App Spotlight: Texas Time Travel Tours

7 Jul

Q&A with Susan Shore, Heritage Tourism Program Specialist at the Texas Historical Commission

Texas Time Travel Tours, the mobile app created by the Texas Historical Commission, is a true portrait of Texas. The app features over 550 sites, 170 of which are highlighted with audio and video. Currently there are seven statewide tours in the app and one site-specific tour for THC historic property Fulton Mansion. Points of interest cover the entire state, from Amarillo to Brownsville, to Texarkana to El Paso. The primary goal for the app is to inspire people to travel Texas and specifically historic sites, whether that is a historic fort or a downtown district.

Q. Why did the Texas Historical Commission decide to create an app?

A. 
Our team had been considering the development of a mobile app for some time. We traditionally have created travel guides in a print format, but not only is it quite expensive, it limits the content we can include. In addition to broadening our user demographic by introducing Texas history on a mobile device, we also wanted to broaden our storytelling capacity to drive visitation to communities across the state. The THC’s motto is “real places telling real stories”—what better way than to encourage travel to those places?

Q. What are the benefits for visitors to use the app?

A. Accessing the stories of Texas using the app allows the user to have information at the ready on their personal device, whether they are traveling to a location or simply viewing from the comfort of home. Once the full native app format is complete with individual tour download capability, users will have more complete access to points of interest in areas of the state that are quite remote and have limited cell/wifi connectivity.

As mentioned earlier, the app allows for rich visual storytelling with the inclusion of image galleries and video, something not possible using print formats.

We have lots of stories to tell! The app’s capacity to house multiple tours gives users access to all of it with just a click or a swipe. Users can also quickly know what places are close to them by using the Nearby map that shows points of interest for all tours.

Q.  How did the THC team go about planning such a large project?

A. Planning began about a year before the initial RFP was issued. We researched other apps for excellence in both storytelling and user experience, and developed a strong vision for our end product. While we had a long list of functions we would like to have in the app, we also realized that the costs of having a platform custom developed for our project probably didn’t meet the long term ROI. We found that already established platforms like the one offered by OnCell could meet our needs with some customization.

Q. Can you tell us a little about how the content was created for the tours?

A. Most of the initial tours built upon existing agency print guides or guides under development. These guides served as the foundational material to help define the scope of each tour. We established small groups of subject matter experts and advisory stakeholders to work with the staff development team. We contracted external vendors for scriptwriting and video production services.

Q. Can you tell us about your marketing strategy for the app?

A. Much of our publicity is tied to the THC’s social media channels–Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blog posts. Videos from all of the tours are included on our YouTube channel and descriptively tied to the app. This also makes it easier to embed in posts on other channels like Facebook. We experience very high engagement on Facebook when video stories are included in posts about the different tours on the app.

Launches for individual tours are tied to related external events when practical. For example, La Salle Odyssey launch corresponded to the opening of a new permanent installation of the reconstructed ship, La Belle, in a major museum. Hispanic Texas launched during National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Each tour provides many storytelling opportunities, and will make it easy for us to continue promotions throughout the year with little or no content repetition. All of these contain language that directs user to the full app experience.

Q. What advice would you give to other organizations who are looking to create an app?

A. Do your research and ask questions for both platform selection and content development. Keep your audience top-of-mind and be consistent in the style and quality of all elements of the project.

Texas Time Travel Tours features an immersive blend of interpretive audio with first person interviews, video, and image galleries that allows users to experience the real places and real stories of Texas. GPS features allow visitors to locate nearby points of interest and offers people an easy way to share content with social media. Explore the rich heritage of Texas by downloading the app, available for iOS in the App Store and Android in Google Play. Access the web app on any web-enabled device at http://texastimetravel.toursphere.com

App Spotlight: Cranbrook House and Gardens

2 Jun

Cranbrook House and Gardens smartphone app for iOS and Android

Q&A with Eric Franchy, Public Relations Coordinator at Cranbrook House and Gardens

Cranbook House and Gardens, located in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, is the oldest historic manor in metropolitan Detroit and serves as the centerpiece of the Cranbrook Educational Community campus, a National Historic Landmark. Formerly the estate of Ellen Scripps and newspaper mogul George Booth, Cranbrook is an English-Tudor house designed in the American Arts and Crafts style by famed Detroit architect Albert Kahn in 1908. The grounds of the house and gardens spans over 40 acres and sees over 5,000 visitors a year. The app provides an audio tour rich with historic imagery and introduces visitors to the history of Cranbrook prior to guiding them through the gardens.

