There’s no doubt that Apple’s App Store is a hotbed for software developers. The popularity of the iPhone and iPod Touch have led to wonderful new ideas and innovations. There are also an increasing number of Disney apps available, both official and unofficial. This week, I got a chance to play with all three Disney at Work apps. These apps, featuring three of Disney’s most popular parks, are aimed at helping you bring Disney’s quality business practices to your work. To read more about my thoughts on these apps, click the link below!
Before we get too deep into this review, I want to start off with a general thought. I really believe that this is the future of publishing. I don’t necessarily mean the Notescast form (I’ll explain that later), but publishing to an electronic device and charging a few dollars per copy ($5 each in this case) is a great way to go. Lately, we’ve seen eBook readers gain popularity (like the Amazon Kindle, the Sony Reader, and the Barnes & Noble Nook). Even the iPhone and iPod Touch are becoming viable reading platforms, and the popularity of those two devices means you have a huge number of people just waiting to read your material. It seems like the old methods of finding a publisher and selling a bound book are becoming less important the more we get used to this whole digital age thing.
I think that gives us a good starting point to discuss the Disney at Work apps. I want to look at what I consider key aspects to these apps: navigation, content, and appearance. Hopefully, this will give you a good idea about what you’ll get when you download these apps. Finally, I’ll offer up some final thoughts about Disney at Work. Let’s get to it!
Navigation is pretty similar on all three apps, so we can cover this subject in pretty general terms. After the app loads and you move past the main title screen, you’ll come to a main navigation page. If you’re at all familiar with Disney theme parks, this screen will make sense to you. If you’re not familiar with the parks, you can find maps of the parks at DisneyParks.com. You should find out pretty quickly that this screen is organized by the lands you’ll find in the parks. But if you haven’t visited a Disney park before, don’t worry. While that might help you find your way around these apps a little more intuitively, I don’t think a prior visit is a prerequisite. You can still get some great mileage from these, and you’ll have some great material for your work life also (we’ll get into the content later, of course).
Let’s start from the top. When you’re on the main menu screen, the title bar at the top will display the name of the app you are using along with a circle button with an italicized “i". This button takes you to an introduction of the app (shown above in the Disneyland app), which you can exit by pressing “Done” at the top of the screen. The main menu of each app has an overview section that has information about the authors, about the companies involved in creating the apps, previews of other apps to come, copyright information, how to register for Disney at Work updates, and contact information. The main menu screen also is your “hub” to accessing each of the different lands in the parks. From the menu of each land, you can select from a number of different attractions (and landmarks, restaurants, architecture, etc.) to read about it. The screenshot below shows the list of topics from Main Street, U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom. When you’re done reading or ready to move on to a new section, simply touch the “Back” button at the top left of your screen (you can see that in the screenshot below also).
Navigation is pretty intuitive. You’ll find there’s not really much of a learning curve here, especially if you’re used to iPhone or iPod Touch navigation. Having a little bit of familiarity with the layout of Disney Parks will help you (as I said earlier), especially if you have a particular attraction you’re looking for. Someone who isn’t so familiar with park layout may do some fumbling to find an attraction. That person might also be confused when the Haunted Mansion doesn’t appear in the same section for the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland apps (and each subsequent app, for that matter).
I do have two small suggestions in terms of navigation. I would love to see a link at the bottom of each section that takes me to the next set of notes. That way, if I want to go back to the menu I can hit the “Back” button at the top or I can keep going by touching a “Next” button at the bottom of the page. I don’t know if my second suggestion is possible with a Notescast, but a search feature would be great. I would love to be able to type in a search query and have it find topics that match what I’m looking for. This would also save that person who isn’t familiar with the parks some time in finding their way around. These are by no means deal breakers, but they would make the apps even easier to navigate. All in all, though, navigation felt pretty good on all three apps, so I have no real complaints here.
What you’re really going to pay $5 for is the content, right? I’m sure you want to know what you’ll be reading about the most magical places on earth. While I’m not going to give away any content, I am going to give you a good idea about what’s in these apps. Each set of notes, for example, gives you a unique piece of story or other useful information about that part of the park. There are related pictures in the notes, and this brings a visual element to the content as well.
