Tips on Building Mobile Travel Websites (Part 2)

In Part 1 of Tips on Building Mobile Travel Websites, we explored some things to keep in mind when building travel oriented websites that are available to mobile users.

One of the most important parts of mobile travel websites is the visual content. And, that’s where a virtual tour – or better yet, a smart tour – plays a role.

Tours in Mobile Travel Websites

Whether you are marketing a hotel, resort, golf course, or summer camp, you know the importance of sharing the best your property has to offer. Luckily for the tourism and hospitality industries, there is no shortage of compelling visuals to attract visitors.

For years, the virtual tour was a way of providing a walkthrough of a place – as with real estate or hotel properties. The problem with virtual tours is that they now have to compete with a lot of other visual content, and in comparison, they often lack compelling detail to make them stand out. That’s a nice swimming pool, but is it mineral or chlorine? How deep is the deep end? What about the shallow end? Is there a swim up bar? An image doesn’t effectively answer all those questions.

Now, add the complication of mobile devices, and the platforms for virtual tours of the past have an even tougher time competing. If you are looking to build a tour, find out if the platform requires Flash. (Yes, they’re still out there.) If so, you’ll likely want to reconsider. Support and the required workarounds continue to make Flash problematic for many users.

Different Formats for Smart Tours

A tour image to introduce a smart tour

A good introductory graphic can include both a logo and a loosely drawn map. The map doesn’t have to be provided by a cartographer – often, a simple representation can have a bigger impact for mobile travel websites.

So how do you arrange a tour of your destination? First, ask yourself how you want to present the destination. Will your tour attract new customers? Or, will it serve existing visitors? The answers to those questions may guide your format decisions.

We’ve found that there are three distinct ways that provide the best user experience and simplify content collection.

For our purposes here, we’re going speak in terms of building your tour using the Whitepoint platform and its scape/scene/whitepoint logic. However, the basic principles remain the same regardless of how you structure your tour.

The northeast portion of our sample city tour for mobile travel websites

Breaking your map image up into geographical areas can create a more compelling experience and enable you to add more detail. For example, breaking the previous introductory tour image up into the city’s quadrants can provide for focus on a particular area or district of the travel destination.

Break Your Scape (Tour) Into Different Portions of a Map – This approach is good when you have greater detail to share.

  • Scape Image (Introductory Image): The map. Scene points can mark the different areas of your map. This enables you to break it down into the Northwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest quadrants for example.
  • Scenes: Each scene is a different area of your location’s map.
  • Whitepoints: The different places within each area of the larger map . . . for example: a lodge, a dock, or a restaurant.

Use Your Map as a Single Scene – This approach is good when you have less detail to share.

  • Scape Image: A nice logo or introductory graphic.
  • Scene: The map image of your destination.
  • Whitepoints: The places that are plotted on your map. If you don’t have many locations, this is fine. But, if you have lots of points of interest to plot, it won’t make for a pleasant experience on mobile. This is the main reason for breaking the map down into areas as described in the first option above.

Point of View Walking Tour – Take some pictures of your destination location on a nice day and provide a point of view perspective walking tour of the property.

  • Scape Image: A map graphic – perhaps with a logo or introductory graphic included.
  • Scenes: Start at the welcome center or visitor arrival area. Each scene is a representation of what your visitors will see.
  • Whitepoints: The places and points of interest your visitors see along the way. Consider the details regarding the swimming pool mentioned above, for example.

However you decide to arrange your tour, don’t forget the importance of meaningful content on mobile travel websites. Travel destinations are perfect for providing compelling visuals and useful information – leverage this advantage.

Do you have questions about arranging a smart tour or gathering your content for mobile travel websites? We’d love to hear from you. 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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How to Add Descriptive Content to Whitepoint Virtual Tours

Helping people make virtual tours smarter is what the whole Whitepoint platform is all about. Therefore, one of the most common questions we get from users is how to add more descriptive content to our virtual tours.

Makes sense, huh? Here are some ideas on how to do that.

Whitepoints are the Data Points

First off, the best place to add descriptive content – whether textual and / or a link to other even richer content is within the whitepoints of any scape (our word for a Whitepoint virtual tour).

Golden Gate Bridge scene image, Whitepoint virtual tour

This is a scene image from a Whitepoint virtual tour of the Golden Gate Bridge.

As discussed elsewhere in this blog, whitepoints are the aspects of any scene image that require more detailed information.

