Digital may be the wave of the future for newspapers, but providing useful information through smartphones and tablets is something the Coastal Point is doing today. We launched our first-ever app this week — Explore Coastal Delaware — with an eye toward informing both visitors and longtime residents about the best the Delaware shore has to offer.
The free app — available for Apple devices running iOS 6.0 or higher and Android devices compatible with Google Play — was officially released on June 15, offering location-aware information on the area’s restaurants, shops, parks, beaches, other recreation opportunities and more.
“Putting the Delaware beaches in the palm of your hand” was the concept behind the app, following up on our mantra of being “The Local Voice of Your Community.” With that in mind, we’ve not only included fully featured listings of eateries, golf courses and stores but information such as beach rules in each of our beach towns, parking regulations and contact numbers for town halls and police, as well as event information and a section where you can find some local deals.
We’ve included all the southern Delaware beach towns in our readership area and their historic inland neighbors: Bethany Beach, South Bethany, Fenwick Island, Ocean View, Millville, Selbyville, Frankford, Millsboro and Dagsboro — with the aim of helping people get right to the fun of visiting or living here, or even finding a home so they can start living here.
The app’s “Eat” section includes both an alphabetical listing of area restaurants and categories for types of cuisine, from pizza or subs to seafood and fine dining (and even grocery stores, so you can do some cooking at home).
You can access these lists in different ways by tapping the “Az” icon in the bottom left corner of the app, enabling sorting by distance from your current location, viewing them all on a map or listing them at random, so you don’t rush to pick the first alphabetical choice.
From there, users can select an intriguing option and find out what sorts of food it serves, what the price range is, when it’s open, whether it takes reservations and where it’s located, and even see full menus — all with a tap of their finger. That’s the case for locations in all of our categories, from food and shopping to entertainment options, hotels and events.
Getting you there from here
The location-aware feature is what we think is one of the most useful aspects of the app, since clicking on the location information provides you with the option to show the location on a map or create a route that will take you right there.
When you first install the app, it will ask for permission to use your location, as determined by your phone. Not to worry — we’re not keeping tabs on you! Instead, the app and location features of your phone work together directly to help you find the places featured in the app, or (this may be the coolest feature of all) it can let you know when you’re near a featured location, including one where a special deal may be on offer.
That may be one of the best reasons for local residents to download Explore Coastal Delaware, as the Deals section of the app will allow them to find a deal, and to get that special offer all they need to do is show the business’ staff the deal inside the app.
More deals are coming soon, but imagine finding a deal for a dollar off mini-golf or 10 percent off your lunch check! And there’s no saving or printing required — just show your phone to the merchant, with the deal on the screen, and you’re set!
Need someone to check on your house while you’re gone for the winter, or to bring in groceries before you arrive on a busy Friday night? Look for the Home Services category. Really, there are too many categories to list here. But we’ll help you find it, even if you’re sitting on the beach with just your smartphone in hand.
Everyone who has visited the area knows Bethany Beach offers entertainment on the bandstand during the summer. But what’s on offer tonight? Well, we’ve got the entire bandstand entertainment calendar right in the app — look under Happenings and Events. The Freeman Stage at Bayside offerings are in there, too, complete with the map and route options, if you haven’t been to this great local venue before.
So, maybe you forgot to make plans for your anniversary. You don’t have to leave the beach to find a nice restaurant for dinner. It’s extra-easy when you can initiate a call or email from right inside the app or go right to the business’ Facebook page to ask a question.
Maybe Dad wanted nothing more than a nice round of golf for Father’s Day. You can use the Explore Coastal Delaware app to find a course, or maybe a new set of clubs! And if Dad (or Mom) prefers fishing, we’ve included fishing license information for Delaware waters, including a link to get a license online, as well as information about watercraft rentals and state parks where you might go fishing or crabbing.
Speaking of parks — we’ve also included information on local playgrounds, so you can find a place to take the kids when they’re ready for a break from the beach. And if you want to make sure the little ones (or even the adults) get in some fresh fruits and vegetables, we’ve also kicked off the app’s Spotlight feature with information on the area’s farmer’s markets — complete with locations and schedules.
All in all, we wanted to make it easy for people who are new to the area to find the great entertainment, shopping and dining opportunities our beach towns and their neighbors offer, by putting those wonders right in the palms of their hands.
And, for those who already live here, our app will help them find those hidden treasures they may have missed or haven’t visited in a while, as well as look for deals and special offerings at the places they already enjoy.
All of these things can be bookmarked in the app, so if you have a newly discovered place you want to remember to visit, or one you go to all the time, just hit the save/bookmark icon in the top right corner, and you can bookmark it for later, or email it to yourself for later, or text it to a friend so they can meet you there, or post it to Facebook so all your friends can see where you’re headed.
Pretty as a picture (postcard)
Along with the practical elements of the app, Explore Coastal Delaware also offers some features that are just plain fun, such as our digital postcard feature. Click the postcard icon at the bottom of the app, and you can pick any photo on your phone (just click OK to authorize the app to access your photos) to use as the basis for your own personalized postcard that you can save and send via email, text or social media.
We’ve also included a few of our own photos to use if you haven’t gotten that perfect shot yourself, or you can take a new snapshot right on the spot to use as the star of your picture postcard.
Once you pick your photo, you can alter how it looks with built-in filters. (Black-and-white for an artistic touch? Sepia for that hint of nostalgia?) And you can select from a variety of virtual “postage stamps,” featuring local sights and symbols. Finally, compose your message (we’ve give you a simple one to start, if you’re at a loss for words), and your postcard is done.
Then, all you have to do is hit the Share button, and you can send it along via Facebook or email, download it to your phone’s saved photos, copy it to paste into a text or document, or send it wirelessly to a compatible device. No postage required. No wait time for snail mail. And limitless possibilities for your own personalized postcard from the beach.
Even more fun to come
If you’re using a Windows phone or another device that can’t use the apps from the Apple App Store or Google Play, we have an answer for you, too — though you’ll have to wait a little while longer. We’re currently putting the finishing touches on our mobile-browser-friendly web version of the app, which will let you use other devices, or even your home computer, to access all of the information we’ve put together.
We’ll let everyone know when that’s ready, but in the meantime, you can bookmark www.explorecoastaldelaware.com.
For now, you can also follow development of the app and future updates through our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ExploreCoastalDelaware and at @xplorecoastalde on Twitter.
We hope that Explore Coastal Delaware meets our goal of letting users unearth the buried treasures of the First State’s beach communities and helping them enjoy their time away from the world in our own little slice of paradise by the shore — whether they’re from here or just here for a day or a week.
If you have any suggestions for how we can make the app even better, let us know. Explore Coastal Delaware is going to be an ongoing project for us, with new content being added all the time and periodic updates of the app itself. If your favorite spot isn’t listed yet, let us know, but also let them know you think they should be in the app. Businesses that want to become part of the app can call Susan Lyons at (302) 539-1788 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
View the first commercial here, http://youtu.be/ZKCwtn1QPKU.