Q. What was the main goal for creating an app for the Cranbrook House and Gardens?

A. 
The goal for providing an app was to enhance the visitor experience. Our initial idea was to take our garden tour into the virtual sphere and to help our guests navigate the property. Once we began working with the OnCell app builder we realized there was potential for us to create an all-inclusive app.

Q. You launched your app last year and put it on hold for the winter lull. Did you learn any lessons from the previous year and make any adjustments for your spring relaunch?

A. The native app wasn’t live until the end of summer last year; as such, we decided to use the remainder of our tour season last year as a soft-launch for testing purposes. As a result of testing we did make some edits to the app, such as slowing down the duration of our image gallery from light speed to one that allows the user to actually see each image! We changed the design of the app homepage this year to make it more visually inviting and mobile friendly, and also incorporated OnCell’s new ‘Favorites’ function.

Q. How has the app been received by visitors and colleagues?

A. Our app was just announced to the public in late-May, but so far it has been well received. I spoke with two guests yesterday who were visiting from out of state, they told me they were in front of one of our sculptures and wanted to know more about it, so they opened the app and found exactly what they were looking for. The beta team of members and colleagues that helped us test the app during the soft-launch last year were really impressed with the app and all of its features.

A visitor uses the Cranbrook House and Gardens mobile app

Standing above the reflecting pool, a visitor uses the Cranbrook House and Gardens mobile app to tour the gardens.

Q. How does your organization promote the app and encourage its use?

A. We promote the app and encourage its use through a press release announcement to media, email announcement to the public, inclusion on our website, social media postings, onsite signage, inclusion in our Visitor Guide & Map brochures, and informational rack cards.

Q. The app looks great–nicely curated with both modern and archival images along with wayfinding info. How long did it take your team to gather the content and publish your app?

A. Thank you! It took us about two months of researching archival databases, scripts, and other information to gather the tour content, and another one to two months to design the app. The biggest challenge was trimming all of the content gathered into an amount acceptable for display on a mobile device; Cranbrook has such a rich history!

Q. Do you have advice for other orgs that may be interested in developing an app?

A. Have fun with it, be creative, and think about how you want the app to be structured before you begin building pages.

Q. What are the next steps in your organization’s visitor engagement strategy?

A. We plan to continue to find creative ways for the app to improve visitor engagement. In addition to the app tours, we may add one or a few scavenger hunts of varying difficulty. New technologies such as push notifications that could give us the possibility of alerting users of what’s in bloom each week are currently being explored as well.

The Cranbrook House and Gardens smartphone app features interpretive audio, video, and image galleries, along with an interactive map and visitor info such as events and admission. It is available for download on iOS in the App Store and Android in Google Play. Access the web app on any web-enabled device at http://cranbrookhouseandgardens.toursphere.com

We’re featured in the Democrat & Chronicle!

11 May

OnCell was recently profiled in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s Small Business Spotlight. Hear about our origin story and a few things about our founders you may not know about!

You can find the the article here.

OnCell Announces Strong Growth in First Quarter Fiscal 2016

29 Apr

Native apps, advanced features with premier support drive revenue growth

PITTSFORD, N.Y., April 29, 2016–OnCell, a leader in the mobile tour segment for museums and all cultural destinations, today announced dramatic growth for its first fiscal quarter, ending March 31, 2016. The company ended its first quarter with a revenue increase of 53% versus the same period in 2015.

The current 16 employee team has delivered OnCell’s highest quarter ever since initiating sales activities in 2007.

OnCell has dramatically increased its product offerings over the past year, including the ability to implement proximity beacons and push notifications with their native app packages. Native app sales units are also up over 200% versus last year.

“I’m very pleased with our first quarter performance, which exceeded our expectations and reflected our most significant progress to date,” said Thomas Dunne, OnCell President and CEO. “I attribute our success and evolution to our amazing team, which focuses on developing and delivering best in class value and service to our clients.”

