A bit of background since I am a professional in the field and do this for a living, I always advise clients (corporates) against introducing or launching new social media platform, especially in the Middle East. The obvious reasons being:
I know it’s meant to be user-generated content there, but come on, the reality is you cannot launch an empty platform for one, and two even if people go there and start filling their bits, you need to keep giving them reasons to come back, and finally, ongoing moderation and bug hunt and support to ensure the healthiness of the platform. Never make the mistake that all you need to do is launch the social network and then count on users to do the rest.
Now back to the main subject: BLUENITY; The big idea behind the site is to allow users to exchange traveling tips and meet alike travelers on the road.
A plus is that you can use FACEBOOK CONNECT, meaning if you have a facebook account you can use its credentials to log in. The site is available in English & French.
What the site offers you:
In this section you can basically add your upcoming travels (or sync with your Flying Blue account) for AIRFRANCE and KLM, you can still add upcoming travels even if you are flying other airlines.
The result is that these will show on your “My Bluenity” as “current location” and “next travels”. You can choose who you want to share the information with (private, semi, or public) and find travelers who would be in that same location at the same time.
It’s a bit confusing because first I thought you cannot add flights which are in the past – I assumed this is where you can submit traveling tips from. However it turned that you can add trips separate from your travel agenda. The purpose of this section is just to list your upcoming flights and find residents (users) who will be there at the same time.
In this section you can manage your basic profile details (account), then manage your traveler profile which is basically what type of traveler you are (auto generated after answering some 25 questions), traveling preferences (habitual airport, number of flights per year etc), and list cities you’ve visit before which show on a map eventually.
You can also manage a leisure profile, business profile, and facebook profile. There you will see “my bluenity” which you can manage from Trips section.
Again a bit confusing, you would think that places you’ve been to before can be managed from Trips section, yet again they are managed from here, still adding tips to those is not managed from here, but as mentioned before from Travel Tips section.
From this section you can find all messages exchanged with other users plus conversations, in addition to your contacts list and blocked ones.
From this section you can search for people you know already, or invite them if they are not registered yet.
Finally we get to this section which is the beef of the site. Here you can either add or find tips from other users using a search tool. Your recent searches are displayed there too. You can also set up alerts so you receive notifications whenever somebody submits a tip.
Adding a tip is straightforward, First you choose country and town, then category of tip (hotels, shopping, attraction, restaurants, nightlife), then type the place name. Once you submit you can add details, pinpoint on map, and add photos. After submission you cannot edit, you can just add photos.
Finding a tip works in the same way, choose location, then category and go through the list, you can also search by name.
You can comment on submitted tips or send them to a friend.
Overall the site is cool, layout is clean and nice. However there are couple of usability issues:
It is a good effort overall, a combination of matchmaking and tip exchange solution for travelers that is AIRFRANCE / KLM branded. I think if they haven’t branded it and instead made it 3rd party and “sponsored”, moderation requirements would been much less.
Also despite facebook connect is enabled, I think if a facebook app which links to this and displays your BLUENITY stuff on your wall was developed it would have made the site more popular and would have given the users one more reason to use it. (Remember they are online to use facebook not bluenity)
With some information architecture revisions, more testing to eliminate bugs (or a beta logo somewhere), and less moderation the site can become much better.
I can totally imagine the brief that initiated this project by the way; Something along the lines of: “Hello loyalty guys, we need to introduce a hip thing to our loyalty members which makes us look cool (leverage social media and web 2.0?) and at the same time gives them some benefit / service so they can use it and spread the word. The challenges are budget and timelines.”
The big question remains; since the site has somewhat (what can be identified as in the middle east) dating / matchmaking service, will it be blocked in the Middle East? That can be a big story if it happens because afterall, it has AIRFRANCE / KLM logos on it. To add a point, the photo competition running on the site is linked with Flickr - this means we in the Middle East cannot use it because Flickr is blocked.
Check it out here: http://www.bluenity.com