delivering multi-lingual support
for onsite visitor experiences
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The signage for the Furneaux Geotrail on Flinders Island in Bass Strait has been developed to take advantage of the new extended 4G mobile coverage now in place across the island.
Interpretive digital content sits at the interface where promotion of the product stops and visitor connection with the actual experience begins.
To make a useful contribution here, digital content needs to be location specific and highly targetted to meeting the needs of the visitor in this unfamiliar setting.
Additionally the digital content must work in closely with the other orientation material on offer in the precinct to ensure visitors get access to the same maps and directional information on their phones as they see on the signage around them.
As with all essential visitor orientation, safety and regulatory material, user accessibility is the critical factor driving product decisions in this space. Managers must also be able to quickly and simply update content whilst ensuring the provision of the onsite digital product fits into their annual recurrent budget commitments.
The scroll across menu below provides links to a selection of our webapp products now in active use.
User accessibility is the no.1 priority for the delivery of orientation content onsite.
This makes the pre-installed apps that people bring with them on their mobile device the natural interface of choice by which to deliver customised, locality specific content.
An additional advantage of this approach is that it separates out the content from the technology that delivers it. This means that managers only need to interact with this content archive when they want to add to it – not when the operating system of the mobile device is upgraded.
THE INTERNET BROWSER
It is easy to take the level of nuance and sophistication delivered by the default browsers on Android and IOS devices – Chrome and Safari – for granted. They are simply there doing the job for people every time they access their mobile device.
Additionally the Chrome browser has inbuilt support for translation on the fly such that users are automatically invited to have "foreign" webpages translated into their native language.
WEBAPPS + BROWSERS
Using webapps to deliver content to users via the internet browser ensures that visitors have access to an open ended content archive that can include extensive video resources, whilst only ever needing to download the exact content of interest to them.
This is of especial value to users with limited data plans. They may otherwise require public wi-fi to be provided in order to access content archives such as those delivered in apps downloaded from an app store. It also avoids the need for users to have space available on their device in order to host the content archive they may seek to access.
Use of static webpages rather than those delivered by a content management system means that the webapp can be simply stored in an assets folder on an existing web platform as easily as hosting a PDF.
The speed with which static pages load also makes them an ideal option in areas with poor internet coverage. In areas with no coverage, the webapp can also be delivered via a local area wi-fi hub powered by the remarkable Raspberry Pi mini-computer running NGINX as the preferred web server platform.
THE PHONE CAMERA
The practice of people taking a photo of a trailhead map before heading out onto the track is a very familiar one. It has the immediate advantage of not only giving them a track reference to refer to, but also of ensuring that the map they have on their phone is the same as the one they see in the signage.
A dramatic improvement to this model came in 2017 when Apple joined Android in ensuring that the phone camera could read QR codes directly. This means people no longer need to have downloaded a QR code reader app in order to scan these links.
Additionally it means that when they take a photo of the map with a QR code beside it, the camera will prompt them to access the QR code link. In the case of the Three Sisters precinct in the Blue Mountains, this then leads them to a download page where they can access a PDF smartphone guide to embed both the map and associated detailed tracknotes onto their phone before heading out into areas with no internet coverage.
PDF READER APPS + SMARTPHONE GUIDES
The easiest way for people to embed data onto their phone for reference in areas remote from internet coverage is via a PDF. Once downloaded through the internet browser, the PDF file is easily opened in a PDF reader app where it is then stored safely for future reference. The iBooks program on IOS delivers a native PDF reader app to all Apple users as a standard feature. Android users have usually acquired PDF reader capability through either a PDF app download or other app product suite. Even without these PDFs can still be saved onto the phone via the print command.
Nature Tourism Services has responded to this opportunity by developing a smartphone guide format that uses the PDF format to mimic the look and functionality of an app. As these smartphone guides are content only documents however, their download size is easily managed without wi-fi connectivity. Depending upon the geographic area of coverage the smartphone guide is attending to a file size of between 15-30MB is involved.
