For those who haven’t heard, Urbita is the latest destination platform offering locals a chance to visually promote their city to travelers and/or show their favorite metropolis some love. Urbita is one of many applications providing a new twist on an old idea: the concept of “pinterest for fill in the blank.” Pinboards are a visually stimulating utility and developers are taking full advantage of users desires to originate, organize and notate their experiences.
Urbita’s predecessor, Everplaces has been pretty successful, while the now defunct Urbantag gave up the goose in March, 2013. With $650,000 USD recently secured in seed funding and 10 million unique web viewers in August alone, Urbita may prove to be the next big thing in online user reviews.
Touting the tagline “Pinterest for cities,” the sleek design enables quite a bit more than your regular old pinboard. Individuals can view and add photos of a city or locale, as well as search places within that locale. Parent company FounderFuel has also integrated Travel Videos and clicking a destination’s videos opens the sister-site in another browser tab. And of course, the application is made complete with the ability to tweet, like, +1, or pin to the essential sites.
It supports more than photos, though, and users can review or comment on nearly any place, whether they create the entry or not. Places are filterable by a plethora of categories (nightlife, arts & entertainment, playgrounds, bridal shops, colleges, fried chicken joints, etc.) and by level of “local” vs. “touristy.” Often times the phone number, physical address, website, and/or twitter page are presented alongside its category and tags.
The site is unique in that it streamlines user reviews [in Yelp or Google fashion] with a visually stimulating bookmark interface. One can pin the location to their own boards as well as view other [user] boards where the location has been pinned. The search nearby – and filter – feature is particularly useful since the Google Maps function often proves fruitless when applying incorrect or vague keywords.
Some potential pitfalls, however, of the burgeoning site include:
1. The default setting is a rather uninviting map. If a user has not uploaded a picture of Sam’s Hotdog Shack, but knows where it is located, the entry is created with a rather bland looking map. Until Urbita gathers the fan fare and notoriety of Pinterest or Yelp, it will be a less than visually appealing forum for specific places/venues.
2. No systematic star rating allowing a user to immediately judge the quality of a place. This may be intentional, as it encourages more user feedback and engagement in the comments section. It is harder to dismiss Sam’s Hotdog Shack as sub-par if you have to read a bit about the quality. Still, some people short on time likely appreciate the five-stars as a gauge of worthiness.
3. There is some work yet to be done. I had to really dig to find my location, even though it is the second largest city in the state, while the homepage features some odd icons in the upper left corner of user boards. I had no clue what the significance of a “white & yellow knight” or a “white pawn” was until I signed up…and even then the site gives no real details on how to earn or upgrade badges. Also, when a user creates their own unique board, they are stuck with random photos of the city (user cannot choose or upload their own photo here).
Despite these hindrances, Urbita has a lot of potential in the location-based pinning and reviewing trend. The site’s greatest strengths are the abilities to search nearby and filter by hundreds of different categories. Users can keep track of the destinations they have lived and travelled and simultaneously discover (and pin) new places they want to go/see. Plus, it has an added advantage of optimism since users show love, rather than critiques, of their favorite venues.