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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A Smarter Walking Tour: Art On The Riverwalk

A river and two hundred years of shipbuilding have helped shape the people and unique identity of Milford, Delaware. Now more people are learning about that identity thanks to artists, students, residents, and some corporate sponsors through their Art on the Riverwalk Tour project.

Walking Tour Scape Image - Art on the Riverwalk Tour

Image from the Milford, Delaware Art on the Riverwalk Tour scape in the Whitepoint tour app. The numbers represent the scene points.

Some years ago, one of the ships that had been built in a Milford shipyard in the early 1900’s was rediscovered. The Augusta was restored and now enjoys a new life as a reminder of Milford’s past and also as a new source of inspiration.

For the town’s Art on the Riverwalk Tour project, eighteen sculptures inspired by the Augusta were created – many by artists and students teaming up – and are now displayed along Milford’s Riverwalk.

The resulting walking tour amid these sculptures, along the river, and through the town is creating new ways for locals and visitors to discover and engage with Milford.

A Featured Whitepoint Scape

We’re proud to present Milford, Delaware’s Art on the Riverwalk Tour as a featured Whitepoint scape.

Walking Tour - Sculpture on Milford, Delaware Art on the Riverwalk Tour

Image from the Milford, Delaware Art on the Riverwalk Tour scape in the Whitepoint tour app. This scene image captures a sculpture by Cathy Walls, with a whitepoint for more information.

This smarter walking tour was arranged with each of the sculptures representing a scene along the Riverwalk tour. The whitepoints – opportunities for visitors to get more detailed information about points along the tour – provide alternate views of the individual sculptures, pictures of the artists, texts about the works and links for more research.

The Art on the Riverwalk Tour is available to all free of charge via the Whitepoint app on iOS and Android, whether visitors are walking the river or just joining the tour virtually from the comfort of home.

To all involved in the Milford, Delaware Art on the Riverwalk project . . . Great work! Cities across the world can learn from your example.

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Virtual Touring Software for a Variety of Industries

We’re continually amazed at the variety of businesses and industries that work with Whitepoint’s virtual touring software platform. One interesting idea recently came from a caterer who wanted to use a virtual touring software to showcase their catering displays and menu.

It makes sense – it’s one thing to see a plate of pasta. It’s another to also understand the ingredients in that pasta or to be able to identify it among other dishes in a dazzling display of culinary delight.

Virtual Touring Software for . . . Everyone?

photo of coffee shop display case with lots of delicious options - how could virtual touring software be used?

It’s just a case in a coffee shop right? But what are all of those delicious options? And how can you use virtual touring software to share them with customers?

The fact is that virtual touring software has a place as a digital marketing tool in almost any business or industry. And, this is only becoming more pronounced as reliance on images increases in marketing along with the proliferation of mobile devices. People want image-rich content. And, they want it more and more on their mobile devices.

The big difference is how we define “virtual touring” and the virtual touring software behind it. As we’ve stated elsewhere, at Whitepoint we’re working toward a goal of smarter, more interactive virtual touring geared toward mobile devices.

The need for smarter content in real estate marketing is obvious. But there are tons of other industries and businesses where the need is developing: hotels, resorts, automotive, retail, museums, galleries, restaurants . . . you name it.

How Users Find Your Business’ Tour in the Whitepoint App

Screenshot from Whitepoint virtual touring software

Screenshot from the Whitepoint app showing the search box and “find by category” button on the app’s main screen.

Users need to download the Whitepoint app for iOS or Android. Once they have that, your tour can be accessed by browsing the categories displayed on the right of the Whitepoint app’s main screen.

Additionally, they can search for your tour using the search box in the top right of the Whitepoint app’s main screen.

As an author, you have the ability to categorize any scape you build and to add descriptive text that helps users find it.

Depending on the nature of your business – if your users are in an on-site scenario such as the lobby of a building or in a museum exhibition – a little signage and QR codes can assist them in the two step process they need to follow: 1) Download the app and 2) Locate your scape.

Even More Options for Sharing and Highlighting Your Scape

As if that isn’t enough, our virtual touring software offers the ability to simultaneously provide your tour for users on desktop computers outside of the Whitepoint app.

And, if you sign up for our Premier Authoring subscription plan, you can have your scape featured on the app’s main screen for even easier access.

Curious how Whitepoint’s virtual touring software can be used in your business? We want to help. Reach out here or contact us at Whitepoint

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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 Tips For More Meaningful Content When You Create a Virtual Tour

Pictures are great. Sometimes the 360 degree spin-around can work too. But many places, properties, and products require more than just pictures when you create a virtual tour.

