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OnCell Acquires Tour Buddy Apps

We are very excited to share with you that Oncell Systems has acquired Tour Buddy Apps that we can continue to provide the best possible mobile solutions for you and your visitors.  The Tour Buddy team will remain in place and will continue to be your main point of contact going forward.

Many of you have been with us for years and have watched our app builder platform evolve as we have continued to add new features and products to improve your guests’ experience. Over the last decade, we have continually strived to offer the easiest to use, most affordable app builder and publishing platform in the GPS tours and culture and heritage sector.

So how did we come to the decision to merge? Historically, OnCell has represented one of our biggest competitors and offers a suite of similar products to Tour Buddy.  We saw plenty of benefits for our companies to combine, and we have very similar views on where we want to take our platforms. By merging it allows us to provide an enhanced product suite that will allow us to pick the best solution for you – backed with a whole lot of expertise.  OnCell also owns My ToursSTQRY and Curtis.

We will provide you with details of the new software solution alternative in the near future.  I know mergers can leave customers feeling a bit worried about what the future holds, so I want to reassure you that there is a whole bunch of things that will not change (apart from all the new features we will be adding!).

The services we have provided you in the past will continue to be offered by the new organization and we are continuing to develop the Tour Buddy platforms.   Your fees and costs associated with our organisation will not change. All existing quotes, proposals and subscriptions will stay the same.  Our staff and tech team will continue in their current roles. So if you have any questions, please reach out to us.

All billing contacts, bank accounts, contracts and agreements remain unchanged!

The new company offers a range of locations worldwide so apart from our existing office we can now be found at Pittsford, NY; Auckland, New Zealand; DeNang, Vietnam. So you’ll be pleased to know that we will be even easier to contact than before!

We are thrilled to continue doing business with you, and appreciate your continued partnership. If you have any questions at all then please do not hesitate to reach out to Sarah or Lydia.  sarah@tourbuddy.netlydia@tourbuddy.net

Best,
The Tour Buddy Team

Article about creating a branded app or adding a tour to the tour buddy historic tours app

Release Your Own App Or Be Part Of The Tour Buddy Historic Tours App

Launching an app tour is an important step for many organizations to rounding out a digital strategy that reaches more guests.  Once an organization decides to offer an app to their guests, the next question is usually, “Do we want our tour to be available through a branded app to our organization or included in a larger app?”  Let’s explore the benefits and challenges for both options.

 

App Store and Google Play icons

Branded App For Your Organization

Overview:

Creating a branded app (also known as a white label app) for your organization means that the home icon and every aspect once the app is downloaded shows your brand’s colors, images and messaging.  There are no traces of Tour Buddy in your app at all.  Even the developer account under which you launch your app will be your organization’s developer account.  Your app’s name and your keywords will be searchable on the App Store and Google Play with screenshots that show your app.

Pros:

A branded app is very easy to find on the App Store and Google Play by simply searching the name of the app.  Users only see your organization as the developer and owner of the app and your organization can also charge for the app (excluding organizations that register as non-profits).

Cons:

Your organization will have to open an Apple and Google Developer Account (over $300/year) and the process for publishing the app takes longer (around 2 weeks).  Price is also a factor with branded app options costing between $3,000 – $8,000 for the first year.

 


 

 

Include Your Tour in The Tour Buddy Historic Tours App

Overview:

Including your tour in the Tour Buddy Historic Tours App will allow users who download the Tour Buddy Historic Tours App to download your tour through the larger Tour Buddy Historic Tours App.  The list of tours will sort based on miles away from where the users is located (closest tours show up first in list).

Pros:

Your tour will be listed with other high quality tours all over the world.  Launch your tour in the Tour Buddy Historic Tours App is a fast process (24 – 48 hours) and being listed with other tours gives your tour more exposure. Pricing is affordable for non-profits and smaller organizations at $500/year.

Cons:

Your tour name is not searchable on the App Store and Google Play.  Users have to download the Tour Buddy Historic Tours App and then download your tour.  Unable to charge for tours in this app.

 


 

Still not sure which option is best for your organization?

Set Up A Call

 

How to QR Code

What is that little square-shaped black and white symbol? And how does it help get more users for my App?  These are common questions about using a QR code to help promote your app whether you are using the Tour Buddy App, Tour Buddy Historic Tours,  or your own standalone App.

How does it work?

The QR code contains a direct link to your App so your guests don’t have to search within the App Store and Google Play.  The guest will open the camera on their device and only view the QR code through that lens. The iOS or Android device will automatically scan the code and open the App Store or Google Play listing depending on the operating system of the users device. The user can then easily download the app and begin use.

How does it help my App?

There can be confusion for guests to find the correct app.  The QR code takes away that confusion while saving time and aggravation.  This is a valuable tool that all guests will appreciate.  We recommend this awesome QR code create that creates just 1 link for both Android and iOS apps: http://onelink.to/

Here is a detailed article that goes in depth on creating QR codes in general: How to Make a QR Code.


Want more information on how Tour Buddy Apps can help your organization?

Contact us now

How to create a script of your tour

As a tour operator, you know your crowd.  You have your script timed and perfectly recorded in your mind.  But, if you are ready to expand and add more tour guides or start using an app – how do you create a tour script?  Let’s look at some options that don’t involve pen and paper!

Step 1: Record yourself

As you give your tour, record yourself.  You can do it on a live tour, but it might be best to do it alone so you are not interrupted.  How do you record yourself?

  • iphone – use the built in voice recorder.  It’s called ‘Voice Memos.’
  • Android phone – use any voice recording app.  Here is a good one>>

Break up your recordings into the ‘stops’ for your tour so that you don’t have to break it up at the end.  So if you have a tour with 10 stops, you should have 10 audio files.

Step 2: Transcribe your audio files

There are so many options for services to transcribe your audio.  For around 20 minutes of audio the cost is about $20.  You can price your tour out, but it’s not very pricey.  Services you can use to transcribe:

Step 3: Format your script

After you receive your transcription, we like to format the script so that it is easy to read and if you are getting it translated, you will want a clean format.  You can use a WordDoc and insert a table and then label the table.  Here is a sample we created – and you are totally welcome to steal it!

Download the Sample:

Sample Script Format


Want more information on how Tour Buddy Apps helps tour operators provide an even better guest experience?

Contact us now

Increasing app downloads with Facebook Ads

See our interview with marketing specialist and Facebook Ads guru, Lisa Kanda

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_K8XhbSj9hs[/embedyt]

Creating the content for an app and launching it takes a team of people working together.  But, once the app is launched getting users to download it is key for success.  The team at Tour Buddy Apps wants your app to be successful.  If you haven’t check out our article on 6 Ways to Get More Downloads, check it out.  But, after you have checked all your boxes on marketing on your website and on site, how can you get even more downloads?  That’s where you can use Facebook Ads.

Download E-Book Now

Want to connect with Lisa at Elkay Advisors?

Connect here>>

Offline Video App feature

Streaming video is the norm in many of the most downloaded apps and engagement for video can be remarkably high.  Tour Buddy Apps incorporated streaming video well over 2 years ago, but as more clients offer unique experiences, we have developed the capability for offline video.

Not only can viewers watch video without the internet in the Tour Buddy App, but the video content can be triggered by a location so that it plays automatically when users have the app open.  The offline video experience allows users to be out of range of cell data capabilities but still have an immersive experience with media.

This feature is especially useful for tour operators who travel in remote areas and want to show guests video footage of the tour’s historical points of interest.

Ready to offer video offline to your guests?  Contact us now!






Web App Tours for desktop computers, tablets and smartphones just added!

Apps have changed the world we live in – no doubt.  But, an app is not always the solution for everything.  That’s why we have just added a web app to our arsenal of products.  The content for the web app, just like our iOS and Android apps, comes from the user friendly App Builder Website.  Now a walking tour, city guide or event tour can be accessed through a URL in the browser.

 

Here are some key questions to understanding a web app and how it can work for various situations.

 

What is a web app?

