Tag Archives: custom design

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: The Noah Webster House

30 Mar

Noah-Webster-App-HomeQ&A with Sarah St. Germain, Coordinator of Public Programs at the Noah Webster House

The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society is located in the restored birthplace and childhood home of Noah Webster. Webster was a national figure known not only for the first American dictionary and the Blue-Backed Speller, but also for being a federalist, an abolitionist, and a cofounder of Amherst College.

Our team worked closely with the Noah Webster House to create a unique custom design and help build a striking multilingual app. The app was designed especially for onsite tablet devices. It features English and Spanish tours, unique content for children, and closed captioned videos to better meet their accessibility goals.

Q. How many visitors do you see a year?

A. Around 4,000 visitors take tours of the house each year.

Q. What were the main goals for creating your app?

A. We wanted to extend our audience and reach out to the deaf, hard of hearing, and Spanish speaking communities. West Hartford, Connecticut is a highly diverse town and we want to be able to offer an experience that just about anyone can enjoy. We would like to expand the tour to other languages in the future.

Noah-Webster-App-RoomQ. How does it enhance the visitor experience?

A. The videos, object information, and narration give a completely different story than we’ve told in the past. It includes videos of an actor playing Noah Webster and using his words to tell the story of his life. Each one is only a couple of minutes long. We also included videos of local experts talking about and demonstrating a variety of things. Hearth cooking, weaving, architecture, room use, etc. And with the videos for kids, by kids, there’s something for every age group. Visitors love to see the kids react to eating colonial foods that are weird to kids now, like black pudding and clams.

Q. How are you using the app?

A. We’re using the app on days when we don’t have a tour guide.

Q. How are onsite devices used in your mobile strategy?

A. We only have four tablets available now, but we’re hoping to add more soon. Each tablet is loaded with the proprietary app and can be used by one or more visitors.

Q. Why did you choose to have onsite devices only, and not a web or native app for download in the app stores?

A. Since the app covers the entire house, we decided not to give away our tour completely. We still want people to come to our site to see the historic house and interact with it and our exhibits. We are planning to post some of the videos and highlights on our website at some point.

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

A. It was a lot of trial and error because we had a ton of information and each room narration was originally about 7 minutes. But visitors don’t want to listen to something for that long, so we found different ways to share the info, like the videos, object information, and the paintings.

Q. How did you plan the app?

A. We did a survey in 2011 about how people like to tour a museum. Half wanted a guided tour, while the other half wanted a self-guided tour. We can now cater to just about everyone.

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

A. Get funding first! It was a tough road to get planning grants, then have to apply and reapply for implementation grants. The funding was definitely why it took so long to finalize the app. If you can layout your entire plan first and talk to the funders along the way, it will save you a lot of time. In the end, the changes we made along the way have made our tour stronger and more applicable to our site.

Q. How are you marketing the app?

A. We’ve sent out press releases and emails, but we also have an exhibit space in Blue Back Square in West Hartford Center. It’s a changing screen that includes info on upcoming programs and events. We have the tablet tour in the mix, so hundreds of people see it every day.

Q. What part of the app is a staff favorite?

A. We LOVE the art! Monica Vachula, the artist behind the imagery, did an amazing job at giving the historic house a more lively look. You can see the room in front of you, then look at the tablet and see what the room might have looked like with the Websters in it. There is a painting for each room, so it’s hard to choose a favorite.

Noah-Webster-House-Tour-Object

 

Though the Noah Webster House tour is not available for download, visit www.noahwebsterhouse.org to learn more about the lexicographer who strongly believed that the United States had a distinctive brand of English with its own idiom, pronunciation, and style, and published the first truly American dictionary in 1783.

Saratoga National Historic Park and OnCell-TourSphere Partner to Revamp Mobile App

26 Feb

Redesigned Self-Guided Tour App Offers Visitors Elegant, User-Friendly Experience

OnCell-TourSphere NPS Saratoga National Historic Park Tour App

STILLWATER, N.Y., February 25, 2015–Saratoga National Historic Park has partnered with OnCell-TourSphere to launch their newly redesigned mobile tour app. The two worked closely together to create a custom branded app to achieve the iconic National Park Service look and meet their strict design standards. The self-guided audio tour serves to educate visitors and armchair travelers alike about the pivotal 1777 Battles of Saratoga during the American Revolutionary War.

