At The Glades Shopping Centre in Bromley, South London, a new touch-screen information terminal is helping customers find their way around the mall and the rest of the town. This electronic local services directory, called Local Touch, and a print version of the same form a two-pronged assault by Yellow Pages on its rival, Thomson. Bromley is the first battleground in the directory wars.
Interface specialist IN.form designed the system. “Yellow Pages really wanted to look at how a directory could work on-screen,” says chief executive Stephen Hall. “There were severe time restrictions, so it wasn’t a blue-sky project where we could explore all the available ways of displaying information on a touch-screen as against a page-based metaphor. It is more flexible though, because it uses interactivity. The crucial thing is you can link through things in a logical sequence.”
It is available through either of a pair of screens placed in one of the mall’s main thoroughfares. The five main headings – shopping, local leisure, community information, transport and eating out – can be accessed from any point in the system; users do not need to work back to the starting point each time they wish to switch categories. Say you happen to be JR Hartley, you would choose “shopping”, find the list of bookshops by entering B on the touch keyboard, and scroll down the list to the shop you want. From there, you could call up a map to show its location in the mall or town centre, get a printout and be given immediate information on relevant bus or train routes and times. You use the same procedure if you fancy a visit to Pratts Bottom (a popular local leisure spot, I am told). The terminal also issues credit vouchers for use in shops in The Glades.
Surprisingly maybe – but also encouragingly – the most enthusiastic users are middle-aged women. Yellow Pages is not revealing its future plans for the system.