A web app is an application that can be accessed through the internet.  It’s basically a webpage with functionality similar to an app.  All you need is a web address – no download necessary.

 

How is a web app different from an app?

You do NOT have to download a web app.  It runs on the internet in the browser.  It can also be viewed on any device with a browser like a desktop computer.  An app (like ours for iOS and Android) must be downloaded.  Apps for the App Store and Google Play are not compatible with desktop computers. Once our iOS and Android app is downloaded it does not require the internet.

 

What are the benefits of a web app?

Lots. Users do not have to download a web app.  The web app can be viewed on a desktop computer and users can take a virtual tour from their desktop.

 

What are the limitations of a web app?

You MUST have internet.  In the mountains with spotty internet?  Bad idea.  In a city with citywide wifi available – perfect solution.


 

Contact us now to launch your web app:






 

Single Use Passcodes Now Available

Tour Buddy Apps listens to clients to help them reach more visitors and users in a variety of industries.  A feature that has become increasingly important is privacy and controlling who consumes their content.  For over 2 years, Tour Buddy has offered a private sign-in for branded apps.  Now, clients can increase privacy with single use passcodes that can only be used on one device.

Here are just a few examples of how single use download codes can be used:

Tour Operators

Tour operators can offer a mobile app as an “add-on” to their guests.  The mobile app can provide additional tours or foreign language tours to guests who take the tour.  Guests would download the tour operator’s app and then enter the download code in the sign-in.  Guests would not be able to share their passcode with anyone else because once the passcode is used on a device, it can not be used again on a different device.

 

Special Events

Organizations who want limit how many people and/or who downloads their content can use single use passcodes.  Particularly for paid events or experiences, organizations offer the single use passcode to access the tour after guests have paid.

 

Books and Paper Map Tours

Book publishers and producers of paper maps can create and offer a digital tour to people who purchase their products.  The book or map would have download instructions and the username and single use passcode for the consumer to download the content.  This information would be written in its material and only accessible to people who buy the product.

 

Interested in using single use passcodes for your location, event or book?  Contact us now!






 

How to Present your Mobile App

We work with clients daily to help them understand how their organization can benefit from offering a mobile app.  Many times, the individuals who we work with must present the possibility of a mobile app to their organization before any decisions are made.  See our step by step instructions to presenting a mobile app to a large group.

 

How to create your presentation.

 

Take a Video

There are several ways to capture a video of your app in action.

  • For iOS devices.  iOS has a built in screen recorder (which we think it super easy and we use it ALL the time).  Here are the steps to adding the screen recorder to your control panel and how to take a video on your iOS device>>
  • For Android devices.  You can download one of the many screen recording apps to your Android device and then take your video. We suggest the AZ Screen Recorder.  Check out the AZ Screen Recorder App for Android>>
  • Use Reflector.  Reflector is a program that you download to your computer (MAC or PC) and you connect your phone through airplay or google cast and reflector will record your video directly onto your computer.  It’s not free ($14.99 at time of publishing) but you can use reflector live in your presentation if you don’t want to show a video.  Check it out>>

    Take a Screenshot

    Screenshots are snapshots of what is on your phone’s screen.

  • See how to take a screenshot on iOS. 
  • Learn how to do markup on your screenshot.  This is a great way to highlight features that are important to your organization.
  • See how to take a screenshot on Android.  You may need to google this for your particular Android.Transfer your video/screenshots to your computer

Upload your video/screenshot to your computer

  • If you created the video on your phone, now you have to transfer the file to your computer so that you can display it.  You can use Dropbox, Google Drive or even through e-mail to upload your file to your computer.

Display your video/screenshots

Now that you have your file on your computer, you will need to display your computer screen.

What else do we suggest?

  • Impact.  Talk about how the app will help offer self guided tours, provide valuable information to more guests, digitize content and help with wayfinding (just to name a few)
  • Stability.  We have been in the mobile app space for 8 years with over 100 apps on the App Store and Google Play.  We can offer a long term solution.
  • Easy to manage.  Changes are automatic and updating the app is as easy as using e-mail.  No developers to contact or code needed to maintain and change your app.

Launch your tour in the Tour Buddy Historic Tours App

The Tour Buddy Historic Tours App gives organizations an easy cost effective way to digitize their tours into a mobile app tour. Historical societies, towns and local experts have created various tours available in the Tour Buddy Historic Tours App.  Historic locations such as downtown Sacramento, California, Concord, Massachusetts and Alexandria, Virginia are featured in the app.

How the Tour Buddy Historic Tours App works:

  1. See how the App Builder Works and sign up for the 30 day free trial.
  2. Upload your tour content including images, text, audio, GPS points and urls.
  3. Preview your tour on your iOS or Android device.  
  4. Contact Tour Buddy to launch your guide in the Tour Buddy Historic Tours App.

Launching your tour:

  • Users download the Tour Buddy Historic Tours App on the App Store or Google Play.
  • The guides will sort by distance away from the user.  The tour that is closest to the user will be first and then be sorted by distance away.
  • Users can download and use your tour immediately after it is launched.

Using the Tour Buddy Historic Tours App

When a user first downloads the app, it will ask to track their location.  The tours will then filter to show the user the tour closest to where they are located.   All the tours have the capability of offline audio, images, video, text, clickable links and social sharing.  The user can also choose to turn ‘ON’ the GPS Auto Play for a hands free audio tour experience.

Any changes made to the tour on the App Builder Website are automatic.  Users will be promtped to “refresh” the guide content after the tour on the App Builder Website is updated.

 

Contact us now with any questions or sign up today.

 

How is an offline gps app even possible?

Are you interested in creating an offline gps app tour?  Awesome!

You may need your app to be offline or you may like the idea of not making users pay for data.  This is typical.  Tours often take place in remote areas that may not have cell reception.

Our GPS App is Offline.  Really.

How does an offline GPS App work?

Our gps app works with the GPS hardware in your smartphone or 4G capable tablet.  The GPS hardware communicates with satellites, not the internet.  it does NOT rely on the internet.  You do NOT need an internet connection for the app to know where you are and to trigger audio automatically.  This experience works 100% offline.

Are we sure?  Yep.  We have clients who go up and down volcanoes, give tours on large bodies of water and who use our app in the desert.

Will an ipod or wifi only tablet work?  NO.  These devices do not work because they are wifi-only devices do not have GPS hardware.  Wifi only devices can “kind of” figure out where the user is located with a wifi connection.  If you take a wifi only device to the middle of no where without wifi connection, the device will not be able to track where it is.

So the internet is not necessary for the GPS App Tour to work and trigger audio automatically?  No, internet connection not required.  But, for our clickable GPS Map to work, you do need to be connected to the internet.

Want to try it out for yourself?  You can sign up for the 30 day free trial and see how it works.

3 Ways for Tour Operators to use the Tour Buddy App

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQEn2Cz3LkQ[/embedyt]

As the winter freeze leaves and spring is in the air Tour Operators all over begin gearing up for the new season ahead.  Each wondering how to maximize their time and resources by offering their tour services in a new clear, concise, innovative way.  Tour Buddy Apps helps Tour Operators across the globe launch unforgettable GPS triggered app tours.  

 


3 ways to use the Tour Buddy App:

  1.  The Tour Buddy App can be connected to the vehicle’s speaker system.  The app then plays engaging GPS triggered content.  The audio plays hands free every time automatically.  The hands free audio can provide a high quality tour every time without depending on a live guide for the entire tour.
  2. Offer foreign language tours and cater to guests from all over the globe.  The guests download the Tour Buddy App and then access the tour in their language through a private sign-in.
  3. The Tour Buddy App can be pre downloaded on Apple or Android device with the tour operator’s tours.   Guests can then pay an additional fee to rent the device.  This removes the need for guests to download apps to their own device.

Bonus Option! These features are all included with a Branded App, that can be easily launched by the tour operator with the easy to use Tour Buddy App Builder.  The branded app can include tours for purchase as well as  a private sign-in for guests who pay for tickets on site.

Sign up for our 30 Day Free Trial to see how easy it is to create a tour.

