Why we built our own travel itinerary PWA

Toaster held their five day offsite in Ibiza this year (that's right, you read correctly!).This involved 80+ people from all four offices (and five time zones) coming together to socialise, reflect, and plan the year ahead.

Logistically, this was no small undertaking. One of the challenges was making sure everyone knew where they were going, what they were doing and could find key information regarding the event. Originally, we had off-site information in PDFs, however we quickly realised we wanted to do better and give Toastees a more engaging experience.

The challenge landed with Jon, one of our senior creatives, and he immediately started to craft a solution:

“It would be great to have something that is always in our pockets and easy to navigate. PWA’s can do that, plus, it’s our core competency, so let’s f***king do it!’

As part of our solution we had to consider the following constraints and requirements:

  • Connectivity abroad can be uncertain (as can be the costs)
  • Catering for iOS and Android operating systems and multiple versions
  • Information tailored for multiple time-zones
  • Private to the Toaster team (security)

The answer was a Progressive Web App with a dynamic itinerary schedule, vital information and key contacts. Catering for London, San Francisco, New Delhi, Singapore and Spanish timezones, meant we had people arriving and leaving at different times.

Developing the app

The web app, built from scratch by our creative technologist Pim, had app-like usability, enabling quick and simple access to relevant information. It also gave the ability to access the site with no internet connection, saving us from roaming fees/data usage and any potential connectivity issues that come with being abroad / travelling. The initial load of the app is under 50kb, allowing for lightning fast startup times even on slower 3G connections.

Of course, it didn’t come without its challenges and learnings. We decided to do this last minute and therefore there was only so much functionality and time for design we could put into it. Furthermore, we were dealing with a deluge of PDF’s and the information needed to be approved, formatted and put into the PWA. As you can imagine the team would been mortified if anyone missed a flight or the event because of the app.

Admittedly this was a bit of a ‘hack’, and a lot more could have been done if we’d had more time, including but not exclusive to:

  • Text location to give you correct page
  • Adapt the content based on date / location
  • Provide offline map navigation
  • Offer one tap contact to emergency contacts
  • ‘Roomies’ feature, to see who is sharing with who and where they are (or supposed to be)
  • To use the PWA to send notifications in an event of an emergency or change of plans

Whilst we are aware that the next version of the iOS should enable Safari to support Service Workers (fingers crossed!), we found that the current iOS doesn’t. This meant a completely offline experience wasn’t possible for iOS users.

What's next

PWAs can offer a level of experience and utility to those travelling, touring, visiting or navigating without the barriers that come with both traditional browser or native app experiences. Progressive Web Apps are a very credible option for those debating native app vs mobile web and we’ve only just started to unlock their potential. If you’re working in territories that are still relying heavily on 2G or where bandwidth is otherwise slow or expensive, PWAs are a great way to offer quicker and better experience to your audience.

We're working on a few secret squirrel PWA projects right now, but there's always room for one more, so if you'd like to chat, get in touch!