Saratoga National Historic Park originally launched their first audio tour with OnCell-TourSphere in 2007–a cell phone tour where visitors dialed a phone number to listen to audio content. The tour has been transformed into a unique app in order to offer a clean, user-friendly experience for visitors and to better meet the park’s interpretive goals while providing consistent NPS branding.

“Feedback from visitors using the basic cell tour were always very positive–I can only imagine they will be even more pleased with this new incarnation of the tour” says says Gina Johnson, Chief of Interpretation at Saratoga National Historic Park. “The new app offers a fabulous opportunity to tell our story and a new way for visitors to enjoy the park.”

The app features engaging content for over 30 points of interest, including images and an audio tour of the battlefield created by the Friends of Saratoga Battlefield. Visitors can also listen to the new Wilkinson Trail Hiking Tour, an immersive soundscape with two distinct tours, one for adults and a student-narrated one for children. The Wilkinson Trail tours were created by Park Rangers, volunteers, and interns. Visitors can discover points of interest with location aware alerts and GPS-enabled maps.

Built with OnCell-TourSphere’s flexible app-building platform, the site intends to add more stories and additional park visitor information to the app over time. The mobile web app can be accessed on any web-enabled device at: http://sara.toursphere.com

About Saratoga National Historic Park
Saratoga National Historic Park preserves the site of the 1777 Battles of Saratoga, the “Turning Point of the American Revolution,” which have been called the “most important battle(s) in the last 1000 years.” Located on pastoral bluffs above the Hudson River, the two hotly contested battles fought against the British here ended in an American victory that made independence possible and spread the powerful ideas of democracy throughout the world. First authorized as a New York State historic preserve in 1927, the Battlefield was later made part of the National Park System in 1938.

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, 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.

Media Contacts:
Monica Barndt, OnCell-TourSphere, (585) 419-9844
Gina Johnson, NPS Saratoga National Historic Park, (563) 652-5020

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App Spotlight: Newport Historical Society Native Apps

5 Sep

Q&A with Stacie Parillo, Head of Collections and Manager of Digital Initiatives at Newport Historical Society

Newport App Splash ScreenThe Newport Historical Society originally launched their web app in November of 2012. TourSphere worked closely with the NHS team to develop a custom theme and build an app that launched a historic properties tour with over 40 sites. They have continued to grow their app over time to include special digital exhibitions of unique treasures from their collection, tours by theme, and additional points of interest that include the famed Newport Cliff Walk. The NHS has broadened the accessibility of their app by releasing both a native iOS and Android app.

Q. Can you say a few words about the success of the app?

A. The app represents an exciting new way for the public to access historical content that the NHS has generated, as well as raises local awareness of Newport’s historic significance by providing pride of place for residents. The app replaces the need for museum-loaned devices as visitors can access Explore Historic Newport from their own personal devices. A supplement to our guided tours, users of the app can curate their own experience of historic Newport, from anywhere in the world, any time of day or night. The history of Newport is now accessible in a way that it never was before.

Q. Why did you decide to create new native apps in addition to the web app?

A. We discovered that many people do not know how to use or are not very familiar with technology and many smartphone users are accustomed to going to either the App Store or Google Play to search for and download an app. The native apps were created to help those that were unfamiliar with the concept of a web app to still be able to access the content via the app stores – many smartphone users instinctively jump to the native stores when they think of mobile apps, so we wanted to work with that behavior.

Q. How do the native apps fit into your interpretive goals?

A.  The native apps will increase exposure and access, which will allow the app to do what we hoped from the onset – put Newport history in the palms of peoples’ hands.

Q. Do you have any new content that people familiar with the app may not know about?

A. Because the app is so flexible and accommodating, it is also infinitely expandable. A newer addition to the app is the integration of NHS exhibit content, allowing visitors to learn more about collections items on exhibit as well as the opportunity to virtually visit the exhibit. We have also started generating born-digital exhibits curated by interns that highlight their subject expertise and our collections. Historic sites continue to be added on a routine basis, and soon to be added are oral histories, video, and more exhibit content.

Q. How do you like working with the team at TourSphere and the App Builder?

A. We’ve had a very positive experience building the app with TourSphere – the team has been very responsive to our questions and concerns and have been quick to help us solve any issues that arise. The interface of the CMS is very intuitive, and has been able to be used by several staff members with little training, making it very easy and convenient to continually add content. It was important to us to make the app dynamic and current. We did not see this as a project that would ever be completed. The app would continually grow, never getting stagnant and TourSphere’s CMS allows us to do just that.