 


Contact Us Now for Pricing and to learn more






 

NEW Web Tour App for desktops and smartphones coming soon!

Tour Buddy Apps continues to innovate and grow with the needs of clients and soon users will be able to access tours through their browser!  YES, the browser – without downloading an app!

Why is this big?  Well, a browser experience does not require the user to download anything – and the user can see it on their desktop too.

We still loves apps and think they are AWESOME because the user can view the content OFFLINE.  But, the browser is great for areas that have full access to wifi or for users who may want to view the tour without downloading an app.

Want to be contacted when the Web App is ready?






In-App Useage Reports give valuable insights

Providing an app to visitors is a wonderful tool for engagement.  Having insight into how your visitors use the app is essential.  That is why we have added in-app reports to our App Builder Website.  The reports show where users are clicking, how long they are spending in specific stops and if users are new or repeat users.

 

While Tour Buddy Clients were already receiving weekly reports from App Figures that show overall downloads, now clients get a clear picture of how their app is being used.  Interested in our app analytics and reports?  Read more here.

 

How to improve visitors' experience with a mobile app tour

5 Ways to Improve Visitors’ Experience with a Mobile App Tour

Do you have an amazing downtown historical area in your city that just screams mobile app tour? Does your museum need to enter the modern media age and engage more visitors on their devices? Here are some tips to making an AWESOME mobile app tour!

 

  1. Quality content.  As much as technology offers bright shiny things, it all goes back to great content that gives users an insider look into your points of interest.  Unique stories, rare photographs and identifying hidden or lesser known points of interest will get people engaged and talking about your tour.

  2. Tell a story.  Facts are bound to be part of your museum or city tour, but can you tell a story of your location that gives a comprehensive look and new understanding of your points of interest in a historical or cultural context?  Think about building a background for visitors and walking them through a narrative with highs, lows, conflict, love and triumph.  Who are the players and what was the story?  Your story can win the hearts and attention of your visitors to make a memory and build a relationship with your brand.

  3. Reach every visitor – What is your demographic of users?  Are they locals, tourists or both?  Are they native speakers of another language?  Are they experienced smartphone users that understand how the App Store and Google Play work or will they need very specific instructions on how to download your app?  Thinking about your users ahead of launching the app will make it easier to reach them and keep them so that they quickly and easily download your tour and enjoy their tour.

  4. Determining how users will navigate your tour – Will your app have a map of the points of interest?  If so, how will that map work?  Is it like a Google Maps app or a cartoon or graphic like map?  Will the stops be numbered with a recommended start and stop or just a list of points of interest?  For museums, numbering your stops to corresponding numbers in your museum is a great way to set up your tour.  Luckily, the Tour Buddy App has both a big picture GPS map that shows the user’s location as well as the ability to upload a custom map.

  5. Creating attractive graphics – The icon for your app is the first impression that users see when they search for your app on the App Store and Google Play.  A clean and relevant icon will help communicate what your brand is all about to them instantaneously.  For home icons, it is best to use large clean graphics and few words because the icon will be shrunk down to 57 pixels X 57 pixels (a super small box) on your phone’s dashboard.  

5 steps to creating an amazing audio tour by Caroline Figiel from Creative Digital Productions

Tour Buddy Apps and Caroline Figiel from Creative Digital Productions have worked on several large projects together over the past 4 years.  Caroline’s expertise in telling a story along with the Tour Buddy App technology has provided outstanding audio tour experiences for the City of Atlanta, Stone Mountain Park and more.  Read Caroline’s steps to creating an audio tour. 


 

It’s no secret, my partner Danny and I love our job!  Who wouldn’t? We help venues discover stories that have the potential to make people laugh, cry and think.  No matter the size or the budget, all of our clients have something that makes them unique. It just needs to be told correctly and not as an afterthought.  This post is to help you avoid common mistakes and understand how your message can become “edu-taining” storytelling.

So what is “edu-tainment”?  It’s the special sauce that changes boring Wikipedia information into inspirational interpretation.  Is anyone ever entertained by listening to a school report? Audio storytelling might seem easy, but the process is more than matching a noun with a verb.

 

Step 1: Brainstorming

It begins with brainstorming.
What is your visitor take away?
Who is your audience?
What is their learning style?

 

Step 2: Familiarization

Take what seems like a pile of rocks and polish them into a gem of a story. Something that you take for granted is new and amazing to others.

 

Step 3: Scripts

Scripts created for the ears are different from those written for the eyes.  Remember not only are the words important, but so is the style.  The info gained during the brainstorming stage helps decide how to tell the story:

  • through interviews framed by narration?
  • solely narrated?
  • or would a character voice tell the story better?

Step 4: The Storyteller

The storyteller is a very important element to the success of your interpretation.  They are key to  your story’s impact.  Are they just a good reader, or does their delivery put the listener into the action or transport them to another place and time?

 

Step 5: Production

Production needs to enhance a story not overwhelm it.  It can take on a variety of styles -from the bare minimum to bells and whistles.

 

Bonus!

Know when to ask for help. Implementation and content are equally important.  When information is artistically transformed into interesting interpretation, that story will “edu-tain” guests on site and keep them posting about it online later.

 

Hear a sample of Creative Digital’s work:

Want to get in contact with Caroline to learn more about Creative Digital’s services?  

Contact Creative Digital

 

Admin Activity Center for multiple users

We now offer organizations with multiple users a admin activity center.

As more organizations create mobile app tours for their destinations, Tour Buddy wanted to make it easier for organizations to manage their apps.  This enterprise level feature allows admin users to manage multiple users and apps.  The admin user can oversee content input and changes for multiple apps with multiple users.  Several users are now able to create and manage content in one place.

Not only have we added an admin user, but groups can even brand the whole sign-in experience with their color, logo and unique URL.  This cohesive experience gives organizations greater transparency for managing content, updating branding and viewing reports.  A branded experience with the admin activity center is a unique and valuable feature for organizations large and small.

Contact us to learn more about becoming an Enterprise Client.

Push notifications for mobile app tour

Push Notifications and Geo-fencing in your mobile app tour

Incorporating push notifications and geo-fencing into a mobile app can be a powerful location based communication tool.  Both features engage users in real time in a specific area or location.

What are Push Notifications?

Push notifications are alerts or messages sent to the dashboard of an iOS or Android device.  When users download an app, they need to press ‘allow’ to receive the push notifications.  Push notifications can contain a message or  URLs about special events and promotions.  Sending a message to the front of users phones keep their attention in real time.

What is Geo-fencing?

A Geo-fence is a virtual geographic boundary around a location.  It can be as small as 50 meters and as large as an entire city.  The push notifications work with the Geo-Fence so that the users who are in the Geo-fence receive the notifications.

How do Push Notifications and Geo-Fence work in an app?

A hotel could send notifications to only users on the property.  The message could tell guests about happy hour in the lobby or a promotion on golfing.  A city or destination could expand the Geo-fence of the notification to cover the entire city.  You can send specific messages when users enter the geo-fence and exit.  If a destination wants more reviews, they can send a message asking for a review with a link to the review page that is sent when the visitor leaves the geo-fence.

Incorporating Sponsors and Advertisers in Push Notifications

For potential advertisers in cities and destinations, the app could send a notification to users who enter or exit the Geo-fence around a business or merchant.  The message could tell users about a promotion at that business or event happening there later that day.

Possible issues with Push Notifications and Geo-fencing

Both features create an excellent medium of communication between the app creator and the user.  However, both features require that the user opt-in by pressing “Allow” after downloading the app.  Therefore if the users press, “Don’t Allow” they will not receive the push notifications/Geo-fences.

If any of the information communicated through either feature is hyper important, you may want to reconsider sending it through the notifications or Geo-fencing and just make it part of the app content.  Not every user will allow the notifications, but every user who does will certainly see them and be very aware of your message

Push notifications along with Geo-fencing creates an even greater connection between the user and the app to direct attention towards specific events, promotions or businesses.

Contact Tour Buddy Apps about this premium communication feature today.






