Tips on Building Mobile Travel Websites (Part 1)

Mobile travel websites – that is, travel oriented websites that are available to mobile users – have become critical for any destination looking to attract visitors. Hotels, resorts, summer camps, arts districts, and even entire cities are now realizing that they need these sites as part of a larger strategy to compete for attention . . . and of course, tourism dollars.

Think About It: Mobile and Travel = Peanut Butter and Jelly

Travel and mobile devices on the beach

Mobile travel websites help visitors determine not only where to visit, but where to go once there. Are you taking another selfie over there?

Mobile and travel go together like peanut butter and jelly. Visitors to your website – and destination – are more likely than ever to use a device. Statistics on mobile usage and adoption are (not surprisingly) through the roof. But, for the travel and hospitality industries, aggressive adoption is even more of a no-brainer.

After all, just like their devices, the travel audience is mobile: They are on the go.

What’s surprising is that so many in the hospitality and travel industries still have websites that aren’t even mobile-friendly. Worse, Google even dings you for that now – one reason they offer a free mobile-friendly test for web sites.

There is really no reason to ignore the mobile-friendly requirement. There are many tools to help ensure that website content is handled automatically according to device and screen size. This practice is called responsive design.

If you’re using WordPress, a third party theme such as those provided by StudioPress can do the responsive design work for you. And, they do it extremely well.

The Different Forms of Mobile Travel Websites

There are many forms that mobile travel websites can take. Depending on the intention of your site, consider providing different flavors and amounts of content types. Reviews, ratings, blogs, deal finders . . . the big thing is keeping content engaging. Over time, you may find that your audience is looking for certain content over other kinds. If so, adjust accordingly. Keep it flexible, and take time to understand your audience.

The Importance of Visual Content for Mobile Travel Websites

Whatever the content, one thing is for sure: A mobile travel website must include lots of photos. User expectations are also shifting in such a way as to expect new and different images regularly. It’s understandable. In the age of Facebook and Instragram, it isn’t too much to expect regularly updated content.

And, let that serve as a reminder – be sure the website ties in social media. But, don’t rely solely on social media. There are still a lot of things that websites do better than a Facebook page or Twitter account can do.

And that brings us to what is often still thought of as a virtual tour or walkthrough . . . a smart tour. This format can help attract new visitors or help others better understand what you like or don’t like about a particular destination.

Our next portion of this series – Part 2 of Tips on Building Mobile Travel Websites – will be dedicated to incorporating smart tours using the Whitepoint framework into a mobile travel website.

Do you like (or dislike) the ideas above? Other ideas? Questions? Drop us a comment below or reach out on Twitter @WhitepointMobi

Updated August 25, 2016.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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Of Course! A Look at the PGA Tour App

The PGA tour app has about 500,000+ downloads for Android alone. Now, that’s a successful app. Most organizations would kill to have this kind of marketing tool (and following). While development of a tour app on this scale isn’t practical for most, there are ways to get similar results.

Just About Everything a PGA Audience Wants

Mobile content in main screen of PGA Tour app.

Lots of mobile content in the PGA Tour app will keep gold fans engaged. Screenshot from Google Play.

The main PGA tour app tab provides up-to-the-minute stats and standings, news, highlights, and links to interviews.

It even provides weather information for the course. As this is being written, it is 68° in Lake Forest, IL: The home Conway Farms Golf Club and host of the BMW Championship.

There is an impressive amount of relevant content. It gives golf fans what they want – and lots of it.

The PGA Tour App’s Live Mobile Map

The app’s live mobile map of courses on the tour utilizes Google Maps to provide the classic map view connecting the tee and the green at each hole. And, layers are available to help visitors navigate – locating everything from ATMs to restrooms.

The mobile maps are a strength of the PGA tour app, but it begs two questions:

Launch a top down map view perspective in PGA Tour app.

You can launch a top down map view perspective of each hole in the PGA Tour app. Screenshot taken from Google Play.

  1. How does the mapping perform while on site? It is safe to assume that clogged bandwidth would be an issue if maps aren’t stored locally.
  2. Google Maps is pretty limiting in this instance both in perspective (more about this below) and directions on how exactly you get to that ATM or restroom.It gives you a decent idea of about where . . . but, good luck finding that restroom in a crowd. With a full bladder.

You’re Not Sponsored by Nike Golf?

Needless to say we’re talking about a pretty strong marketing budget that produces the PGA Tour app. It’s presented by Nike Golf.

What does it take for an app like this? You’re looking at countless hours of development and ongoing maintenance of the app. And, don’t forget content. After all, it has a use and relevance almost all year round.