With a net promoter score of 53, OnCell has made a strong name for itself among competitors and maintains a high client retention rate. “We are constantly evaluating client feedback to deliver a consistent product that grows with the needs of our market,” said Dunne.

OnCell’s celebrates its longevity in this field with its 10th anniversary this year.

Start the New Year With an All-Inclusive Beacon Tour

11 Jan

beacon tours and native apps for museums, parks, and cities

For a limited time, purchase our native iOS and Android app bundle with 10 beacons and save up to 20%. Choose from our Pro, Lite, or Audio Guide products. Your beacons ship pre-configured and ready to install with no additional set-up fees.

Location aware beacons use low-energy Bluetooth to ensure your visitors receive the most relevant content based on their precise location. They are great to implement in locations that struggle with connectivity. Learn more about the benefits of deploying beacon technology on our website.

Limited time offer expires 3/31/16.

Contact us today to learn more or explore our products.

OnCell Announces New Chief Technologist

14 Dec

Technology Veteran Kevin Grinberg Selected to Lead Company’s Engineering Strategy

PITTSFORD, N.Y., December 14, 2015–OnCell, a leader in the mobile technology space for museums, parks, and cultural destinations, today announced the appointment of Kevin Grinberg to the role of Chief Technologist. Grinberg will be responsible for the company’s technology strategy, engineering, and quality assurance operations as well as product research and development.

Grinberg is a seasoned technology leader with 20 years of application development experience. He’s successfully delivered numerous consumer- and enterprise-facing projects on platforms and has founded half a dozen startups. He graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University and holds a BA in Computer Science as well as an MA in Politics.

OnCell acquired Boston-based TourSphere, the first of its kind mobile app builder for museums, in 2013. Grinberg served as lead developer for TourSphere and ensured its technology was focused on client needs and a seamless user experience.

“Kevin is a true technologist with extraordinary vision and expertise within SaaS-based (Software-as-a-Service) platforms,” says Thomas Dunne, OnCell CEO and President. “I am thrilled to welcome Kevin to OnCell and back to our core product, which he helped to develop.”

The New York-based company works closely with museums and cultural destinations to develop audio tours and apps with their easy-to-use content management system, which allows organizations to upload media content, create points of interest, and output mobile tours. Visitors are given instant access to educational content through their mobile devices.

“Innovation is a key element of our strategy and Kevin’s combination of skills, experience, and passion brings a unique perspective to the role of Chief Technologist,” says Dunne.

OnCell technology has powered millions of mobile tours for the National Park Service, US Forest Service, museums, and historic sites.

About OnCell

OnCell provides a full range of mobile tour solutions integrated onto a single platform, a DIY app builder. With a variety of interactive services such as native and web apps, audio tours, beacons, mobile surveys, and scavenger hunts, OnCell helps cultural sites and organizations become mobile-friendly. As mobile communication experts who are passionate about the arts and education, the OnCell team has worked on over 2,000 projects both in the U.S. and internationally since its inception in 2006.

Contact:
Monica Barndt
Director of Marketing
OnCell
mbarndt@oncell.com

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New Feature Release: Favorites Smart Page

23 Nov

Museum and Event mobile app builder favorite sites pageYou asked and you got it! The ability to collect favorite pages in an app and to build a schedule of events is now available in the OnCell App Builder.

When you enable this functionality in your app, your visitor will see a heart icon at the top of every page in your app. The visitor taps the heart icon to add the page to their favorites list. Additionally, any page in your app can be assigned a time and date stamp, so visitors can create an easy-to-read schedule of events they are interested in at your venue.

The visitor can access all of their favorited pages by tapping the “Favorites” button found in the main navigation. Favorited pages will sort alphabetically or chronologically if a date has been set.

Our Favorites Smart Page complements any type of app, be it a tour app to collect stops that visitors would like to see, an event app to build a schedule, or a destination marketing app to save must-visit places in a city.

Explore some of the apps who have implemented favorites into their app. The Virginia Association of Museums allows conference attendees to build their own schedule, while the Cranbrook House and Gardens allows visitors to collect favorite stops on their tour.

Our new Favorites Smart Page is available in Pro plans. Contact us to learn more or to upgrade your existing plan.

