Tag Archives: Web Apps

App Spotlight: Cornerstone Sonoma

12 Sep

Self-Guided Tour Allows Visitors to Explore Gardens, Art, & Shops at Cornerstone Sonoma

Cornerstone Sonoma Mobile App

Cornerstone Sonoma is a wine country marketplace featuring a world-class shopping, boutique wineries and tasting rooms, artisanal foods, art-inspired gardens, and is home to Sunset’s Gardens + Outdoor Test Kitchen. Located at the gateway of Sonoma and Napa County in California’s beautiful Wine Country, Cornerstone is a premiere destination to shop, sip, eat, play and explore.

A major attraction for visitors are the Cornerstone Gardens–an ever-changing series of gardens, showcasing innovative designs from international and local landscape architects and designers. In an effort to enhance the experience for garden visitors, Cornerstone Sonoma has released a mobile app that provides multiple in-depth tours. Featuring an audio guide, images, and many interactive options, this app was designed to complement an onsite visit with both educational and visitor information, such as a guide to the unique shops and galleries.

Along with the narrative, videos, and images, which were produced in-house, the app also includes an interactive map that allows visitors to chose a specific location and stop number. The app provides provides a self-guided tour option, giving visitors the flexibility to explore the area at their own pace with their personal devices.

Cornerstone Sonoma used OnCell’s app building service, QuickStart, to create the app.

The app is available for download in both the App Store and Google Play.

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

App Spotlight: The McCormick Foundation’s Cantigny Park

25 Mar

Q&A with Diane Gutenkauf, Director of the Robert R. McCormick Museum

Cantigny Park is the former estate of Colonel Robert R. McCormick, longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. Covering an expansive 500-acres in Wheaton, Illinois, the Colonel left his estate as a gift to the public upon his death in 1955. The park is home to 30 acres of spectacular gardens, the Robert R. McCormick Museum, the First Division Museum, and a 27-hole championship golf course–all of which are part of the Chicago-based McCormick Foundation. Cantigny Park created their first audio tour with OnCell in the spring of 2010 and have recently relaunched it as a multilingual tour app built with our new app builder.

Q. How many visitors do you see a year?

A. Cantigny Park welcomed more than 363,000 visitors in 2014.

Q. What was the main goal for creating your app?

A. Our grounds are vast, so we wanted to give our visitors a self-guided tool to answer a variety of questions about things they encounter here. Our stops include background information on the gardens, historic site information, historic images, seasonal images, and audio.

Q. How does the app enhance the visitor experience?

A. Visitors can learn more about specific points of interest on our property right on the spot. For example, visitors to the rose garden can see an image of the Chicago Peace Rose, a flower discovered in our gardens, even if the plant is not blooming. While walking through the Idea Garden they can listen to tips on how to attract butterflies to their own gardens.

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

A. Our initial project in 2010 was a simple cell phone tour. We assembled a staff team to decide on initial stops and provide background information to the person chosen to write initial content. Members of each department edited stops related to their areas. We recorded audio in house. Our goal was to keep each stop to under 125 words, although some go as long as 150. This tended to keep the audio to under 1 minute.

With the migration to the new builder, we’ve taken the opportunity to edit some tour stops we thought weren’t working well. Our Client Account Manager at OnCell let us know what percent of a stop most visitors listened to so we knew if most people listened all the way through or not. Longer stops were shortened and we re-recorded the audio. We added a few photos to the OnCell tour and made plans to translate the audio to Spanish. We just finished uploading new Spanish audio and text and are still translating photo captions.

Q. What advice would you give to other organizations who are looking to create a tour?

A. Start by making a logic map of your tour stops. Our stops don’t follow a linear map of our site because we’re an outdoor site where visitors may choose many different paths. Instead we created links between stops of similar content hoping this encourages visitors to seek out other spots on our grounds. While the stops may be located in different areas, we hope this encourages visitors to explore other spaces.

Q. What benefits do you see from migrating your tour to the TourSphere platform?

A. The new platform is very easy to use and allows us to add photo captions, create easy links to other stops, and it was pretty straightforward to offer a Spanish version of our tour.