For example, if you look closely in the accompanying image of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge – taken from a scene in an actual scape – you’ll see a whitepoint. Your virtual tour user could tap that point on his or her mobile device and get your ideas or more information on the steel used in the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Another Opportunity for Descriptive Content

Currently, our scene image editing and authoring capabilities do offer a field for text-based descriptive content. But, as our authors have noticed, that text does not yet display in the scapes. Future plans for scape display do utilize that content. It is not yet being used beyond basic search capability. So, it is helpful to add that information, just don’t think something is broken if you can’t view that text.

Descriptive content in Golden Gate Bridge Whitepoint virtual tour scene image

This is the same scene image from the Golden Gate Bridge Whitepoint virtual tour. More descriptive content has been added graphically to the image.

If you believe scene images like the accompanying Golden Gate Bridge image are deserving of text content, it’s easy to accomplish. Simply add the text when editing the scene image before your upload.

In our testing, we’ve found that sizing the scape image to about 900 pixels wide x 500 pixels high first, then adding your text is the best approach. This way you can judge what looks best in text vs image size.

Whitepoint Virtual Tours as Presentations

Taking it a step further, this is how Whitepoint virtual tours can actually be used as presentations.

Whitepoint virtual tour as presentation tool

This is an actual scene image from a Whitepoint virtual tour used as a presentation. The scene image features text, and whitepoints offer opportunities for more information.

In the accompanying image, you see a scene image that utilizes only text – this is simply a graphic that was uploaded as a scene image. In this example, the whitepoints are intended as jumping off points for more detailed exploration of a particular phrase or idea.

. . . kind of like a smarter virtual tour of a concept.

Updated July 20, 2016.

Do you have a question about authoring your Whitepoint virtual tour? Maybe you need to get started as an author? Please, share your questions with us – we look forward to hearing from you.

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How To: Posting QR Codes and Stickers For Free Whitepoint Tour App

We’ve made reference in the past to QR codes and stickers – including in a recent article on using Whitepoint as a guided walking tour app – offering visitors a free download of the Whitepoint app.

These are great for posting at each stop of a walking tour, at the front door, or at an information desk.

The following graphics are suitable for printing and provide QR codes for both iOS and Android. If you wish to print stickers especially, we recommend the PDF files and uPrinting.com for best results.

Download Whitepoint in Google Play.

This nifty graphic with QR codes is available in iOS App Store and Google Play varieties for your smart tour needs.

Android

PNG File: Google Play Whitepoint App Download Graphic with QR Code (less than 1MB)

PDF File: Google Play Whitepoint App Download Graphic with QR Code (less than 1MB)

iOS

PNG File: iOS Whitepoint App Download Graphic with QR Code (less than 1MB)

PDF File: iOS Whitepoint App Download Graphic with QR Code (less than 1MB)

Questions? Tweet us @WhitepointMobi or comment below.

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5 Things to Remember as a Digital Content Hunter-Gatherer

Content is at the heart of every web marketing strategy out there now. More an more, web designers, social media managers, and marketers are playing the role of digital hunter-gatherers. You find images, blog articles, tweets, and photos. Then, you process it all into content that will (should) be of value to the audience.

When building an intelligent guide – or tour – for the web there are additional challenges. And, whether the content will be delivered by desktops, mobile devices, or a mix, there are common considerations.

Here are some helpful hints based on what we’ve seen in hunting and gathering content for building intelligent guides to places and things.

What Content is Your Audience Seeking?

The most important first step is to ask yourself what content your audience is seeking. Take a moment and step back. What you envision and what they are really seeking may be different. Is it image rich content? Is it more detailed text content? Are there geographical considerations or limitations?

Draft an Outline or Skeleton for Your Content.

Content draft for a mobile tour of a hotel.

The start of a rough outline for a Whitepoint scape of a hotel. Building a skeleton or draft for content can save a headache later. Otherwise, you might forget about showing off the banquet facilities, for example.

This isn’t a school assignment where you have to turn in a detailed outline. But, taking another moment – if only to scribble a draft on a napkin – can help a lot.

Many content management systems, like WordPress, enable you to get a draft started quickly.

If there are images or a flow in the content, map it out. For example, our Whitepoint framework for intelligent tours and guides enables you to build a draft while simply using image or text placeholders. Very shortly, you’re able to envision the structure of your creation. Taking a few moments more in planning may save lots of time later.

Don’t Worry, It Probably Shouldn’t Be Perfect Just Yet.