Gamify your app tour with quiz questions

Quiz feature for tours now available!

The Tour Buddy Apps team has continued to listen to our clients over the past 7 years about what is important to them when offering visitors a self-guided tour app.  Offering a mobile app tour that is not only self-guided but also interactive has come up again and again.  This past summer we added a quiz feature to our app in order to create a fun and interactive element to every tour.

 

Client Apps with Quiz Questions

The City of Fort Thomas, Kentucky included questions for their app to commemorate the city’s Bicentennial.  Their quiz questions focus on content for each stop.  The Meridian Historic Walking Tour App also includes questions that are incorporated with the walking tour for 4th graders in Meridian, Idaho to learn more about their town in an interactive and fun app.  The city is also getting special edition coins created that will be given to visitors who completely fill out their scorecard.  Not only can the city gamify their tour, but they are able to increase interaction with visitors and locals to create an amazing experience in downtown Meridian.  Taking a self-guided tour with a mobile app can be a wonderful experience.  Now with quiz questions the user gets to test their knowledge and interact with the content on the tour.

 

Download these apps to experience the new quiz feature and contact us to learn how to create a mobile app tour with the brand new quiz feature.

 

Want to learn more?

 






How iBeacons work with a mobile app tour

Create a self-guided mobile tour with iBeacons

iBeacons have become a hot new tool for mobile media and location based intelligence.  iBeacons are an effective tool to trigger content and events in user’s smart phones in indoor areas and smaller spaces where GPS triggers are not as accurate.

Many customers come to us with visions for iBeacon tours to engage their visitors.  While they can enhance the experience for some tours, it is important to understand the benefits and limitations before making the recommendation to use iBeacons.  This technology can certainly enhance a location based app.  Let’s look at several key factors determine if they are the right solution.

What are iBeacons?

iBeacons use Bluetooth technology to communicate with mobile devices in a 5-30 foot radius.  When a visitor walks into that range (and they have a connected app on their device) they will receive a notification.  For a mobile app tour, iBeacons are placed next to points of interest.  When a visitor enters the iBeacon radius, they will receive a notification or information about that point of interest that displays within the app.  It is important to note that when the visitor downloads the app, they must allow Bluetooth and notifications.  This enables their phone to monitor for the iBeacons and allow the notification to come through.

When to use iBeacons

iBeacons should be used to trigger information in tours that would not work with Geo-fences or GPS triggers. Why?  It is always easier to use the device’s GPS hardware to trigger location information – since the hardware comes inside the device and does not require additional maintenance – or Bluetooth technology.  iBeacons will be the best choice in indoor spaces where the GPS signal is weak or if the points of interest are closer than 30 meters together (the minimum range for accurate GPS triggers).  Correctly placed and configured, the iBeacons allow visitors to connect what they are looking at in real time with information and commentary in the app.  The iBeacon is placed next to a point of interest and then when the app comes within the ibeacon radius, the app opens to information about that point of interest.

Limitations of iBeacons

  • Cost of purchasing the iBeacons and maintaining them – such as replacing batteries and general wear and tear.
  • Visitor needs to ‘allow’ Bluetooth to receive the information in the app.  This setting reduces battery life and some people it find invasive.
  • Not all visitors will choose to allow the notification.
  • Not all visitors want external triggered content.  Many visitors prefer to control their own experience and choose which information in the app to view or listen to.   Therefore, it is essential that you can provide an intuitive interface for these visitors to easily find and view information.

 

When to use GPS Triggers and Geo-fences

Driving tours and walking tours that span a large area work best with GPS triggers or Geo-fencing.  GPS triggers and Geo-fencing function with GPS coordinates and the phone’s location, no iBeacons required.   The radius can be set for both GPS triggers and Geo-fences so that the information will trigger when the visitor enters the radius.  As mentioned, the minimum reliable radius for GPS technology is about 30 meters.

How to set up iBeacons

Tour Buddy has partnered with Gimbal to use their iBeacons and software exclusively.  We have chosen this strategic partnership because Gimbal iBeacons are high quality, long lasting and reliable.   iBeacons run batteries, which die.  The battery of a Gimbal iBeacon lasts up to 18 months but we recommend replacing them every 12-14 months to ensure that they are always working.

When setting up an iBeacon tour we recommend testing every iBeacon and signal to verify that it is well placed and facing the best direction to optimize the triggers.  We also recommend placing them so that the flat part faces the direction of the mobile devices to improve accuracy.

 

iBeacon radius accuracy

iBeacons are more of an art than a science.  There are several factors that affect the accuracy.

  • Battery life: For some brands of iBeacons, if the battery is strong, the radius will be larger. Then, if the battery is weak, the trigger radius will be smaller.
  • Objects and People:  If the device has a clear path to the iBeacon, the radius will be larger, if the path is blocked by walls, objects and people, the radius will be smaller and it may not trigger at all.

What Next?

It is important to consider your visitors’ experience, evaluate the physical space and your resources for providing and maintaining the tour.  With an experienced mobile app team, you will be able to create the best tour for your visitors.

 

We would love to discuss the best solution for your location.

Contact us:

 

 






 

6 Ways to Get more App Downloads

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-r4XtAdHcwg[/embedyt]

So you’ve just created an amazing app to tell your visitors the story of your amazing destination.  You’re done right? Wrong. Now you have to make sure your visitors know about it and how download it.  But, apps are only important and relevant if visitors are downloading them.  Sometimes getting the word out and grabbing the attention of a guest in person and online visitors is 90% of the battle.

So here are some battle tested tips for making sure that your visitors hear about and download your app so they can learn more about your story.    

1. Mention it on your Website and Brochures

App Store Badges

First things first.  On your website and brochures, tell visitors that you have an app!  Include the app store badges and link them directly to the App store and Google play listings for your app.  Make sure to include the name of your app (so visitors know what to search for on the app store) and a short blurb about what to expect like ‘interactive map’ or ‘professional audio’…etc so they know why they want to download it.

2. Put up a Sign at your Welcome Desk

The most important time to tell visitors about your app is when they are buying tickets or entering the premises.  We recommend putting a small sign that tells them to download your app with the app store badges and a short description.  You can also include an image or screenshot of the app so visitors can get a sneak peek before downloading it.  

 

3. Train the Staff

There is nothing worse than a visitor asking your staff about the app and receiving a response of ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I can’t help you.’  So make sure your staff knows how to take a visitor’s phone, open the app store on the device, search for your app and download it.  Your staff will also be very valuable in telling visitors about the app so make sure they are familiar with it and can explain the virtues to your visitors.  If your app contains push notifications or GPS triggers, your staff should know to tell visitors to ‘allow location information’ and ‘allow notifications’ when they first open the app so that they can get the full benefit of these features.  

 

4. Post about your App on Social Media 

Mention your app on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, SnapChat- whatever your preferred methods to reach your visitors.  Always state the name of the app, short description and include a link to the app store or a blog post about the app on your website for more information (more on that below).  

 

5. Ask for Reviews

A few positive reviews on the App store and Google play will encourage more people to download your app and enjoy your content.  So, don’t be shy about asking visitors to take a minute to review your app on the App store or Google play.  You can include a small blurb such as ‘Love our app?  Leave a review on the App store!’ on your website, welcome sign or in your social media posts.  

 

6. Write a Blog Post

In addition to the ‘download our app’ blurb on your website home page, its a good idea to create a separate page or post that includes images from your app a detailed description and the link to both to the App store and Google play where people can download it or learn more.  This will increase the opportunity for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and give visitors more information about what is in the app – so they will download it before or even after their visit. It also gives you a page to link to when you promote on social media or press releases – instead of linking directly to the app store.  This also allows you to more easily track click throughs and website visitor interest level in your app page.  

 

It sounds cliché, but the world is a small place.  The App Store and Google Play offer an international audience for apps and your app can reach people who may never visit your destination, but who are interested in your content.  The more context and awareness you can give to your app online and in person, the more downloads and engagement you will receive.  