 

Cantingy Park Mobile Tour

The Cantingy Park mobile tour app can be accessed on any web-enabled device at http://cantignypark.toursphere.com or scan the QR code

App Spotlight: Geneva Historical Society

22 Mar

Q&A with Kerry Lippincott, Executive Director at the Geneva Historical Society

Founded in 1883, the Geneva Historical Society preserves and tells the stories of Geneva, New York through three historic house museums–the Geneva History Museum at the Prouty-Chew House, Rose Hill Mansion, and Johnston House. They launched their first cell phone tour with OnCell in early 2014 and have recently migrated their tour over to our new app builder.

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

A. We had two main goals for the app. First, our mission is to preserve and share Geneva’s stories and the app provides us with another tool to share those stories, including the historic photographs from our collection. Second, the app makes it easy and convenient for visitors to explore Geneva–whether its during their visit or after, the app gives them instant access to the tour’s content.

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

A. The biggest benefit is the map which allows visitors to navigate around the city. Also, the simple convenience of it–listen, read, or do both; go at your own speed; pick and choose what stops; the ability to return as many times as you want.

Q. What do you see as the biggest benefit of having a tour?

A. It takes the historical society out of the building and into the streets. It’s like having your own personal curator or tour guide–everything is right there in your pocket!

Q. What advice would you give to other organizations who are looking to create a tour?

A. It’s all about the story. Find the places and people that make your location unique and share those stories. Yet, you don’t want to overwhelm visitors, so keep the stories short and simple. Also, if you are an organization with an extensive photo collection, the tour is a great way to share it.

Q. What benefits do you see from migrating your tour to the new platform?

A. The ability to provide more content for the visitor and information about the Geneva Historical Society. Hopefully the tour will pique visitors’ interest in Geneva and its history so they will visit our museums and make return visits to our town.

Q. How did you like working with the app builder?

A. So far so good.  For a non-techie like me, its been easy to use.

Q. Can users expect to see any new content in the upcoming year?

A. For right now we are keeping things simple, so those that are already familiar with our tour can expect to see new photographs with this re-launch. Down the road, the plan is to add some additional stops and perhaps more content through sub-pages. We also intend to customize it more with a calendar of events and implement the social media features available to us in the builder.

Geneva Historical Tour App

The Geneva Historical Society mobile tour app can be accessed on any web-enabled device at http://genevahistory.toursphere.com
or scan the QR code.

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

# # #

$49 Do-It-Yourself Audio Guides For Museums, Parks, & Cultural Destinations

24 Feb

OnCell-TourSphere Launches New Product to Help All Organizations Go Mobile

PITTSFORD, N.Y., February 24, 2015–OnCell-TourSphere, a leader in the mobile technology space for museums, parks, and cultural destinations, has announced today a new product, a $49 DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Audio Guide that will enable organizations to easily create affordable, engaging audio tours.

The New York-based company works closely with museums and cultural destinations to develop audio tours and apps with their core product, an easy-to-use content management system that 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.

“We’ve streamlined our product offerings to provide cultural sites of all sizes a way to educate their visitors,” says Thomas Dunne, President and CEO of OnCell-TourSphere. “So many organizations have amazing stories to tell, but operate on a shoestring budget–we want to give them the opportunity to tell their story regardless of how much funding they receive.”

The new $49 DIY Audio Guide plan allows organizations to quickly build their own audio guides, which are accessible via a local phone number and mobile app.

OnCell-TourSphere technology has powered thousands of mobile tours for the National Park Service, US Forest Service, museums, and historic homes.

About OnCell-TourSphere
OnCell-TourSphere 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 smartphone apps, mobile web apps, audio tours, beacons, mobile surveys, geo-fencing, and scavenger hunts, OnCell-TourSphere helps cultural
sites and organizations become mobile-friendly to meet the needs of the growing mobile audience. 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.


Contact:
Monica Barndt
Director of Marketing
OnCell-TourSphere
(585) 419-9844

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App Spotlight: Tombstone State Historic Courthouse

18 Feb

The Tombstone State Historic Courthouse in, Tombstone, Arizona, is bringing a new interactive experience to their space by providing visitors with a mobile tour app. The tour allows visitors to access educational content through their mobile devices.

With over 18 stops, the tour takes visitors around the 1882 two-story structure which currently serves as a museum and an ode to the famous frontier silver mining boomtown. The app offers new interpretive content about the exhibits, which paint a vivid picture of the history of Tombstone.

