them with the right tags. We began this work over 2 months ago and and currently we are just about half way done. When we have everywhere tagged we can start playing with how this new metadata can be used to group content in the app.
Images are coming!
Another thing we have been doing is adding images to each place in the app. I have been spending a lot of time getting fabulous photos of every single place, so that you can get a better idea of what to expect when you go to try out a new place you found in the Vegan Norway app. I'm very excited about this, and very strict with the quality of the photos. I want to really show off the places we have visited and make our app beautiful. Images are the next feature we will roll out (before tags) and we think it will be available for Android users first. If you would like to get this feature before anyone, just sign up to become an app tester!
How many places are in the app now?
There is now around 900 places in the Vegan Norway app! That figure is totally mind boggling when you consider that only 3 years ago we started with 30. Every time we add a place to the app we open up our database and add all their details, as well as our little explanation of why we like it, and now of course we add images and tags too. So, adding places can take some time, but it is SO worth it. I'm proud of all the work we have put into our database so far, and I'm so grateful towards Christian, and Nick who help me add and update the data, and our team of fantastic volunteers who are always at hand to tip us and discuss which places should be in there.
Veganism is becoming such part of mainstream culture that I don't think it will be long before we have 1000 places listed. Oh gosh I am so looking forward to that day, maybe one day it will be so mainstream that we won't even need to make the Vegan Norway app?