Download the native iOS and Android apps to take a tour through historic Newport, RI.

app-availability-appstore

Available on Google Play

App Spotlight: Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Area

16 Apr

March-14-Blog-smartphone-NFUR-homeThe Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Area celebrates and preserves the wealth of places and stories associated with the Underground Railroad found within the City of Niagara Falls and the surrounding region. During the 1800s the city was an established border crossing and served a critical role in the Underground Railroad by providing safe passage of slaves into Canada via ferry and the Suspension Bridge. Within the region there was an active network of Abolitionists and anti-slavery activists that helped provide money, food, and shelter to fugitive slaves, in addition to providing jobs and education to African Americans.

OnCell-TourSphere worked closely with the Heritage Area Committee and Environmental Design & Research, a landscape and environmental design consulting firm, to create a custom designed tour app that details the many historic sites across the region. The app consists of both a walking and driving tour, which overlap across multiple sites. The app offers interpretation via detailed history and historic imagery, and includes an interactive map which marks the tour routes.

Scan the QR code to tour the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage app or visit: http://niagarafallsundergroundrailroad.toursphere.com

Scan the QR code to tour the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage app or visit:
http://niagarafallsundergroundrailroad.toursphere.com

App Spotlight: The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway

7 Oct

History Comes to Life

Before Emanicipation, enslaved people depended on a secret network of men and women to lead them to freedom: the Underground Railroad.
Harriet Tubman Byway App

Courageous women like Harriet Tubman secured slaves’ safe passage along the Underground Railroad, as the network came to be known. Reading about the Railroad in history books, it’s hard to imagine the breadth and depth of the slaves’ journey and obstacles they faced along the way.

But thanks to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, today it’s possible to revisit the geographic route that Tubman took to ultimately bring dozens of enslaved people to freedom. The Byway is a scenic 125-mile route that runs along the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. With more than two-dozen historical sites of interest, it weaves through a beautiful landscape that has been virtually unaltered for over a century.

But how do you know where to go? Enter the excursion app created by TourSphere. Whether you have two days or two hours to explore the Byway, this app has everything necessary to plan and execute a trip—including an overview of the driving tour, contact info for the organization, and an interactive map detailing the route.

Not only can users locate all the points of interest on the tour, they can also have a totally interactive experience using the GPS and written directions to guide them along their way

This audio tour app is a powerful storytelling tool, complete with beautifully scripted narration with a wide cast of characters and perspectives. Users can start the audio tour from the beginning, or jump ahead to sites of particular interest.

The app is currently available as a web app—all that is required is connectivity and a browser—and in the iTunes app store. Keep your eyes peeled for the Android version.

To view the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway app, visit http://tubman.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway app, visit http://tubman.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

App Spotlight: Embassy of Ecuador

11 Mar

embassyecuador

Introducing the first embassy app of its kind!

The TourSphere team worked with the Ecuadorian Embassy to create a beautiful app that shows off the amazing beauty and richness of this South American country. The app is created with two users in mind: 1) Ecuadorian citizens traveling in the US, and 2) US citizens interested in traveling to Ecuador.

The app includes helpful consular information, tutorial videos, and contact information for the Embassy as well as Ecuadorian consulates in the US.  If you have ever wanted to travel to Ecuador or just want to learn more about the country, check it out!

To view the app, visit http://ecuador.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the app, visit http://ecuador.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

Murder Goes Mobile at the Met!

11 May

Murder at the Met

What do Madame X, a murder, and a mobile phone have in common? They are all part of Murder at the Museum: An American Art Mystery, the first mobile detective game created by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The app was built on TourSphere and produced by Green Door Labs.

Through the smartphone app, Met visitors are transported back in time to 1899, where they are attending an evening gala and are shocked to learn of the murder of Virginie Gautreau–who has since been immortalized in the painting Madame X by John Singer Sargent. Thanks to the app, every visitor becomes a detective, using their smartphones to explore museum objects and interview suspects and witnesses to unearth the killer, his or her weapon, the place of the murder, and the killer’s motive.

This game is built 100% on the TourSphere mobile app builder platform and is an amazing example of the flexibility and power of the TourSphere mobile platform.  Thanks to TourSphere, the Met was able to create one murder mystery game that works on all smartphone platforms, instead of  developing individual apps for the iPhone®, Android®, and Windows®.

For more visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Official site.

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