In terms of design, Gowalla has always had a leg up on rival Foursquare. (Seeing as much of the Gowalla’s team background is design, that’s hardly surprising.) Today, the service has unveiled yet another overhaul of their website design. And along with it, they’ve brought in a new business opportunity.
First, the site itself looks great. While Gowalla rolled out a revamp just prior to SXSW in March that looked pretty good, this new one is better. The reason is that it greatly simplifies things down to the core of the service. That is, the check-ins. For a long time, Gowalla was focusing on items you were carrying, and special pins and stamps. Now the focus is solely on your stream of check-in activity (on your profile page) and the stream of your friends’ check-ins (on the main page).
Items are still there on your profile page, but they’re buried all the way at the bottom of the right side column. Pins, meanwhile, are only found in a link below your name next to stamps. It’s smart of Gowalla to move this stuff to the side so new users can figure out what to do right away (check-in). The new design also highlights pictures you’ve taken (both in your stream and prominantly on the right side), as well as comments. These are key because they’re two features that Foursquare doesn’t offer.
From a business perspective, the much bigger deal about this redesign is that is also allows brands to more closely weave themselves into the fun. Gowalla is launching a new branded Trips feature that allows brands to offer their own content and advice on the service based around places. The two launch partners for this are National Geographic and The Washington Post.
National Geographic is working with Gowalla to offer walking tours in 15 cities around the U.S., Canada and Europe. A new feature called Spot Descriptions allows them (or any user) to highlight why they’ve added a particular place to a trip.
The Washington Post, meanwhile, is offering Trips based on their “Going Out Guides” to help visitors get around Washington D.C. The newspaper’s writers put these together.
These branded Trips are a good idea, and slightly more engaging than what brands are offering on Foursquare through their Tips area. It’s good to see Trips branching beyond being the best way to organize a pub crawl.