“We have a unique museum and want the world to visit us,” says Julie Vanderdasson, Tombstone Courthouse Manger. “In addition to educating onsite visitors, the app allows those from all over the world to interact with us and gain more knowledge about Tombstone’s history.”

Currently app users and visitors alike can learn about miners, cattlemen and pioneers, see a reproduction of the courtroom and sheriff’s office, and, the staff’s favorite, a replica of the gallows where seven men were hanged.

Built with our flexible app-building platform, the museum intends to add additional content to the app, including audio, video, text, and imagery. “Everyone will have so much content to look forward to, including audio pieces recorded by the non-profit group, the Tombstone Vigilantes,” says Vanderdasson.Tomstonte-Courthouse-Mobile-Tour-App

The mobile web app can be accessed on any web-enabled device at: http://tombstoneCH.toursphere.com
or scan this QR Code

App Spotlight: Town of Peterborough, New Hampshire

10 Sep

peterborough-720_framedThe town of Peterborough is creating their Explore “Our Town” mobile app in honor of the town’s 275th anniversary.  2014 is a big year for Peterborough as it also coincides with the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the 100th anniversary of World War I, and the 75th anniversary of the debut of Thornton Wilder’s American classic, Our Town, which was written while the playwright was in residence at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough.

The app was developed by local resident and historian Tracy Messer, who researched and wrote the content for the app, with the project being supported by the Town of Peterborough. In this in-depth walking tour, Messer details over 175 sites throughout the downtown area which can be accessed by a GPS-enabled map and an alphabetical list.

The goals of the app were three-fold. “We wanted to build awareness and appreciation for the historical and architectural significance of our downtown, while also focusing on the present by promoting local business and cultural organizations,” says Messer. “We also wanted to encourage our citizens to become more actively involved in our community by providing an innovative and dynamic platform for learning about “Our Town”.

An unexpected feature is an extensive section about Thornton Wilder and his 1938 fictional three-act play about Peterborough, Our Town. The app details the play’s history, connects users to its many stage and screen adaptations, and relates the play to various sites around town.

The wealth of detail found in the app can also be demonstrated by the Interactive Civil War Statute and Memorial Gates sites, both of which allow the user to learn about each veteran listed on the monuments.

Visitor information, including anniversary event details, restaurants, and parking are also included in the app.

As general interest and further funding becomes available, new content may include expanding geographic scope beyond the downtown area, incorporating themed tours, and audio and video enhancements.

 

peterborough

Explore Peterborough’s “Our Town” on any web-enabled device at http://peterborough.toursphere.com.

App Spotlight: Heritage Museums & Gardens

23 Jul

Q&A with Andrea Early, Marketing and Communications Director

Heritage-Gardens_framed

Big bugs. Windmill. Vintage carousel. Designer labyrinth. The Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich, MA has all the quirk and charm you would expect from a historic museum on Cape Cod. Spanning an expansive 100 acres, it is the largest public garden in Southern New England and celebrates American culture with three galleries that showcase New England folk art, vintage automobiles, and special exhibits. The space is designed to encourage visitors to learn, explore, and discover.

Q. Why did you decide to create a tour app for your organization?

A. We always like to offer information in a variety of formats and apps are now an important part of the mix for our visitors.

Q. What are the goals for the app?

A. It’s a great promotional tool and a convenience for tech-savvy visitors. Plus, our goal is to cut down on the amount of printed maps we give out, helping to preserve the environment and reduce litter in the gardens.

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

A. By its very nature, the app offers more in-depth information than our map does. Visitors can tap on linked sections of the map to get more information about the gardens and exhibits and additional photos. There is general information available, too, like our hours of operation, admission, and membership prices. It’s also a great place to list our sponsors!

Q. Can users expect to see any new content in the upcoming year?

A. We plan to keep evolving the app and hope to add audio and video at some point in the coming year.

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

A. Don’t put it off. It was amazingly easy to do and it’s a great addition to your marketing and communications tool set.

Q. How did you like working with the App Builder?

A. The App Builder is great–easy to use with great support from the TourSphere staff.

Explore the Heritage Museums & Gardens mobile web app. Type http://heritage.toursphere.com into any web-enabled mobile device.

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