Download our Infographic to share with your team

How to get app downloads

Interview with Tour Buddy Apps founder Yvonne Jouffrault

Tour Buddy Apps is constantly thriving to build a better visitor experience.  The new CEO of Tour Buddy Apps, Sarah Pounders sat down with the founder Yvonne Jouffrault on May 31, 2017 for a Facebook Live interview to get the inside scoop on how she created and launched her software development business for mobile app tours.

Watch the full interview above or read the transcript below.  Hear the story of how Tour Buddy Apps was created and what led Jouffrault to launch a mobile app tour software development company.

Yvonne launched her company in 2010 in Savannah, Georgia. Her background is in finance and institutional real estate investment. However, she had always wanted to travel and explore new places and after moving to Savannah, Georgia in 2007, she became fascinated with Savannah’s history and walkable streets and squares. She created an original walking tour of Savannah with audio that visitors could listen to using MP3 players but as time progressed and the smart phone began to emerge, she realized the potential for a walking tour app.

Q: We would like to know, what inspired you to create Tour Buddy Apps? What idea did you have or need did you see that made you wanna create walking tours and mobile app tours?

A: I’ve always loved to travel and I’ve been around the world. One of my favorite things to do when I travel is go to museums and I always do the audio tour with the wand and you go through. I wanted to bring that concept outside. And I wanted to give people the opportunity to be able to walk around outside, and be outside, and have this basically rich interactive content overlaid on their physical environment. I see people everyday walking around downtown Savannah, they’re looking at a map… There’s a school of history and they don’t know any of that history because they’re just looking at their map and kind of just staring at all the beautiful houses, and trees, and landscape. I started Tour Buddy so that those visitors walking around experiencing destinations could actually understand what happened there and get all of that information, because they wanna know.

Q: So you started out with MP3 players but as time progressed, you moved into the smartphone. What lead you to that point?

A: MP3 players were obviously clunky and inconvenient. And that was right around the time when the iPhone had launched and apps were becoming popular, so it was a natural progression to take that content and put it on an iPhone, an app. An iPhone is something people had with them. And then we realized after the popularity of that first tour that at that point it was really hard to get iPhone apps built. There weren’t a lot of tools out there. You had to hire someone and just kind of take your chances that they were going to be able to produce something that people liked. I had the idea of creating a platform that would allow all destinations and cities around the world to build these apps easily and for a reasonable price. And something that was a good user experience that tourists and visitors would really enjoy using. And just create that platform so that all those destinations could put all their content into it easily, and then focus on creating good content instead of spending a lot of money, and time, and effort trying to create a technology.

Q: I think that with the popularity of apps sometimes people think, “Oh, well, I can just get a app created on my own,” and kinda have this app built. But you didn’t wanna just create apps. You created a website where people can upload their own content and make their own app. How easy to use is the website for the public?

A: It’s really easy. I’ve had people say, “Oh, this is just like WordPress.” or a lot of times clients are apprehensive when they first sign up with us and then as soon as they start using the website they’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is awesome. This is so easy to use.” And they love being able to change their content in real time. That way they don’t have to worry about putting something out there that might not be finalized. They can just keep changing it.

Q: You have this software development company, you create mobile app tours and you’ve been in the business for seven years. In dog years, that’s like 50, right? How have you seen the mobile app tour business change in the past seven years?

A: I think in the beginning when we first started… Honestly a lot of our potential customers, the cultural destinations and cities, they were like, “Yeah, mobile apps, I don’t really get that, I’m not sure why we need one of those.” And we had to work hard to educate them on why this was an asset and why this would improve the visitor experience, but now, everybody wants one. I think now we’re just basically fielding calls where people say, “We know we need to have this, we know that our visitors want this, we know we need this. Tell us how to do it.” So for us, our business has changed, from really having to educate people on what our product is and what it can do for them, to working with a lot of our clients on really just figuring out all about their destination, what that content should be for them, how we can really structure that and deliver it in a way that this is going to maximise that visitor experience and again, allow people to really understand the context of that location and the history behind it and walk away from it being like, “Wow, that was amazing, I really learned a lot about that.” So yeah, I would say that we’ve really pivoted from having to educate our clients to really just helping that… They know that they want to achieve the goal, and really helping them figure out how their story can be best told through our platform.

Q: So it sounds like, although you’re a software development company, you take it very seriously to see what that end user experience for the guest and visitors at the destination is gonna be, in kind of working backwards so, because I think that people think, if you understand the technology, then you’re going to create a good app, but it sounds like you really start with the guest experience in mind and help your clients figure out what the best way to present the content is, and how to deliver the app, and all of those things that are really important to them, and then you work backwards.

A: Yeah, pretty much. And honestly, the way that we’ve designed our app and our user interface, we’ve been tweaking it for years, we’ve been building and rebuilding and updating it is really with that end user and that content in mind, really understanding the way that these visitors wanna interact with that information and what that user experience should be. When they’re at the location, what’s the first thing that they wanna see, how do they wanna be led through the tour, whether it’s push notifications or how can they really enjoy their experience without having to think about the app, basically. We want it to be completely intuitive so that the visitor feels like its guiding them through the experience and they’re able to learn so much without any effort.

Q: It’s easy to go to a tech conference and say, “Oh, look at my app.” But if you can get people who say, “Well, I’m not very technical and I wanna learn about this place or that place.” to use your app and enjoy it like you said and not be distracted by it, and have that app make it a better experience, it sounds like that’s the goal. It’s not to have a cool app, it’s to have a great experience at a location.

A: I think, to me, the metric of success, is, I love to go in and read app reviews for a lot of our client’s apps and people rarely mention the app itself, they always say, “This is amazing, I learned so much about this city. This really brought everything to life for me.” They’re excited about what they learned in the app and they don’t mention the app experience at all because it is intuitive and they’re not thinking about the app, and they’re not thinking about using the app, they’re just thinking about all this great information that they’re absorbing, and I love that.

Q: So I think you’ve already touched on this, but, what do you think makes a really good mobile app tour?

A: Content is king, so it all comes down to, is it engaging content that people can’t find elsewhere? If this is something they could figure out on a web search, or I should say, find elsewhere easily? So, the apps that we see the greatest amount of engagement, have an audio component to them. They’re usually historical in nature because people are really hungry to learn history and if you’re out walking around at a battlefield or even at a lot of indoor cultural destinations and museums, there just isn’t enough information readily available about what you’re looking at and people are… They wanna understand that in context, they wanna understand the story behind things. So I think audio is the best way to tell that story. People can passively listen to audio while they’re looking at things as opposed to having to read something. So, clearly I am biased, ’cause I started by saying that I loved the audio tours in museums, but I think any audio component makes an app more engaging. And they say that people that download apps when they travel, they claim that the two most compelling reasons they’ll download it is for the content and also for the reviews. So, you know back to those reviews where people are saying, “Wow, this really helped me learn so much.” So, I think it’s telling the story and people connect with that, and they remember it, and they walk away with a really good experience.

Q: Tour Buddy Apps the headquarters is in Savannah, Georgia, how has being a Savannah company shaped your business?

A: Half of our customers don’t even know where Savannah, Georgia is [chuckle], which I think is great and hilarious. We’re putting Savannah on the map, I hope, in the tourism industry, in the hospitality industry around the world. But for us, honestly, we live our lives every day surrounded by visitors and I live in a tourist environment. Like every day, when I go to the beach, when I walk around downtown, we are in a heavily visited area full of history, full of information, full of stories. All these things that we’re talking about make great content for our app. Literally every day I’m thinking about ways to improve that visitor experience and watching and learning from the visitors around us. Being in Savannah has been a fantastic asset for building that user experience and that visitor experience because we live our product every day. Every day we’re out interacting with and experiencing Savannah, this great visitor destination, through the eyes of visitors.  And it’s also a lot of really great design talent because of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). We have a great community here and we’ve been fortunate to be able to find a lot of great talent… That are available and eager to work on a local product.

Q: A lot of creativity, and tourism, and the beach, which makes us all jealous, but yeah. Recently, you decided to change your user dashboard and your app builder that we already touched on the app builder which is the platform where your clients build their apps. And it’s already user-friendly but you decided to change the dashboard that you’re rolling out this week and why did you decide to change that? What problem were you trying to solve?