Currier Museum of Art Wins Accessibility Award for Audio Tour

22 Jul

currier-appThe Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire, was honored with a 2015 Access Award by the New Hampshire Association for the Blind for outstanding accomplishments in accessibility for people with disabilities. The Currier worked closely with the New Hampshire Association for the Blind to launch a mobile tour of collection highlights that includes audio with detailed visual descriptions.

“The Currier is committed to providing opportunities for all to enjoy art, and that means designing experiences that are accessible to people with disabilities,” said Leah Fox, Director of Public Programs.

The app also contains audio interpretation with transcriptions for each piece. Additionally, to help meet their accessibility goals, the Currier is fully wheelchair accessible, wall text is designed in large print, and assistive listening systems are available.

Visit the audio tour app at http://currier.toursphere.com to see how The Currier used mobile to help make art accessible to all.

 

OnCell and TourSphere Launch New Merged Website

18 Jun

As part of the final stage of the merger between OnCell and TourSphere, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of our new website. Access your projects and learn about the latest features from one fancy, unified site. Take a moment to take the tour!

New-OnCell-TourSphere-Website-Home-Page

 

Frontier Homestead State Park Launches TourSphere Mobile Tour

12 May Tour Stop Sign

Self-Guided Tour Offers Visitors Detailed History of Museum and Collections

Tour Stop Sign

Visitors can take a self-guided tour at Frontier Homestead State Park powered by OnCell-TourSphere.

Cedar City, UT – Frontier Homestead State Park Museum is excited to announce it has launched a new mobile tour app. The new cell phone audio tour allows park visitors access to significantly more information about artifacts and exhibits, all through their mobile devices. With almost 60 stops, visitors can enjoy little known historic details and personal reflections of yesteryear. Not only does the tour encourage visitors to explore the park at their leisure, it also allows them to take away what they have learned by providing access to the tour long after their visit.

Opened in 1973, Frontier Homestead State Park Museum interprets the history of Iron County, horse-drawn transportation, and early iron production. Attractions include the main carriage gallery, pioneer crafts, gift shop, and historic cabins.

Comprised of 27 stops inside the museum and 33 stops on the park grounds, the tour offers a glimpse into the history of Iron County, including rare wagons and carriages, historic buildings, and the realities of life on the frontier.

“We wanted to tell the story of each of the stops within the Park and Museum by looking deeper into the history of a particular topic than traditional signage alone would allow,” says Todd Prince, Park Manager. “The tour is an excellent opportunity to provide historic background, add intriguing details, and tell the special stories that make each stop memorable.”

Powered by technology provided by New York-based OnCell-TourSphere, a leader in the mobile space for cultural destinations, the Park intends to include additional tour stops as new exhibits are developed in the coming years. Development of the tour is made possible by support of the Cedar City–Brian Head Tourism Bureau.

The mobile tour can be accessed on any web-enabled device at http://frontierhomestead.toursphere.com, or by dialing (435) 868-3043. For more information call 435-586-9290. Frontier Homestead State Park is located at 635 North Main Street in Cedar City, Utah.

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About Frontier Homestead State Park

Frontier Homestead State Park Museum (FHSP) interprets the history of Iron County, Utah, horse-drawn transportation, and early iron production. Attractions include a main exhibit hall, pioneer crafts, gift shop, and historic cabins. The Park hosts various educational programs including community celebrations, public lectures, living history demonstrations, curation workshops, and volunteer programs. The north wing exhibit hall receives new exhibits every 6-8 weeks. The Museum is open year-round with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Hours are Monday-Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. September through May, and Monday-Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. June-August. For more information, contact the Park at (435) 586-9290, or by email at frontierhomestead@utah.gov

About OnCell-TourSphere

OnCell-TourSphere provides a full range of mobile tour solutions for museums and cultural destinations. With a variety of interactive services such as a DIY app builder, smartphone apps, mobile web apps, audio tours, GeoAlerts, beacons, and scavenger hunts, OnCell-TourSphere helps organizations become mobile-friendly. As mobile communication experts who are passionate about the arts and education, the OnCell-TourSphere team has worked on over 2,000 projects both in the U.S. and internationally since its inception in 2006.

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