Press Release - August 2019
A better Fringe for everyone!
An interview with Maddie Henson, one of the team behind the Plan My Fringe app.
Q: What is Plan My Fringe?
A: It is a free app that helps visitors to the Edinburgh Fringe to see all the shows they want to see by helping them squeeze more shows into their visit. This of course also benefits performers and everyone connected with the Fringe, as it increases the number of bums on seats!
Q: What does Plan My Fringe do that other apps don’t?
A: Plan My Fringe is the first app that does all of the leg work of organising a trip to the Edinburgh Fringe. When we first went to the Fringe we were intimidated by the scale of it and we realised that we needed something that did all of the scheduling for us. So we designed Plan My Fringe to do just that! Users just enter the dates they are in Edinburgh, shows they want to see and they then just press a button and the app does the rest! A full schedule is produced, making sure they don’t miss their favourites.
The other feature unique to Plan My Fringe is the recommendations. In this case people don’t even need to choose a complete list of shows, the app suggests shows for them based on the shows they have selected and any key words. We introduced this purely because people asked us to as they couldn’t find anything else that does this.
You’ve only got to go on Twitter to see the number of people asking for recommendations as they find the scale of the Fringe overwhelming.
Q: Do you follow the schedule produced by your own app?
A: Of course! But we also allow room for spontaneity. We always recommend that people try and leave some room in their schedule for any shows they hear about whilst at the Fringe.
Q: What is your favourite part of the app?
A: It’s a bit of a show-off feature we introduced, but when you click on any day in your Fringe Schedule, as well as seeing your Fringe day plotted out for you on a map of Edinburgh, the app will fly around to each show venue highlighting each one in turn. It really looks quite cool!
Q: What is your biggest challenge the Plan My Fringe team have encountered?
A: Getting people to understand and appreciate what it can do for them. A lot of people “get it” straight away, and use Plan My Fringe to its full potential immediately. But there are still a lot of people who would benefit greatly from it, but can’t quite see what the app can do for them. We are improving our help screens and even introducing videos to help people, and we hope this interview will also help raise awareness. All we are interested in is helping people to have the best Fringe possible and we want people to understand what we can do for them.
Q: How did Plan My Fringe come about?
A: It started from our own needs when I met my partner (now husband) Mark in 2008, and took him to the Fringe a year later. There were so many shows we wanted to see, and we only had a limited time in Edinburgh, so Mark developed a clever spreadsheet that did most of the work for us and squeezed in loads of shows. We thought that someone else would come up with an app that would do this for us, but after visiting again in 2012 and 2016 we found nobody had, and we were still relying on our spreadsheets! We had just set up our own IT company, so we wrote the first proper “Plan My Fringe” app ahead of the 2017 Fringe, and used it successfully throughout.
Q: When did Plan My Fringe start to take off?
A: We had some moderate success in our first year, but people didn’t really notice the app until after the 2018 Fringe had started. We introduced some new features towards the start of the Fringe and suddenly saw our app being used more and more. Every day we saw our downloads and user count increasing, as word spread and more and more people used the app. And this year we started early and have just seen our user base grow and grow! We celebrated our 10,000th iPhone download before the 2019 Fringe had even started.
Q: How are you finding the success of Plan My Fringe?
A: Really exciting! I’ve always loved the Fringe since my first visit in 2007, and always wanted to be part of the Fringe scene. I would have loved to be a performer in the Fringe but haven’t got the incredible talent that most of the Fringe performers have. So being able to help visitors make the most of their Fringe is a wonderful feeling, and the appreciation we get from other performers for what we are trying to achieve is very heart-warming. My favourite example from this year is someone put on Twitter, “let’s see your spreadsheets people” and one of our biggest fans simply said “I’ve had mine done for a month thanks to Plan My Fringe”.
Q: Are all Fringe visitors aware of Plan My Fringe?
A: Definitely not! The number of people using the app is growing all the time, and for people who simply want to see a small number of spontaneous shows a day our app is no better or worse than any other Fringe app. But we see or hear about so many people who are using spreadsheets, maps, lots of paper, lots of time and a huge amount of trial and error to create their perfect schedule when our app can do it all for them quickly for free!
Q: Why do you keep improving Plan My Fringe?
A: For the love of it, and professional pride to make all our apps as good as possible. We make no money from Plan My Fringe at all. My husband is a very talented programmer and projects like the algorithms behind Plan My Fringe are just up his street, and we now have a small team of excellent programmers. We love the feedback we get and so many people have called our app “amazing” or something similar. It also helps prove what our company are capable of to clients, which gives us an excuse to spend time and money on it!
Q: What do you hope to achieve with Plan My Fringe?
A: We just want more and more people to use it! If we can find a sponsor to make it financially sustaining, or even to just pay for our Fringe visit, that would be a bonus! But at the moment we just do it for the love of the Fringe and helping anyone connected with it.
Q. Where do you see Plan My Fringe in a year’s time?
A: We would love to become an established part of the Fringe scene. In an absolutely ideal world we could work more closely with the Fringe organisers to help more people and who knows - even reach 20,000 downloads!
We are also looking at developing a new front end design which we are looking to roll out for next year’s Fringe.
Q. Are you open to suggestions regarding Plan My Fringe?
A: Absolutely! Plan My Fringe has always been about helping people so we will always do our best to accommodate what our users ask for. As long as it obeys our strict rule of not favouring any one show over another we will do our best to include any new features.
Note to Editors:
First introduced in 2017, Plan My Fringe is a web-site https://www.planmyfringe.co.uk and linked iPhone/iPad and Android mobile app. It allows users to easily create schedules based on shows they want to see. The iPhone/iPad app recently had its 10,000th download.
Plan My Fringe is written by Henson IT Solutions, a Croydon-based company that provides mobile and web IT solutions to companies and individuals. https://www.hensonitsolutions.co.uk