A: We are always doing new feature and product development. We’re always adding, and improving, and changing.  Initially when we first started, we were just releasing an app at a time for each of our clients. But our business has shifted, whereas now we’re having more… We’re having a lot more multi-guide apps, where we have lots of different guides that are available for download within one app. Those guides might actually have different users within an organization or across multiple clients. So we have the need now for individual users to be able to manage different guides across different accounts and be able to have the ability for a super-user, an admin, to manage all those accounts. And as our product type has grown from  that single app on the App Store to now we have the multi-guide apps and we have our monthly plan that’s very popular for people to really try out our service and see how it works. Now with all these different product types, we wanted the user experience on our dashboard, which is the entry point into the app builder, to really reflect all those different products. And we wanted our website to be a lot smarter about making recommendations. We’ve created a new onboarding wizard that kind of walks someone through that initial creation and make sure that our customers are putting in the right media assets and the right information for whichever product type that they’re creating.

Q: It sounds like, there’s three different types of products that Tour Buddy has. You wanna just touch on that briefly what the different types are?

A: Yeah. We have our monthly plan that allows customers to sign up. They just use the service. They use the website. They create their guide or their tour, and they can download it through the Tour Buddy app and use it on their rental devices. They can use it, plug it into their transportation devices so that it triggers audio as they drive around. Basically just use that content, use our tour, use their tour through the Tour Buddy app on their own devices. And then we have a single-guide app … That we will release a white-labelled app for a customer with their branding that has a guide in it with all of their content of course. And then we have the multi-guide app, which is really growing and changing as we get more customers using it and again, that’s the ability to have lots of different guides within one app. So this might be an app for a city that has all of these different downloadable offline guides that someone could use to explore the city. It could be a destination that has, again, different types of tours that someone can download. Or it can be a lot of different organizations that are banded together that wanna all have content within one app.

Q: To get an app on the App Store and Google Play takes a lot, right? It takes developers, it takes a lot of planning, and compiling, and it does take a lot of technical work. So, sounds like the multi-guide would allow kind of some flexibility and if different organizations work together or different groups, maybe more affordable even to use something like the multi-guide for a large area like a city instead of everybody having an individual app, they could all have an app together. So, sounds like there’s a lot of flexibility with the multi-guide.

A: Yes.

Q: Okay. Well, so you are no longer CEO. I (Sarah Pounders) am CEO of Tour Buddy Apps. And so now that you’re no longer CEO, what are you up to in your professional life? And it sounds like you have a lot of ideas. You created Tour Buddy Apps. So what are you onto now?

A: Well, I’m still building product for Tour Buddy. That’s my main passion. But we’re about to launch a new product called Flye. F-L-Y-E. That is a GPS-based scavenger hunt app that will allow families and kids to play a scavenger hunt wherever they are. We’re creating more of a video game interface for creating a much more gamified user experience with lots of minute tasks to complete and a lot of feedback in the app, so we are looking forward to rolling that out, probably later this summer. And we do actually have a version of it on the App Store right now that’s based on the Tour Buddy platform, but we’re gonna be rolling out a spiffy new app for that later this summer. So that’s taking a lot of my focus right now. But honestly, it’s the same thing, it comes back to improving that visitor experience and people’s ability to learn and interact with their surroundings through digital.

Conclusion:  Alright, well that sounds exciting. We’ll be looking for Flye, F-L-Y-E, and the version two. So, thank you so much for your time today. And everyone visit Savannah, Georgia, come see Tour Buddy Apps and all that it has to offer. Thanks for taking your time for this interview.

International Language App Featured

Tour Buddy’s CEO Yvonne Jouffrault is featured in this interview discussing the international language tour features of the Savannah Experiences App. Savannah experienced more than 13 million visitors last year, 10 percent of which were international visitors. The app has been available in English for some time, but the additional languages featured support the significant international visitors experience Savannah.

From the video:

Yvonne Jouffrault, founder of TourBuddy Apps, says the app has been around for a while in English, but this is a chance for visitors who struggle to understand Savannah’s history to really understand it.

“There’s not a lot of options for foreign language visitors in Savannah. Mostly they roam around and they look at a map and have that clueless look on their face,” Jouffrault said.

 

The Savannah Experiences app is a multi-guide app that supports both English and international language tours in cooperation with Visit Savannah. The app users can choose from seven languages including

  • Spanish language tours
  • French language tours
  • German language tours
  • Portuguese language tours
  • Italian language tours
  • Chinese language tours
  • Japanese language tours

 Learn more about how you can use Tour Buddy at your destination to connect with international visitors using foreign language tours & check out how the Savannah Experiences app and Stone Mountain app enhance international visitor experience using foreign language tours.

New Features, iOS 7 App & iPad App

We are always getting great feedback about our apps and working on ways to improve the user experience so that our clients can offer an app that is both packed with great content and easy to use. So, you may notice some improvements in the apps that we released (and rereleased) this summer.

Social Sharing

We have added a social sharing button on both iPhone and Android Apps that allows the user to share the stop information along with a link to the app on social media or email.

Search Bar:

We have added a search bar at the top of the list view for iPhone Apps (only).

New Menu Screen:

Check out the new menu screen for our iPhone apps.  It displays images from each list or category along with a gallery of 10 app images.  Very Cool.

If you want to check out one of our apps with our new features, we suggest downloading the Savannah Walking Tour LITE for iPhone or Android.

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Whats Next?

We have only released a couple of new features this summer since we are already working on our brand new Version 3.0 iOS 7 App!  We have rebuilt our app under the hood to maximize the new features in iOS 7 and are working on a brand new user interface that will have the look and feel of iOWe will also be releasing an iPad only app that will have its own ‘iPad friendly’ navigation.  We expect to offer these new IOS apps later in the fall after Apple has officially released iOS 7.  We will be sending out this new app to clients for feedback and will announce all the new features in that app when the time gets closer.

And what about our Android users?  Once we have released our new design and iterated based on client and user feedback, we will start incorporating those features into the Android App.

HOW TO CHOOSE BETWEEN A WEB APP OR NATIVE APP

This month’s post is brought to you by our guest blogger Brant Huddleston, a maverick in Mobile Toursim.

See the original post here and see what else Brant has to say or sign up to receive his blog posts here.

 

It’s slow. It’s clunky (compared to others). It’s not as pretty. It’s the so-called “web” app ~ as distinguished from the “native” app. So why build one? Well, there are some good reasons, and the biggest one is, web apps are “cross platform,” that is, they will run on any kind of mobile device that is connected to the Internet. So in the same way you access the Internet from a PC using the browser of your choice, regardless of who manufactured your PC, you can access web apps using the browser of your choice, regardless of who manufactured your mobile device. Sounds great, yes?

Not so fast, kemosabe.  Remember, there is a war on, Google vs. Apple vs. Microsoft vs. Blackberry and so on. Each of those companies make mobile devices, and they don’t want their device turned into a commodity. They don’t care much for web apps or the technology that makes them possible: HTML5. So the big (rich) players, namely Apple and Google, are investing gazillionsto keep you, and the armies of developers who build apps, on their proprietary platforms, that is, on native. How do they do that? Innovation.

Native Rocks!

As of today (2013), the best apps are native apps. They look better, have more polish, perform faster, are available in the app stores and thus easily monetized, and are easier to use. Slick and fast, they are. Users love them. Plus, because native apps are built on platforms offered by hardware manufacturers who want you to LOVE the hardware they make, native apps make better use of the hardware than do web apps. Just look at any app taking full advantage of your device’s embedded camera, accelerometer, or headphone jack, and you’ll find a native app. Steve Jobs is knowns for having quoted Alan Kay with “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.” The integration of hardware and software is where the magic of innovation happens.

Then there is the matter of roaming charges ~ a key issue for tourism apps. Tourists, by definition, are away from home, and therefore subject to network roaming charges when they use their mobile devices. That can get expensive, especially if your tourism app requires heavy data downloads, say for audio or video.

