Not being able to find their way around is one of the biggest worries a lot of people have about moving to a community as big as The Villages.
No matter how long you’ve lived here or how often you’ve visited, with new places popping up all the time, its easy to get turned around.
And while paper maps are available, the reality is most people rely on their mobile devices to find their way around these days.
Enter The Villages GPS app.
The Villages GPS (which is not affiliated with the developer of The Villages) is billed as “the ultimate GPS map guide for golf carts and cars in The Villages.”
The Villages GPS is an app available from the Apple App Store or Google Play store that lives on your iPhone, iPad or Android device.
With the app, you now have a map in your phone of all the town squares, golf courses, recreation centers, and neighborhoods within The Villages.
We sat down recently with The Villages GPS team to discuss the app.
Who are you and what’s your background?
We are just a few Villagers who like most other Villagers, got lost when we first moved here.
I started the app from scratch out of frustration trying to get to different executive golf courses. You can’t find how to get to any of them on Google! After a couple years of that, I decided to make the app and hired a development company to design it with me.
Once I got the app going a couple years ago, it wasn’t working the way I wanted it to and I didn’t have enough money to get it right. I talked to a couple Villagers and one had a I.T. background who helped me.
Then we reached out to an investment firm and they have supported us.
There are three of us that make all the decisions on everything. I’m the main person as far as the public goes and with the customer service.
When did you first release the app and approximately how many downloads does it have so far?
We rolled it out in August 2014 and we have had thousands of downloads. We have updated it multiple times and continue to bring more updates as we are now up to Version 2.4.4 as of Jan. 23, 2015.
What do users think of the app so far?
The feedback we have received is very positive! Everyone has wanted this for years and we are working really hard to make this app as perfect as possible for all of us Villagers.
What is your personal favorite feature of the app?
Oh there are so many but I think personally, I really liked that we added all of the actual Village neighborhoods approximate location. You know when you ask a fellow Villager where they live…They will tell you and a lot of times you have heard of it of course but you can’t remember where it really is? Well, you can pull out your phone, open up our app and you will see we have all of the listed in Alphabetical order as well as a Map View.
Are there any new features in development?
We are constantly receiving feedback from our users and continue to make improvements to the app. We recently rolled out a speedometer so Villagers know how fast they are going on the Golf Carts and have many things coming in the future that we will be releasing…
As there are with most apps, from reading reviews of earlier versions it sounds like there were some bugs and kinks to be worked out. What are some things you’ve improved upon from earlier versions?
There were bugs and issues we have fixed along the way. Some of the early reviews you are reading was a result of educating the user.
For example, we would be contacted from a user about voice navigation not working and we would educate them to turn the volume up on their device as it wasn’t a problem with the app.
Another example: Our very first version linked to Google maps that took you out of our app. We couldn’t keep it internal back then to where you could just click “Back” to the main menu and the user would have to reopen the app again every time. Now we have that all internal so you never leave the app.
Yet another example is: We wanted our app to work on every available type of phone made. That was a huge learning cure for us because it is totally different codes. Android and Apple phones are completely different and each one has to be made from scratch! It’s the same as if you use a PC or a Mac. We have spent a ton of money on development for both.
What are some common/known bugs you still have to iron out?
Cart Routes… It took us over a year to map every place a golf cart is actually allowed. As you know, The Villages keeps on building and adding new places, so we are always going to be updating.
We use the latest software available on the market for all of the Golf Cart routes. We made all of the available Routes in “Green”. There are certain roads Golf Carts are not allowed on are in “Red”. The GPS route that the computer suggests is always in “Blue”.
We always suggest everyone zoom over your whole route before driving it to make sure it takes you on all green.
If you see a red, once you get there continue in the direction of your destination on a GREEN trail and you can follow the green lines to your destination. There is a “ReRoute” at the top right once your on the green line that you can push and if your far away from the red one it will take you to your destination once again. It may take a few minutes to figure out but we are giving you the tools to do so to make it easy.
So…we are hard at work with our developers and the software to make it perfect and to say the least… I won’t go into details but this is a very tedious task and not a simple solution. We are working hard to have it completed in the next few months
In what ways do you allow for feedback and/or assist people who need a little extra “hand-holding” when first getting started with the app?
We have an excellent customer service! We answer any and all questions in multiple ways:
We have a FAQ section on our website which is great for Villagers who can read the most common questions and answers on the site.
We also have our own forum section on TalkofTheVillages.com for online customer service so Villagers can ask questions, etc and we can respond to help them.
We have also gone out of our way to give phone support when needed.
Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Here are a few things:
The Restaurants and Shopping sections of our app work all over the country. If you click on the Restaurants and Shopping, wherever you are in the country it will pull up nearby restaurants and shopping options.
When you find a place that has a website and or a phone number, if you click on it….It will make the call for you or go to the website.
If you are looking for a specific address like your own home address, just type it in the “Search bar” and when it pops up, click the Heart beside it to save it in your “Favorites”
Here are more reasons for the value of purchasing this app:
If you buy a paper map in The Villages, you will pay $5 to $7 and then you will be driving around holding up a paper trying to navigate around town. Not to mention when they update their map, you have to buy another map each year.
Not with us… It’s paid for one time (per device) and all updates are free for Life.
Then paper maps won’t tell you where to go by voice and show your exact location. Not to mention all of the information and places we are giving you. The Villages GPS allows you to get to your destination really without thinking about it.
Most importantly, we want everyone to know that we really are working very hard behind the scenes to make this a perfect navigation for all of us Villagers for years to come and will not rest until it is perfect.
Final thoughts from Ryan…
At $4.99 some of you may balk at the cost when other navigation apps cost less or are free.
Besides the fact that a paper map of The Villages also costs about $5, what justifies the cost in my mind with this app is that it is customized to The Villages and can help you navigate this unique community in a way the free navigation apps aren’t designed to do.
Almost every app is going to have it’s hiccups, so you shouldn’t purchase this app and not expect to experience any issues. But for $5, and with the promise from The Villages GPS team to continue working and improving upon the app, I’d say its a bargain to have this tool in your arsenal for navigating The Villages.
Plus, as described above, The Villages GPS team makes themselves available to help you get the most out of the app in ways most app developers simply do not.