Sydney Writers Festival reveals all

The Sydney Writers Festival 2012 is coming in mid-May with a theme drawn from Elizabeth Jolley’s statement “Everything should not be told.” While the Festival may be exploring what should be public and what should be private, their excellent website exposes all the information you could possibly need to organise your Festival time.

So often festivals and shows have sites that are little better than paper billboards stuffed onto the web and then, perhaps, manhandled onto a mobile device. The Writers Festival has done the job properly: the site and app are jammed full of information and practical utility. Even better, the creators haven’t gone too far the other way; there aren’t useless bells and whistles – these are lovely, lean, cleanly designed web and mobile apps (with, perhaps, one exception).

So, what do you get? The core is a schedule sorted in several different ways. You can browse by date, by writer, by genre, by type, by location. It’s hard to imagine another way they could have collated the information. Accessing the information results in a cleanly presented summary with consistent presentation of icons and colours making sorting through everything a breeze. When you find something you like you can pull up a bit more information and then download the event to your calendar or add it to your schedule.

I do like the facility of being able to create my own schedule of events and print it out. Although a server-side option that was not reliant on my not having cleaned out my cookies would be less ephemeral and also, perhaps, offer the Festival an opportunity to provide yet further utility once I had logged in. That sort of approach might also have allowed for the website and app to work with more synchronisation.

The free app has all the same clean presentation, and much of the same functionality. However, you can’t add to your calendar, create a schedule, or see a schedule you created on the web: That’s an omission.

The app also has a button labelled ‘Play’ which, when pressed, tells us that an interactive game that will unlock the Festival’s secrets is coming soon. I have to say I hate the addition of a useless button which, honestly, is not going to make me keep coming back to check whether the game has arrived yet. This is a bell and whistle that could have remained silent.

The website and app were produced by The Nest, which has generated quite a portfolio of these types of sites and apps. Both they and the Festival ought to take some public pride in what they’ve achieved.

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