EXAMPLES OF SMARTPHONE GUIDES AT WORK
We have an array of smartphone guide products in play across a diverse array of locations. Scroll across through the menu below to learn more about and access these products.
Adopting the user experience first principle in the roll out of on site digital solutions delivers some simple solutions.
Foremost is that the orientation content the visitor receives via their mobile device is the same as that they see in the signage around them.
This is especially evident in the case of maps. Maps are central to the delivery of both the visitor orientation experience and the underlying branding of the land manager that supplies them.
Coming up with a bespoke map product that succinctly and clearly conveys utility, safety and regulatory information to the user is a key challenge for the visitor orientation process.
In the case of the major visitor orientation refit we undertook for Victoria's Falls Creek Alpine Resort in 2015 for example, the production of a new suite of bespoke map product was a first order issue to address.
With this new investment in place, it then fell to our production of the Falls User Guide digital project in the following year to pick up this map suite and use it to underpin its product delivery. The result of this is evident at Falls Creek today where the on-site visitor connects with a fully integrated visitor orientation platform across both signage and digital media.
digital support for signage
There is very rarely enough signage real estate available to deliver the amount of content one may wish to in a given setting.
The need to prioritise some messages over others regularly leads to some stakeholders being disappointed that their messages / areas of interest are not adequately addressed.
An example of how digital product can directly assist in this space comes from work undertaken on a key orientation entry sign at Falls Creek Alpine Resort in 2015/16.
When the original sign went in at Slalom Plaza, the supporting Falls Userguide webapp had not been developed.
This meant that the orientation sign needed to devote over a third of its signage space to the provision of a village directory – the detail of which changes from season to season.
The roll out of the new webapp user guide for the resort in 2016 meant that instead of just updating the directory content, a complete makeover of the panel could be undertaken to use its available space to much greater effect.
The detailed directory content now resides on the webapp. Here people have immediate access to seeing the venue's location featured alongside full business listing including phone and web links.
The additional space thus freed up on the sign allowed for an overall redesign that lowered the key map down to align with viewer eye height. It also meant a promotional insert could be included for the adjacent Falls Creek Museum experience.
A further example of how digital content can expand the range of messaging delivered by interpretive signs is shown below in the interpretive sign located beside Lindlegreen Barn at O'Connell in Central West NSW.
Multi-lingual interpretive digital solutions operate onsite in areas with mobile phone coverage. They target the space where marketing stops and service delivery begins.
It also recommends prioritising hand coded static HTML pages over dynamic pages delivered by Content Management Systems.
Using adaptive rather than responsive designs to deliver content across a range of screen sizes is also a preferable approach.
When used in conjunction with static HTML, this delivers instant user responses whereby the page loads straight away when called and images download in the background.
The functional advantages of this approach are often overlooked as not all designers are comfortable hand coding HTML pages that exactly cater for the needs of a given situation.
One of the immediate benefits is that static web pages can be handled and published on line as easily as PDF files are.
They can simply be dropped into an assets folder on an existing corporate website.
Here they can serve up their bespoke product with no ongoing maintenance costs as static HTML does not need periodic attention in order to keep up to date with security upgrades.
Once the separate pages for phone and tablet/desktop layouts are built in an adaptive response layout, they can be easily amended by semi-skilled operatives using free third party editing software like Adobe Brackets.
A key advantage of this approach is that it is a scaleable and cost effective way of including digital elements into interpretive projects.
The only limitation on its uptake is the ability of the interpretive team to customise and develop digital product as easily as they do with print and signage materials.
At Nature Tourism Services we identified this as being an emerging issue at the time of the first ipad release in July 2010.
Accordingly we undertook a vigorous digital research and development program to ensure we could bring the same level of creative enterprise to our digital product as we do to our signage and print media.
In this we have been fortunate to work with selected clients to develop and refine the suite of digital product options we are seeking to share here.