Yonder: New version… same mission, inspire people to get outdoors.
Yonder isn’t your mother’s social media or outdoors app (although she does have very good taste in apps). Since version 1.0 was released in June 2013 it has been the mission of Yonder’s staff (known as Yonderers) to connect people with outdoor experiences, hopefully inspiring them to get outside. On November 21 the Woodstock, Vermont based company released version 2.0; updated for Apple’s iOS 7. Recently I got a chance to chat with David Tyler, chief yonderer about the app, their mission and what’s in store for the future at Yonder.
Stu: What is Yonder and how did it get started?
David: We at the company want to inspire people to get outdoors. Yonder is a community for people with a passion for the outdoors to share and discover inspiration with one another. Secondary to that is, once a user has been inspired, we want to create a tool and provide information that enables them to get outdoors. Yonder has a database of about 20,000 outdoor destinations that we’re expanding everyday. These places consist of content and data that has been collected from various public entities like the National Park Service or Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The app also has user generated content such as pictures and videos and our goal is to connect users with similar interests so they can inspire each other through the places they visit.
Stu: In an already crowded field of social media and outdoor related apps, how is Yonder different?
David: We’re not trying to compete with the Instagram’s of the world - the more broad based networks. Those social networks like Twitter and Facebook, they’re built on connecting people with other people. If you don’t follow or friend anybody there’s zero value for you in the network or the app. Because our product is built specifically for the outdoor enthusiast we think we’re creating an interest based network. We bring content to you based on what you’re interested in. We don’t stop at just sharing content like social media apps. User generated content is the inspiration piece and about 50% but what Yonder is trying to do is bridge that gap between seeing a photo of a cool place online and getting outside and visiting that place.
Stu: Tell me about the staff at Yonder… the “Yonderers” as they’re called.
David: We all have this passion for getting outside and engaging with the natural world. You know, it’s surprisingly difficult to find useful information about a lot of outdoor places and that’s what our staff discovered. If you want to find a coffee shop in your town you can go to apps like Yelp and find one. We wanted to take our passion for the outdoors and make information available so we could hopefully inspire others as well.
Stu: You listened to users and made changes to the app’s UI. What were the biggest changes made to v2.0?
David: One of the biggest things was the focus on content. Our users wanted to see more content about things that they love. We were finding that the content in the user streams was getting stale, you’d often see the same thing at the top of the stream time after time when you opened the app. We wanted to making content on feeds more dynamic. People really wanted to see stuff surrounding the activities that interest them. So we focused on the idea of activities. Say you’re into rock climbing; Yonder would show you activities near you that might involve that passion. It could be a climbing event or an opportunity to volunteer building a trail.
Stu: One of the largest challenges with sharing outdoor experiences is being able to do so in the field with no cell phone connectivity. Has Yonder found a way to make sharing those experience work in those types of situations?
David: You’d be surprised at how many outdoor places have connectivity these days. The connectivity in outdoor spaces has improved immensely. The one thing you can rely on even if you don’t have access to the internet is the GPS in your phone. Yonder can place media where it was taken and originated based on the GPS data that’s embedded within the picture or content. Naturally for some of these features you have to allow your location to be shared. Yonder also lets users take pictures or post content, from the app, even without an internet connection. The content gets queued up and posted the next time you reach some place with connectivity.
Stu: Where do the developers of Yonder hope to take the app in the future?
David: We really want to enhance the ability for people to get outdoors. We want to get more specific information such as trailheads for hiking, put-ins if you’re into kayaking, things like that. We want Yonder to be this indispensable resource that will give users a deepening relationship with the outdoors. At Yonder we’re striving to go beyond apps like Yelp where a user has to seek out the information. We want to connect a user with information even before they ask for it. That drives value to the service and allows users to interact with each other and inspire through pictures and posts instead of having to dig for information. Ultimately we think about Yonder as a recommendation engine, recommending things you’re passionate about.
Stu: Some of the activities you mentioned that Yonder might recommend include volunteerism is that a goal at Yonder?
David: We work closely with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Outdoors Colorado. What’s really important about some of the groups we have relationships with is they are philanthropic organizations. That’s something which is really an important part of what we’re doing. We want people to appreciate what’s available to them and beyond that not only getting people to go outside but also getting them to preserve areas they use so these areas are there for their children to use.
Stu: Any plans to release an Android version of the app?
David: Yes. We’re actively looking for a developer that can build an Android version for us. Ultimately we want to serve everyone and we’re working toward that.
Yonder is a product of Green Mountain Digital, creator of other outdoor apps such as Orvis Fly Fishing and Sailing World Knots and Splices. You can find more information about Yonder online at yonder.it. The app is available through the Apple iTunes store. The company has 10 on staff one of which Tyler tells me is based in Colorado to help cultivate the valuable relationships with outdoor organizations that Yonder uses for the app. You can also read a blog I wrote earlier this year which included Yonder here: 4 Outdoor apps worth downloading.