I am a proud Kenyan. I would stand up for my country no matter the situation because I believe that I was meant to be here, to be a part of this great nation. Our lands and people are warm and beautiful and have this uncanny way of simply taking your breath away. If you find it hard to see that, all you have to do is change your perspective. Many of us, not only those foreigners we bash and condemn for portraying our country in unpleasant ways, fail to see the beauty and magnificence of our own country.
Some of us need that extra push to simply move our attention away from the heaps of garbage that sprout up almost daily on our streets, to the little kids jumping and dancing right next to those heaps like nothing matters more to them than that single moment. Safaricom has been on the move to show us a view of Kenya that we might ignore through their calendars. The last campaign was different however. This time, they made it more than a calendar, they wanted to share it with the entire globe through the This is My Kenya app, which was the theme of this past campaign. This should be the push we need, the guiding light to be thankful of what makes us truly Kenyan, but does it actually do it?
I downloaded this app the moment it was available, because I was eagerly waiting for it. Since the campaign started, bloggers who were on the road during this campaign were documenting the trip. The stories they told on the lengths the team of talented photographers, writers, producers and drivers took to get the perfect shots of our country and the different interesting individuals they met on their journey were exhilarating. I felt connected to parts of the country I had only read about, some that I cannot even locate on a map but all in all they felt familiar, because it is my country and through the app, I would finally be able to merge my imagination with the reality.
Content is King
You cannot miss it. Once you open the app, you are immediately transported to various parts of the country. You get to experience the emotion of the moments captured and identify with people you have never met. It is truly a beautiful experience. Scrolling down the homepage opens you up to many more pictures and you never want it to end. This is what I expected to see once on the app. This is what brought me here and I am glad that it was the main focus of the application. The content. I have written a lot about content before and its importance. I think they hit this right on the head when structuring the application. Remember this as I will come back to this, first impression matters and so far so good.
So what do you do next after scrolling all the way to the bottom? You go back up and find out what else you can do on the app. This is when you discover that it is more than just a collection of pictures taken by the crew. There is more to it.
This is an application that introduces Kenya to the world, the way Kenyans want their story to be told. What I hope we do not forget is that it is a whole package. The content and the application itself are a representation of the Kenyan experience. The application is the medium that presents the content. The content is fabulous, does the medium do it justice?
The experience is part of the story
Like I said before, this is a whole package. The content and the medium are shipped as a unit, therefore, each should support the other. The content, I feel blew it out of the park, the medium however, not so much. There are a little things about the app experience that are a let-down. It feels incomplete or rushed, like a few building blocks are missing or incomplete.
This application represents our country and the Kenyan experience, therefore it should do that from the word go. Once I was satisfied by the pictures on the homepage, I took a closer look at the application right from the icon. I honestly didn’t understand that icon, I do not know what it represented. Maybe I was alone on this, and therefore I won’t dwell too much on it. Did I expect something else? Yes. Do I know what? Not really, I’m not a designer so unless I see what I think I expected, I can’t really go on much about that. However I did catch a glimpse of what I thought made more sense. On the website, there is a different (but similar) icon, more like a logo of sorts with My Kenya written on it. That one is beautiful, but I imagine it does not scale down gracefully.
I believe the purpose of this application is to allow people tell their story, and they have ways for you to do that. On the menu drawer, you are given the option of logging in with your Facebook or Instagram account to identify you. I tried logging in with my Facebook account. I didn’t see any change. I thought that maybe I didn’t do it right so I tried again, but it said I was logged in. I need to see that guys, otherwise I will not believe you! Once that ‘failed’ I went on to log in with my Instagram account and once it was successful I saw and immediate change, showing the number of posts I have posted (on the app) and likes garnered. I can forgive that oversight. It’s just a small bug that made Facebook ‘fail’. I move on. I am excited to put up my own pictures now and see that number rise from zero, you know, share my amateurish taken pictures of my view of Kenya.
On the amateur gallery tab, you can add you own picture, either from your gallery or from your camera. I then decided to post a picture from a recent trip I took to the beautiful Rapids Camp Sagana. I was mesmerized by the thundering waterfall that rung clear through the camp and tried to capture that in a picture that I was proud to share with everyone. Perfect medium right? So I put in all the necessary details and hit the post button eager to have that beauty out there. I waited. I refreshed the page over and over again only to get an error message saying that user doesn’t exist. What do you mean?Didn’t I just log in with Instagram? Or should I have registered first? I didn’t see that option anywhere. Again, I am willing to forgive. Just a slight hiccup, right? Nothing that can’t be fixed with a few lines of code. I’ll just take a breather and scroll through more pictures while you fix that.
So you want more pictures? Go on over to the discover tab, where you can view images from different counties. I think this will be a mixture of amateur and professional photos taken in those counties as I was asked to specify the county the picture was taken from. It gives you a chance to view areas you will probably not get a chance to go to. Being a new app still creating a wide user base, a number of counties do not have pictures. You might see that as a problem, I see it as a challenge. A challenge to go to this areas to explore and share with others.
There are a few more things that I do not fully understand, to be specific the feature on ‘Most Popular Journeys’ and ‘Make the Journey’. The first one looks like a curation of videos however, none of those displayed there did anything but direct me to an error web page on their website. The second takes me to a page where I get to pick 6 pictures to share as part of my journey. I didn’t get it.
I love the idea of making some video to share experiences. I think that’s a fantastic idea especially due to the popularity of Snapchat and Instagram videos. This could be a very social and immersive way of sharing the Kenyan experience. If this is what they were going for, I think there is a lot more work to do, because it doesn’t do it. If not, don’t you think this something that should be implemented? How else would I get to share the deafening beauty of the waterfall I instantly fell in love with.
The overall design of the application feels like it is longing to be better. It knows it is not there but it also knows it can amount to more, to better match the content that it carries across the globe. Well at least I hope it knows that.
When patience wears thin
My first impression of this application was mixed. I cannot reiterate how much I loved the content, so much so that I could almost forgive the medium, but not for long. You see, patience wears thin. Luckily I have the patience to give it a second, third or even forth view.
Imagine you were from Europe or Asia hoping to catch a glimpse of Kenya while you figure out where to explore next. You stumble upon this app and get excited about the chance to really understand Kenya. You don’t just get the pictures, you get the app too. Your experience of this beautiful country starts with your interaction with the application. It is a representation of our country. What do you think you will see? You will see the beautiful pictures but have this nagging feeling of inefficiency, of a missing piece, of wanting more than what you are presented with. Maybe you get distracted by something else and don’t give the app a second look until a few months afterward when your savings can finally allow you to seriously consider travelling to Kenya. You check to see if you can finally get that missing piece and truly get the essence of Kenya. Maybe you do not have enough money but still want to experience Kenya. Isn’t this app supposed to be the solution?
This app is meant to be more than a calendar. A calendar represents a finite number of captured moments many of which are forgotten once a new year begins. An application lets the moments be infinite and timeless. I think this app fails in letting others share THEIR Kenya with the world. It fails in making a social environment where many can experience the beauty of parts of the country they may never get to visit. Its all about the experience but the medium that shows it is lagging behind. But again, I can forgive that, for only so long. Soon enough not only my, but everyone’s patience will wear thin.
You see me here giving excuses and forgiving this app, willing it to be better. I am not lost or without a backbone, I am simply Kenyan. This is what we do for Kenya. We know we are imperfect, but we are willing to hold on to some hope. We are forgiving to our country as I am forgiving to this app. The app is not perfect, but neither is Kenya. However, it is man-made. We can get it near perfect of what we hope Kenya to be.