One solution is to allow the user to download all that data-heavy content when she is in range of cheap or free WiFi, say before leaving home or at the hotel. Once those heavy files have been downloaded and stored in the device’s local memory, there is no need to ever download them again. Those files are then acessible anywhere, anytime, at no cost, even when there is no Internet connection.

Not so with a web app. In that case, very little is stored in the device’ s local storage. A web app pretty much has to download all the files every time the app is used, which is one reason why they are relatively slow. Once out in the field and standing near a point of interest, chances are the user’s device will not be in range of cheap or free WiFi, and so roaming charges may apply. Ouch!

White Knight? What White Knight?

So where is this white knight on the white horse I alluded to in my last post, the one who would save us from the platform wars? Why bother with web apps and HTML5? Why not just “go native”?

I’ve mentioned one big reason already ~ the cross-platform nature of HTML5. A web app is yourbest, least expensive way to build an app that will run on a broad range of mobile devices, regardless of the manufacturer. Otherwise, your tour app will need to be developed for Apple’s iOS platform using one programming language (Objective-C), and then again for Android using a different programming language (Java). Want a version of your app for the new Windows phone? Then it must be built using yet another programming language (C#). The next thing you know, you have three sets of code for three versions of your app, and your hassles and costs are skyrocketing.

Then there is the problem of which Android. Remember, Android is an open platform, or the wild, wild west as I refer to it. One result of this openness is that there are hundreds, nay thousands, of devices in the market using the Android operating system. Each one is different, and each has its own peculiarities, so your app might look great on one but lousy on another. Android is no walled garden.

A Garden Party in the Walled Garden. But who’s Invited?

“Ah, simple,” you may say. “We will just build our app for the Apple iOS platform and forget about Android. We will just have a happy little garden party inside of Apple’s walled garden, just like Steve Jobs wanted us to.”  Then kiss good-bye almost every tourist coming from developing countries, and certainly China, where Android devices are preferred over iOS devices by like six to one. Building your app for iOS only would be like opening a store and only allowing one out of every six customers to come in. Granted, that one customer tends to be more affluent and speak English, but I submit developing for iOS only is a shortsighted strategy for tourism apps.

There are companies, like Appcelerator and Phonegap, that offer ways to build a single set of app code and have it work on multiple platforms. That is one option and a good one to consider. Another is to build your app on HTML5.

HTML5 is a Knight in Training

HTML5 is no more, no less, than the next version of the same programming language (HTML, or HyperText Markup Language) that is used to build virtually every web site on the Internet today, including yours. Sure, you may have used WordPress, PHP and CSS to build your site, but under the covers is HTML. The “5″ simply designates that this fifth version of HTML is highly accommodating to mobile devices. It is not owned by any one company, but is rather, developed by committee, which means it is slow to evolve while good intentioned developers have food fights (in committee) over which direction HTML should take. The ideas and intentions are good. HTML5 holds great promise, but it is still a young knight in training.

But I predict many of the shortcomings of web apps I have mentioned will fade away in due time, making it a good choice for your tourism app. More pervasive free WiFi will mitigate the roaming charge and performance problems. HTML5 or 6 will do a better job of leveraging the hardware, and offer programmers more tools for creating slick, polished apps. There will be solid ways to monetize web apps, without going through one of the proprietary app stores. In due time.

It Comes Back to Your Story

In the meanwhile, develop great content that can be used on all the platforms, both those available now and also those that are emerging, like Google Glass and “phablets” (a cross between a smartphone and a tablet). Think of it this way: Orson Wells made the movie Citizen Kane in 1941. The delivery “platform” for his content back then was film, and you could only see the movie once in your local movie theater. Since then, Citizen Kane has been migrated to newer and better platforms: black and white TV, color television, VHS, DVD, Blue Ray, and soon, streaming. The content (story, cinematography, script. etc)  is still the same, and is considered by film critics to be one of the best movies ever made.

Make your content with the same passion for excellence, tell your story and tell it well, and it will live forever.

Creating Audio – Mixing in Music and Effects

So you’ve recorded your audio tracks and are thinking about editing or mixing in some music or sound effects.  Here are some free, easy to use programs to help you.

 

There are lots of free (and paid) online and downloadable programs that allow you to easily edit voice tracks and mix in music and sound effects.   Here are a few we recommend.

  • Audacity:  Download this free program onto your computer and get started.  It will allow you to mix multiple tracks and add lots of cool effects.   But the output will be a .wav file so make sure to convert to .mp3 before uploading to the App Builder.
  •  Wave Pad – another intuitive product by NCH this allows you to easily edit and mix your audio content.
  •  Pocket Wave Pad:  This is a great (and free) iPhone app that allows you to record and mix in other tracks.  However make sure to convert to MP3 files before you upload to the App Builder.
Mixing Tip:  Always make sure that the voice is not drowned out by music or sound effects.  We also recommend using compression on the voice track whenever you add other sounds behind it.  This will give it a richer, stronger sound.

 

Need Music and Sound Effects?

There are a lot of websites that offer music and sound effects for your project.  Most of them charge a small fee for full rights to the media.  We recommend doing a web search for a specific sound effect (ie.  royalty free fire engine) to find what you need.

Here are a couple we recommend:  Royalty Free Music Library ,  Audio Micro , Shockwave

 Need a Professional?

We can offer full service audio tour consultation services from writing the script to professional studio recording and post production editing/mixing/mastering. Just fill out the form below for more information.






Easy: Create Engaging Audio Content

How to create quick and easy audio tracks for your Tour and mobile App.

These days you don’t have to work for a studio to lay down your audio tracks.   There are many good quality and FREE programs that allow you to record voice and even mix in some music and sound effects.

Record your Voice

  1. Use your smart phone:  Every smart phone has a recording feature.  This is the easiest way to quickly record your voice.  Make sure that there are no ambient noises because the microphone will pick them up.  Most phones record as MP4 files so you will have to upload them to your computer and convert to MP3 files.  See below for more on that.  OR download an app for your smartphone that converts directly to mp3 – we recommend HI-Q for Android.
  2.  Use a microphone on your computer:  You can buy a good quality microphone for around $10 these days.  Plug it in and record your voice using Windows Media Player or any of the software programs listed below for mixing your audio tracks.

 

Converting Audio Files to MP3:

You will need to convert your audio files to MP3 format before uploading them to the Tour Buddy App Builder.  There are lots of free internet software programs that allow you to easily convert batches of audio files.  Our hands down favorite  is Switch by NCH with an easy interface and ability to convert to/from over 40 audio formats including wav, mp3, wma, m4a, ogg, avi, mid, flac, mov, amr, aac, au, aif, raw, dvf, vox, cda, gsm, dss, wmv and lots more.  A free option can be found here, but you will have to convert each file individually: https://audio.online-convert.com/convert-to-mp3

When converting your audio files for use on a smart phone app, always render to the lowest bit rate possible without sacrificing quality so that the files will take up less space.  And ALWAYS render in mono for smart phones since their hardware does not take advantage of a stereo recording.

These are our recommendations but you should always email yourself a test file on your smart phone and open it to test the sound quality.

Voice only:  as low as 32 kps

Voice and music:  as low as 64 kps

Voice with lots of music and sound effects:  96 kps

 

 Need a Professional?

We can offer full service audio tour consultation services from writing the script to professional studio recording and post production editing/mixing/mastering. Fill out our form below for more information or send us an e-mail at info@tourbuddy.net.

 






 

Meet your Local Startup

check out this Guest blog-post on The Creative Coast from our Tour Buddy founder.  See the full blog post here:  http://www.thecreativecoast.org/meet-your-local-startup/#.Ul6rrFBJN8E

downtown-tech-crawl-logo

Technology companies in Savannah. That’s what everyone wants. We can debate and speculate on the chicken or the egg of needing funding vs talent but we can also just DO something. Everyone can SUPPORT Savannah’s growing TECHNOLOGY COMMUNITY by USING and talking about their PRODUCTS!! Come out and meet the people and companies that are building technology companies right here in the Low Country!