Don’t expect to only see content related to Disney rides. I was thinking this was what I was going to get the first time I fired up an app, and I was very much mistaken. You’ll find content on a nice variety of park elements. Certainly you’ll find popular rides (like Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, and Soarin’), but take the time to read about the restaurants, architectural elements, buildings, shows, theming, story, and history (to name a few). There’s a wealth of information here. I found the Epcot app particularly compelling, especially on the World Showcase side. If you’re a business that is international, you could find some really useful ideas here to help you better your work. To add to that, the end of each notes section has a few questions to get you thinking critically about the content. You can use these to stimulate some conversation at work, or just get yourself thinking about your business.
And that’s where this app shines. How can you improve your work? You don’t need to be leading a company outing to Walt Disney World or Disneyland to find this set of apps useful. A business in the most remote parts of the country could benefit from the content found in these apps. Disney’s business practices have been among the most successful in history. I don’t even think that’s an arguable statement (How many companies can go from starving artists in a tiny studio to an entertainment industry and travel industry giant, anyway?). Your business can benefit from those practices, and Disney at Work gets you thinking about how to incorporate those practices into your work life.
To that point, you don’t have to be at a managerial level (or higher) in your career to benefit from Disney at Work. In fact, adopting a few Disney business practices could help you climb that proverbial totem pole. I’m not saying that Disney at Work is the magic key to success (after all, you have to put these ideas into motion), but it will give you ideas to help you improve the quality of your work and develop a passion for your work.
I’ve been saying that these apps contain sections of notes. I should explain that before we move on. A Notescast is basically a collection of short documents, called notes. The end result resembles what we think of as a collection of chapters in a book. For more information on Notescasts, click here to visit their web site.
The iPhone and iPod Touch both have very good quality screens, which begs the obvious question: how are the visuals? I’d say they’re pretty good. The sheer variety of images is a huge plus. You’ll find a few rare photos (like the one shown below) and photos showcasing the more common aspects of the parks. The pictures always fit well with the content, and they add value to this app.
The first image you’ll see is the startup image, and I think these look great. They are all tinted a particular color, they have the pixie dust-type stars, and they have the app title laid overtop of the image. The Epcot app has a purple-tinted image of Spaceship Earth, the Magic Kingdom has a blue Cinderella Castle, and the Disneyland app has a pink Matterhorn. These startup screens are great quality and they really use the resolution of the screen.
The images in the other sections of the notes are good, too. As I said, they always fit well with the content. The only complaint I have is that some of the images show some jagged edges. I would assume this is because they were high-resolution pictures shrunken down to a size small enough to fit the notes. That said, I couldn’t find a single instance where the jagged edges ruined the pictures. It’s simply a side effect of getting something on a small screen, but it’s something worth pointing out.
I really enjoyed using the Disney at Work apps, and I can see myself going back the to them in the future. In the previews you can find in the Overview section of each app, you’ll see that Performance Journeys has lots planned in the coming months. I’m excited to see other Disney Parks make their way to the Disney at Work brand, because there’s still enormous untapped potential in Disney’s other theme parks around the globe.
Another thought I had while reading these apps was where else Performance Journeys could deploy Disney at Work. The obvious answer would be to the even larger installed user base of the iPod. While the iPhone and iPod Touch have a large number of users, the iPod Classic and Nano are probably even more prevalent. And they’re perfectly capable of running Notescasts. I think it would be a good move to offer Disney at Work on other iPod models, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Overall, I think these are great apps. They’re $5 each, which I think is perfectly reasonable. You can snag all three of them for $15 – and that’s probably a little cheaper than you could find a regular bound book on the same subject. You’re going to get a good couple hours worth of reading with each app, so I would say that price is right on. I know you see a lot of apps in the App Store for cheaper, but you’re paying for some really good content here. I think it’s completely worth it.
If you’re interested in reading more about Disney at Work, I encourage you to visit their web site. Also be sure to stop by the Performance Journeys site to see what else they offer. And, ultimately, you’ll want to head over to the iTunes App Store and get the apps. As of right now, the Epcot and Magic Kingdom apps have user ratings of between 4-5 stars (which is right where I’ll put my review). The Disneyland app doesn’t have any reviews yet. Be sure to leave some reviews when you buy the apps. That’s often the best way to get word out about apps like this, and Disney at Work definitely deserves great reviews!