It is easy to obsess about getting that perfect photo. Unfortunately, your entire project may be held up as a result. In today’s world, it’s all about relevance and timeliness. Instead of getting that perfect image, use an acceptable photo and update it later. Write quality content now, but think of the project as ongoing.

In Fact, You May Never Be “Finished.”

Good content is hardly ever “finished” any more. And, the process of updating gives you an opportunity to call attention to your work again later. This is especially important in mobile tours and guides, because they remain relevant and up-to-date.

For digital content hunter-gatherers, this is good news. The concept of living content is explored in a recent article at Convince and Convert. Many a content vehicle – including Whitepoint – now enables you to create this “living content” rather than finishing up one project and moving on to dreaming up another. Take advantage of this.

Engage.

Your content can be much more effective when you find out what aspects your audience likes or dislikes. Not only does this process improve the quality of your content, it makes both your content and you more engaging.

Ask your audience for feedback, encourage conversation, and act accordingly.

Repeat cycle.

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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Right This Way: Managing Tour Content for the Mobile Web

Tour content management is part of a broader content management strategy for web designers and marketers. If you’re in charge of managing images and accompanying text for web or mobile tours of a museum, gallery, real estate, or other similar project, it probably makes up the bulk of your routine duties. It might also make up for the bulk of your headaches.

Why? There are a number of reasons, not least of which are image specifications, alt texts, and of course the constant creation of quality content.

In managing Whitepoint tour content ourselves and helping others build tours for the mobile web, we’ve developed some thoughts on best practices and tools that can help along the way.

Tour Content = Lots of Images

First off, tour content – and we mean good tour content – means lots of images.

And, not everyone is a graphic designer or photographer. Because of that, we’ve made some recommendations on free or low cost photo and graphics editing tools in a past blog post.

But, Tour Content Also Equals Relevant Images

More and more, with relevance and freshness of content being a key search engine optimization factor, tour content is logically affected as well. How fresh are your images? It isn’t just about having lots of images. It’s also about having relevant images.

Whitepoints on college campus tour content.

Tour content from this college campus tour shows whitepoints plotted on a beautiful spring landscape.

Maybe you manage an online tour of a college campus. Do prospective students want to see the winter landscape of your academic quad year-round? Try always updating with your most season appropriate image.

If you’re in real estate, providing an autumnal image of the property probably isn’t a good idea if the property is still on the market the following summer.

Tour Content Can Also Include Those Filenames Too

Adopting a method for image file naming is a great idea for two reasons. First, it makes photos easier to organize. Secondly, they become even more search engine friendly once posted.

So what’s a good way to do it? Some is personal preference, but try to stick with a method that will serve both organizational and SEO purposes. For a fictional university campus we’ll call UWP, let’s say you’ve got images for the student cafe, Briggs building, and tennis courts. Try this method:

Cafe-UWP-Campus-Tour.jpg

Briggs-Building-UWP-Campus-Tour.jpg

Tennis-UWP-Campus-Tour.jpg

Yes, the dashes between words make a difference for your SEO purposes.

If you go with the above method, just place them in a folder called “UWP Campus Tour” when you manage multiple projects. You may even use that same folder with dashes if you’re uploading the whole thing.

As far as the organization goes, you can thank us later.

And Of Course, Text Content Management

If you manage tour content of any kind, you probably find that you routinely use the same snippets of text over and over again. On Mac, one thing we’ve found that helps is a nifty little tool called Flycut. This tool helps you manage your clipboard, archiving a history that you can easily call from and drop.

For Windows, gHacks has interesting recommendations on a tool called Clipjump.

Don’t Forget Mobile

It should go without saying, but many traditional organizations still don’t understand the impact of mobile. Lots of industries have more mobile users than desktop users, and some vice versa. But, no industry is spared from the impact of mobile.

Whatever you do, make sure first of all that you’re able to keep your image file size down. It’s best if you can offer a mobile-friendly version of the tour. If so, this will impact your image file choices. You may even keep separate versions for both desktop and mobile.

Be sure to test your tour content on multiple mobile devices – iPhones, Android phones, tablets, iPads . . . on and on. Formatting for so many different devices is tricky and time consuming. Luckily, a tour content management framework like Whitepoint may have already done this for you. Images can be optimized automatically as well, with little or no perceived loss in image quality.

And, needless to say, if you are managing tour content, you can use every bit of help and every single time saver.

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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