Foursquare received a major overhaul this week, and the result is sleeker, richer, and more intuitive than its predecessor. The new iteration fixes many of the gripes users have had with the old, and deepens enough features to make the app even more of a staple of the mobile scene.
Foursquare’s Explore tab always felt underdeveloped; it would make recommendations based on a user’s location, but those recommendations never felt quite smart enough. The new Explore is much sharper. Recommendations are now based on a variety of additional factors including time-of-day, previous behavior, and reviews from friends and trusted sources. In my few days of using it, it’s already pointed me towards several new spots that I would have never discovered otherwise. Best of all, it’s a pretty good guesser – if you open up Explore on a Sunday morning, for instance, it will assume you’re looking for a place to have brunch.
The new Explore places an emphasis on reviews, which are sourced from friends, media organizations, and other users. Clearly, Foursquare is positioning itself in Yelp’s territory, and I suspect it will compare favorably – the social element will make users more inclined to trust its reviews, and it makes sense to keep all location-based information in a single app rather than requiring a jump back to the home screen.
The profile page has likewise been revamped, and is now more colorful and intuitive. Badges, friends, and other stats are available as a grid of colorful buttons, below which sits a timeline of user activity. The setup is much friendlier than the previous iteration.
The app also features several interface improvements, most notably the re-placement of the check-in button. Formerly, that button was placed at the bottom-center of the screen, just out of comfortable reach for many users’ thumbs. It was awkward to need to use a second hand to perform the most common Foursquare action, and reduced greatly from the overall user experience. The new app places the button in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, within easy reach of most thumbs, allowing for one-handed use of the app while on-the-go. This also frees up space in the bottom navigation bar, giving the app a bit more breathing room and making it feel cleaner and sleeker.
Foursquare’s overhaul is a much-needed step in the right direction. The user-side improvements are great, and the company’s new-found interest in brand collaborations and big data suggest that it is finally taking steps to generate revenue. Foursquare is a great idea, but until it can wean itself off of venture capital, it is still just another social platform running on somebody else’s dime. Three years after its founding, it’s time for the company to grow up and stand on its own two feet. This iteration is only the beginning.