An app and development of this scale isn’t necessary for 99% of businesses and nonprofits. But, there is much to be learned by smaller organizations from the way it’s done and what information it provides.

So, you don’t need a PGA tour app, but you need something in terms of an app . . . just what is that something?

  • Relevant, up-to-date information – The PGA Tour app does this really well with multiple feeds of high quality content. But, they’re not the only ones that have or can access fresh content. What content is your audience interested in? How regularly is it generated?
  • Ability to interact, explore, and discover – The PGA Tour app provides jumping off points for more detail and information about the things people care about. It’s useful. Your organization probably has similar resources that can be easily linked or called upon.
  • Relevant information to visitors, whether they are physically there or not – For visitors that need to find an ATM or restroom, the PGA Tour app can help. For audience that isn’t, they get a decent overview of the course and surroundings. What have you found in your organization that customers and visitors care most about? What do they need most when on site? It might be as simple as the fact that your restrooms have diaper changing tables. Parents, you understand this.

Never forget that what you care about and what your audience cares about aren’t always the same thing.

Different Perspectives

A view of a space – be it a golf course or museum – is important to visitors and attractive to those that might visit in the future. The live mobile map aspect of the PGA Tour app is of particular interest here at Whitepoint, because it illustrates the difference in perspectives in mapping and navigation.

Rather than the traditional top down map view of a space, maybe you should provide users a point-of-view perspective. How interesting would the mobile maps of the PGA courses be from that viewpoint?

Golden Gate Whitepoint Tour App Point of View

Here’s a point of view perspective in Whitepoint of the visitor plaza at the Golden Gate Bridge. A top down map view just wouldn’t be as effective.

In a smaller museum space, rather than a top down view of the facility, how about the point of view walking through the space? What you see in the app is what you see in your visit. This perspective is easily captured with a smartphone camera, or from more advanced camera equipment if you wish.

The free Whitepoint framework provides this option in perspective for building your mobile tour.

Details. Details. Details.

Finally, as mapping evolves and the demand for apps like the PGA Tour app grows, users are becoming hungrier for details. For example, what’s the historical significance of that hole on that course? What are pointers that pro golfers could recommend about a particular sandtrap?

Your organization has similar areas of interest. The pieces in a museum exhibition are an easy example. But, think of retail items in a store or the nutritional content of items on a menu. What can you share with users and visitors that will make their experience more compelling and encourage them to share it with others?

Detail is important. It’s becoming a part of generating quality content. And, it can make decent images far more compelling. Luckily, you don’t have to have the PGA Tour app budget to make it happen.

What’s your perspective on the above? Let us know with a comment below. And, to get started with a mobile tour experience, visit Whitepoint’s Getting Started page.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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Paper Hotel Maps . . . Really?

Despite the popularity of smartphones, tablets, and iPads, paper maps aren’t going anywhere. That’s fine. They’re nice to have when you’ve lost your phone, it isn’t charged, or you don’t have connectivity. But nothing surprises us more here at Whitepoint than the ubiquitous paper resort or hotel map.

Check in to even the plushest of hotels or resorts, and you’ll likely be given a paper map of the property. Sometimes, this map may even be photocopied, because the front desk ran out of the color maps. Front desk staff may proceed to draw or highlight all over your hotel map to show you the spa or the location of the closest ice machine.

There is an alternative to paper resort and hotel maps.

This paper resort map belongs to a large hotel chain who will remain nameless.

On tropical properties, you will need several copies of this map, because your first resort map has been folded in your pocket while walking all day in 99% humidity.

We could go on for hours with this, but there are some points that can benefit the hospitality industry.

Hotel Map Kiosks

Hotel and resort properties that include kiosks make a very positive impression on road weary guests and can make a big impression on specific demographics. The Aloft Hotels brand comes to mind.

A kiosk style installation can of course be expensive. It may also be overkill for many properties. Still, it can at least give a brand street cred with tech business travelers and undo some of the harm done with that photocopied hotel map.

Dual Duty for Resort and Hotel Maps

An interactive hotel map can help visitors navigate while encouraging new business as well. Providing compelling images of the property with meaningful data points – not just a virtual tour – helps guests navigate and potential guests better envision the property.

It also helps property management position the brand in visitors’ minds by showcasing it consistently. What was once a necessary evil – the paper hotel map – becomes a more powerful marketing opportunity.

A Whitepoint Hotel Map

Given the above, Whitepoint is a perfect framework for building an interactive resort or hotel map. Here are a few reasons why:

Yes, we’re still going to have paper maps for a while. But, maybe the above can help create a more meaningful experience for at least some resort and hotel guests.

Did I mention the bit about washing clothes upon return from a trip, and you’ve left the hotel map in your back pocket? Not fun.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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