We recently explored the topic of virtual tour marketing as a tool for business and the many subjects that virtual tours can be based on. Regardless of your subject when you create a virtual tour, here are some ideas to remember about the quality of your content.

And, whether or not you use Whitepoint to create a virtual tour, these tips will be of help.

First, A Few Words About Products and Places as Tour Subjects

Create a virtual tour of a car dashboard

This dashboard may be old, but it’s still confusing – when you create a virtual tour, images alone are no longer enough.

A picture of the back of a Blu-Ray player doesn’t explain much. How about the dashboard of a Ford Fusion?  An ice cream counter? The different restaurant options at a resort?

You may not have to create a virtual tour based on any of the above. But, each of these subjects illustrates the potential for rich, meaningful content when you create a virtual tour.

With easy access to information via mobile devices, consumers are demanding a level of detail that goes beyond what was offered in the slideshows of the past. If you are selling something – whether a place, product, or experience – and you want to create a virtual tour, you have to remember this fact.

5 Tips for More Meaningful Content When You Create a Virtual Tour

  1. What are the aspects of your place or product that customers ask about repeatedly? A simple picture may not suffice. Can you use data points to communicate more in-depth information? In the Whitepoint virtual tour framework, those data points are called whitepoints.
  2. What are the aspects of your subject – whether it’s a place or location – that cause the most guest services or customer service headaches? When you create a virtual tour, you may need to get feedback from staff or even customers to identify these aspects. You may need to either dedicate more images to that aspect of your virtual tour or try thinking in terms of data points (whitepoints).
  3. What are the features of your place or product that cause faces to light up? Odds are when you’ve described your product or destination, there was a specific part that got a distinct and positive reaction from your listener. Be sure to focus on that when you create a virtual tour.
  4. Does your subject photograph better at a particular time of day? Is an aspect of it more appealing at a specific time of day?
  5. What are the angles that best showcase your subject? Certain aspects of your destination or product may be more easily explained when displayed in a certain position or from a certain angle. Your team and customers may give you better insights on this.

Hopefully these tips help provide new ideas – or at least new perspectives – on how to improve the quality of content when you create a virtual tour. After all, it isn’t just about taking pretty pictures anymore.

Do you have any ideas to add? We’d like to hear from you.

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Tech Ideas, Insights, and Projects for Museums

Earlier this year, we were briefly mentioned in a document provided by the New Media Consortium called “The NMC Horizon Project Short List (2013 Museum Edition).” I’m glad this resource was brought to my attention, because it provides for museums a wealth of tech insights that would otherwise require a lot of legwork.

Because museums and non-profits are often working with limited resources, just the research alone into tech improvements that might enhance the visitor experience is often difficult. This document details a number of technologies of importance for museums, three of which I’m highlighting here.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Whenever museums consider a tour app rollout, the issue of providing hardware for visitor use will be raised as a major expense. What few museums realize is that they can leverage the proliferation of smart devices already in visitors’ hands.

The obvious technology to leverage in this fashion is the QR code, of course. However, content can be much more rich if a tour app is adopted that can install to iOS and Android devices. Blackberry and Windows devices are nice to have, but iOS and Android are a must.

For those visitors that don’t bring their own device, that’s fine. Two or three low cost tablets can be on hand to provide for their use.

Crowdsourcing for Museums

For a variety of reasons, institutions and curators aren’t often in a hurry to relinquish messaging and interpretation. However, the latest generation of museum visitors expect interaction and diverse viewpoints.

Museums can use technology to help bring context for visitors.

Visitors are now expecting more from museums, and technology can help bridge the gap.

Leveraging the “collective knowledge” of the community or a number of voices that are knowledgeable on the topic helps satisfy this expectation as well as alleviate the workload for understaffed museums. Technology can assist in both collecting and distributing the perspectives of those voices.

Engaging more voices results in a richer dialogue and logically, more traffic.

Augmented Reality

The technology for museums isn’t quite there yet, but once the ball starts rolling, it will happen fast.

The NMC Horizon Project Short List explains augmented reality as a “layering of information over 3D space” that provides new experiences and perspectives. For those not yet familiar with the technology, it sounds like something out of Blade Runner. But, proofs of concept and work in the field tell us that the technology is not that far away.

One of the factors that has delayed adoption of augmented reality is hardware related: Augmented reality is demanding on batteries and requires significant processor capability. And, for museums, associated costs will be significant.

Still, the move toward an augmented reality experience tells us how the curatorial space is changing and what the evolving visitor expectations are.

Do you represent a museum looking to enhance the visitor experience with technology? Please, tell us about it here.

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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