A personal guide to all the neat places around the country

University of Canterbury graduate Marcia Butterfield earlier this week released an app that lists the best cafes, bars, restaurants, shops and events within Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Neat Places, which firstly began through its website, has gained a strong following within the Christchurch area as it’s become a guide that showcases the city’s lesser-known establishments. 

More recently the app has become a nationwide success, Butterfield says she had no intention of the app gaining such success but is excited and looks forward to what the future will hold. 

“I started Neat Places at the end of 2010 when people were always telling me there was hardly anything to do within Christchurch, so it became a personal project for me at first.

I’ve always liked the concept of city guides and once heaps of businesses started to open up within the area post the earthquakes, the website was developed”. 

Despite the websites initial success, it only catered to Christchurch based businesses and places, but now also focus on other main centres of New Zealand, such as Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin.

“It’s the people, places and events that makes these places unique, rather than profiling a corner dairy or fish and chips shop, we’re showcasing businesses that are doing things a bit differently.  These are the places people should know about but don’t”. 

Butterfield found that although the website was a first in offering curated selections of the best places to visit.

Now with a specially designed ‘Neat Places’ app users from all over the country are able to know about the best places for food, fashion, nightlife, arts and culture and lifestyle, even without Internet access, a concept that is set to be increasingly popular over the summer. 

The app now has over 500 places and businesses already listed and the numbers are steadily growing. 

Future plans will include stretching accessibility over to international tourists and working with travel agencies to encourage people to use the app. 

“I really want to promote places and businesses within the South Island, not just by tapping into the tourist market but also for locals”.    

From early next year I will start targeting cool little places that people don’t generally think of such as Timaru or Omaru, all of those hidden gems in our beautiful country”.   

Aside from the website and applications increasingly appealing design, it has had more than 1000 downloads in the space of a week, but there have also been some challenges along the way including location search issues during the development stage. 

“You don’t know what your trying to achieve until you have it in your hands, then once its done you stop and say to yourself, no this is what I want to achieve and this is what needs to change. We’re always looking to see how we can go about fixing certain issues or progressing different concepts,” says Butterfield. 

Among future ideas Neat Places intend to include Auckland in their printed guides that already include Christchurch and Wellington.  These new guides are set to be released in February 2015, as well as a deal section on the website and app. 

“We want to make our offers a lot more exclusive, a one off offer, as in you go to an event and your only access would be to have the app downloaded”. 

At the moment it is free for businesses to be on the website, but from February next year they have the opportunity to upgrade to a premium listing. This includes better searches, having control over adverts placed next to their listing as well as getting a listing on the app for $24.99, where an event section will be dedicated to paying businesses.