On July 17th, ten of Savannah’s tech companies will be presenting along the Downtown Tech Crawl. You’ll meet a good mix of brand spanking new startups, some established success stories and everything in between. Learn about their products and meet the entrepreneurs who are making it happen –while enjoying food, beverages and a scenic ride around downtown courtesy of Old Savannah Trolley.

Step One is meeting them. Now, how can you support them? Here is how it works: The most important thing for a product based technology startup is (in order of importance):

  • 1.   Users (friends, family, paid relatives, etc)
  • 2.   Feedback
  • 3.   Early Adopters (ongoing users)
  • 4.   Paying Customers

Not what you expected? The trajectory of a typical startup starts with a concept that can usually be built fairly easily. The hard part is turning it into a sellable product. This involves getting users, iterating, repositioning, and then marketing. And these type of companies are built on the idea of scalability meaning that each additional “product” or “user” doesn’t require a lot of work so they are happy to give it away for free to gain feedback and early adopters.

All of us can foster technology companies in Savannah! It’s easy-

  • 1.   Get to know them and learn about their products. Here are some companies that you’ll get to meet on theTech Crawl
  • 2.   Go to their website, see if you can be one of those four things they need or recommend them to someone who can.
  • 3.   Talk about them! “Like” them on Facebook or “follow” them on Twitter. When they announce new products or success, help spread the word. Word of mouth goes a long way during the struggling first months of a new company. They need your voice!

Speaking of which, there are two cool Savannah startups on the verge of launching their products and looking for beta testers. Check out Green Light, an online management system for insurance certificates and other official documents and Bright Here that is reinventing the way we consume the news.

So why participate? In the long run, how does helping one little startup company foster technology companies in Savannah?

  • 1.   The success of some of these technology pioneers will inspire others to take the risk to pursue their concept.
  • 2.   Successful entrepreneurs can serve as mentors (and investors) to aspiring entrepreneurs as I was a grateful beneficiary.
  • 3.   Startups are magnetic! If we create a community of successful technologists (as some like to be called) other ones will want to move here, providing the talent we desperately need and a new group of startups.
  • 4.   So come out on July 17th and show some love for Savannah’s Technology community. You can RSVP here for a spot on one of the Trolleys.

And you can also come out to The Creative Coast Office at 6 PM on July 6th to mingle with local technologists at the Tech Crunch Meetup. Tech Crunch is one of the hottest technology blogs/websites in the country and will be stopping in Savannah, Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham, Charlotte, and Greenville to write about the startup scene in the Southeast (WOW!). RSVP here or just drop in to show your support.

The Best Tour Guide May Be In Your Purse

We wanted to share this great article from the New York Times on Museums using mobile apps:

Museums Special Section

The Best Tour Guide May Be in Your Purse

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

HAND-HELD CURATOR IPod Touches and visitors at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

By KEITH SCHNEIDER

Published: March 13, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO

THE San Francisco Museum of Modern Art formally celebrated its 75th anniversary on Jan. 18 with an eye to attracting millennial generation multitaskers. The event included handing out to museumgoers iPod Touches loaded with a rich mix of pictures, interviews, video and graphics exploring 200 pieces in the institution’s permanent collection.

Like almost every major art museum in the country, according to communications officers here and in other cities,  the San Francisco institution is using mobile multimedia devices  —  iPods, iPhones, BlackBerrys and other smartphones  —  to tell the stories of its exhibits in new ways.

“Essentially, we’ve liberated the audio tour,” said Peter Samis, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s associate curator of interpretation. “We’ve developed five hours of content, made it extremely portable and easy to use, and devoted it to rediscovering aspects of our collection and its history. This is not about techno-fetishism. It’s about focusing on artworks in meaningful sound and video.”

Art museums have always viewed communications as their primary mission. Never, though, have the editorial, design and production staffs of art museums been busier than they are now. Digitization has steadily brought down the cost of the software and tools of multimedia production  —  audio, video and interactive motion graphics. More powerful and available online access has made smartphones and other mobile devices ubiquitous and more useful.

Mr. Samis said his museum developed the content for the mobile tour with its own staff. Nousguide, a Vienna-based content management company, developed the presentation software. The intent is to marry the story behind a painting or piece of sculpture to the hand-held online and multimedia communications revolution. Last year, a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project predicted that by 2020 mobile devices would be the primary connection to the Internet for most people in the world.

Museum communications departments welcome the challenge. Since the 1960s, when tape recorders and audio tours were first introduced, art museums have embraced technology to provide more engaging ways for patrons to interact with exhibits. In 2002, art museums began delivering audio tours on cellphones. Later in the decade, interactive producers like Second Story, a Portland, Ore., design company, delivered  multimedia kiosks and online  programming to museums. In May 2008, the San Jose Museum of Art was one of the first to produce a mobile multimedia tour of its exhibit of the evolution of robots. Content was delivered on  the first-generation iPod Touch.

Art museums are putting mobile devices to use in creative ways. In Louisville, Ky., the 21c Museum, which describes itself as the only museum in the United States dedicated exclusively to displaying art made in the 21st century, in April will introduce an iPhone multimedia tour that takes advantage of a bar code reader app available at Apple’s App Store. Bar codes placed next to works of art in the museum link iPhone owners to multimedia about the pieces.

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts developed an interactive  program for its iAfrica exhibition for smartphone owners. They can download to their device pictures of the art and other exhibits, and an interactive audio feature that enables the user to pluck (virtually) and hear the sounds generated by the long metal tongues of a lamellaphone, a sub-Saharan instrument.

“People want to be part of the learning. They want to participate,” said Kaywin Feldman, the museum’s director and president. “We use the technology to help them better understand works in the collection that can seem remote to a 21st-century visitor.”

In February, the Dallas Museum of Art began a multimedia mobile smartphone tour of its Wendy and Emery Reves collection of 19th-century photography and paintings. The content includes pictures, audio interviews and video documentaries and interviews coded for each artwork. The museum strengthened its wireless access, and then made the multimedia content available on its Web site at dallasmuseumofart.mobi/.

“We made a decision to keep total production of the content completely in-house  —  Web, coding, design, editing, music, talent, posting,” said Gail Davitt, the museum’s director of education. “There was a clear sense that we didn’t want to end up dependent on the device of the year, but rather to produce content and then be flexible with how we might use it.”

The Brooklyn Museum of Art photographed much of its collection and put it online in March 2009 with a software application that invited people to share the content. Four months later, Adam Shackelford, the chief technical officer of Iconoclash Media, a Brooklyn-based Web site and iPhone app company, introduced Brooklyn Museum Mobile Collection as a free app in the iPhone store. Patrons can now tour the collection with their phone whether they visit or not.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art produced a multimedia iPod Touch tour of its “Sacred Spain: Art and Belief in the Spanish World” exhibition, which began in October and ended in January. The production included audio interviews and video documentaries along with period music and pictures. Each feature was number-coded to pieces in the exhibition. Visitors to the museum paid $5 to rent the devices.

“We are helping visitors learn the story behind the content. We are telling things that are interesting,” said Robert Stein, a computer scientist who serves as the museum’s chief information officer. “Some of what we are doing with mobile device also is betting on where things are going.”

One of the most interesting mobile multimedia features at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art describes in detail René Magritte’s “Les Valeurs Personnelles,” the artist’s  1952 painting of oversized male toiletries. The feature includes an interactive display of the painting; touching the comb, mirror or shaving dish opens a window for more video, text or audio content that explains the context and importance of the object.

Ramon and Julia Rios, residents of San Diego who were visiting the museum, handed their driver’s licenses to the information desk and were handed back iPod Touches. “I saw people coming over to get the devices,” said Mr. Rios. “I thought, O.K., I’d like to try it. Let’s see what it’s like.”

Later, on the second floor of the museum, Mrs. Rios was asked about the multimedia tour. “I like it. There’s a lot here,” she said, holding up the device. “It’s easy to use and very informative. You have so much more information with this.”