Coffee with... Niels Lauwers - Zuiderzeemuseum

Coffee with... Niels Lauwers - Zuiderzeemuseum

Niels Lauwers ZZ

At aFrogleap there’s no better office communication system than the coffee break. It’s like we’re all talking coffee in the morning (almost overruling language barriers). “Let’s have a coffee!” implies more than just that crucial beverage to get you started. It’s synonymous for catching up and connecting with people. And that brings us to the reason why we like to drink coffee with our clients: to evaluate our work and to talk about their company’s future of mobile.

This week Niels Lauwers from the Zuiderzeemuseum in Enkhuizen stopped by our office. As marketing and communication employee, he is mostly concerned with the publicity of the museum and side projects such as a mobile application. After 6 years his fantastic experience of working for the museum (and in the cultural sector) has come to an end. And yes, that’s how he looks back at it. We have also worked with Niels for quite some years, with a unique product as the result. In March 2012 we released the first version of the Zuiderzeemuseum app for iOS. A year later the app came out for Android as well.

Hello, Niels. How do you like to drink your coffee?

‘Well… I don’t really drink coffee. Occasionally, I can drink a coffee with baileys for dessert. For now, I like a tea, please.’

We like to look back with you on great years of working together. How did it all begin?

'When you think about developing an app, you first start asking around and search in your network. So I did, and that brought me to aFrogleap. A small company, quite new to the market but with passion and energy to create something new together. An app for a museum was something they hadn't done before. Besides that aFrogleap had sympathy for the Zuiderzeemuseum and wanted to see how mobile could still gain some terrain in the cultural sector, they wanted to meet our budget.

And after this we could easily align our ideas. I remember the first meetings with Bart and Naos, only a few pieces of paper on the wall with sketches of how our ideal app would look like. It was great to be involved in the project from the very beginning, thinking without limitations as if everything is possible. Even though you already know that not everything will be achievable, you can create a common understanding of what outcome is desired from both sides.'

Whats the app about?

'Initially an initiative from the Water Control Board of Noord-Holland province (responsible for the embankment in the Netherlands), the Zuiderzeemueum app was developed with the goal of making the museum and the great history of water works in the Netherlands more known. For our visitors with smartphones we wanted to build an educational app that could guide them through the outdoor museum and provide contextual relevancy. Besides a map the Zuiderzee app includes an interactive game in which the outdoor museum has to be 'saved from flooding'.

With an app we want to attract the younger generation to the museum and make it more fun for them to learn about our history. Educational programs are included in the app. By pressing on the different touch points on the map, you get information about historical buildings and locations (144 in total), crafts, contemporary art and other activities in the outdoor museum. The users of the app can enjoy a unique experience by walking around and learning about what they see in real time. We have built in new functionalities, such as push notifications and reminders for events. The latest version has also implemented a camera feature and an option to share it with friends on social.'

Map Zuiderzeemuseum
zuiderzeemuseum ol
agenda zuiderzeemuseum

What was challenging in the project?

'I think the first steps in the process were the most challenging. You want to build an app and you have a certain idea about how you would like it to be. At the beginning, you could be mistaken about how much information you have to enclose in the app. Or, if you (as the buyer) are thinking in the same line as the developer. You have to think everything through, from simple steps and small details that a user experiences when clicking on certain buttons to what will happen next. An optimal user experience will define the success of your app. In the process it's great to see that the product comes to live step by step. You learn so much when you are intensively involved in the process. Especially, working agile in a team helps to constantly iterate on what we have so far, be able to make quick changes if needed and determine where we want to go with the end product.'

What challenges in mobile do you foresee for the museum?

'We have experienced that not all of our visitors make use of a smartphone yet. At the entrance of the museum people can download the app but they are also handed a physical map of the museum. In further developing the app we are concerned with removing barriers to make the app more simple and accessible. In this light we now have WiFi connection in the entire (outdoor) museum. Although we see opportunities to grow with many possibilities for mobile, there is still some work to do around enhancing awareness among our visitors. Even among some of our employees. With the time and money invested we hope to get more out of it.'

What are your 3 favorite apps?

'The apps that I use the most are more functional. I really like the NOS teletext app. For my work I use Hootsuite to manage our social accounts. And when I listen to music the Deezer app is my favorite.'

When I think of AFL, I think of…?

'A young, dynamic team. Easy to work with, flexible and to the point. Their work method of agile scrum appeals to me. We were able to deliver relatively quick a beautiful product together.'