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.
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.
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.
Using web-apps 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 web-app 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 web-app 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 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.
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.
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.
This web app is designed to meet the needs of the transition point where marketing stops and getting out and about begins.
Having arrived in the resort people need to be able to easily locate the facilities they need and then to get out and about on their chosen activity.
The user guide focuses on these needs by having discrete summer and winter sections that ensures that visitors are dealing with the information of direct relevance to them.
A feature of the resort is the fact that there is good internet coverage within the precinct.
For people looking to embark on activities out on the surrounding Bogong High Plains an interactive PDF guide is included that allows them to embed maps and trail information onto their phones for use in areas with no coverage.
The guide directly assists in the clarity of the resort signage materials by freeing these up from the need to convey things like directory details.
These are very demanding in terms of signage real estate in addition to changing year on year. Having a digital support platform working in closely with the signage means that it can focus on the delivery of stable, long term content in a cost effective manner.
In addition the issue of providing information in a variety of languages is solved by effectively publishing all the core user information in HTML in the user guide. This means that people can translate this on the fly via their mobile devices internet settings.
In important aspect of the Falls Creek User Guide is the way in which is built so as to allow for the easy addition of value add interpretive content.
With the core digital platform in place it becomes a simple process to then add additional content.
The development of the new Arts and Heritage Trail for the alpine village took advantage of this in 2017.
It allows visitors to walk around the village and to appreciate the way in which it developed from its origins in the years after the end of WWII and the construction of the high levels of the Kiewa Valley Hydroelectric Scheme.
A particular aspect of the guide is the way in which it recognises that many people to the resort will not realise that it is actually home to a community which includes Australia’s highest primary school.
Accordingly the video content for the guide uses the students from the school as ambassadors to describe the features people can see along the walk as well as sharing their favourite things about Falls Creek.
The innovative qualities of the heritage trail were recognised in September 2017 when it was commended in the Victorian Community History Awards run by the Victorian Public Records Office as being an outstanding local history project presented in a unique format.
The Ballina Coastal Recreation Path is a major initiative to connect the town of Ballina with the village of Lennox Head some 10km to the north. The initial section of the path is of particular cultural significance as it traverses the East Ballina Aboriginal Place.
This Aboriginal Place recognises the massacre of an Aboriginal community on the site in the late 1850s.
The cultural sensitivities and sadness amongst the local Aboriginal community in relation to this event made the interpretation of this trail section a task requiring careful consideration and consultation.
This was undertaken by the local Council.
Our input involved us developing an interpretation plan to give effect to the wishes of the community.
A central plank of this response was the development of a web app for the path that allowed Aboriginal elders to talk about the significance of the site to visitors as they travelled through the Aboriginal Place.
The central issue here was that they did not want this material broadly published on the web.
The notion of people only hearing these stories when they were on Country was a prospect they could however support.
The fact that there is good internet coverage in the area made this a simple project to deliver via a web app.
It presents the audio recordings in a video format that includes a simple narrative line allowing people to read the text at the same time as they hear the story being told.
The Three Sisters and the adjoining Echo Point precinct at Katoomba are one of Australia’s best known natural features.
The site is visited by an unusually diverse array of nationalities. This makes the provision of multi lingual information options a central issue for the delivery of visitor services there.
Alongside this factor there sits the problem that during the colder months it is not uncommon for the whole outlook to be enveloped in cloud such that people simply have no vista to experience.
The web app addresses both these issues by in the first instance publishing all its content in HTML such that it can be translated on the fly by the user's own internet browser.
It also features a sweeping panorama photo that people can pan across and identify elements of interest from.
Additionally the detailed nature of the photo taken at optimal light conditions means that it in effects serves as a pair of binoculars people can use to examine landscape sections in detail.
The guide especially provides users with information on the local walks they can undertake in the surrounding precinct as well as other venues of interest to them in the local Katoomba area.
Transport and trail link options by which they can access these facilities are highlighted.
As internet coverage in the precinct is very limited, a PDF walks guide is provided for people to download and embed onto their phones prior to setting off for walks around the escarpment and especially those down into the valleys.
This guide is interesting as it provides an example of how user guide product can effectively be rolled out in stages.
The driver for its production was the construction of town entry displays at either end of Charters Towers.
The idea here is to get people to divert from the highway running alongside the town to stop in and take in the variety of services and activities on offer.
To this effect the web app provides a simple resource they can reference for immediate first hand summaries of the facilities and experiences on offer at Charters Towers. The opportunity exists to develop more detailed content in relation to these experiences.
This trail was developed as part of Australia’s nation wide initiatives to commemorate the involvement of local communities in the First World War. It was opened on Remembrance Day - 11 November - in 2014. Charters Towers has a particular connection with the conflict owing to the initial capture of the German colonies in New Guinea at the outset of the conflict and also to the fact that Hugh Quinn grew up in the town. Quinn later lent his name to one of the best known outposts in the Gallipoli campaign. A feature of the trail is that it combines a real life experience in the form of a signposted circuit around Lissner Park in the town, with the fact that all of the trail content is embedded in the cloud in the form of the web app. This allows for the use of extended connected narratives as well as multi media content. Of particular relevance to local school groups also is the fact that it includes a large amount of primary reference material they can access to help students assess this content and form their own assessments and conclusions in relation to the material being presented.
This guide was the prototype version we developed in conjunction with the Australian Alps Liaison Committee in 2012 to develop the structure and function of this product.
It came about owing to the need to update the touring map for the Australian Alps and recognising that there was the opportunity to transfer this function to a digital platform.
The product has been effective at delivering a steady download stream in the order of 3500 units per year since this time.
It was updated in 2017 to deliver both content updates and to include subtle modifications to the operating environment as derived from other more recent smartphone guide products.
This smartphone guide was the developed in 2016 in collaboration with the Blue Mountains Accommodation and Tourism Association.
It took advantage of the extensive network of tourism operators comprising the association to rigorously test and evaluate the product as a fit for purpose digital product meeting the needs of the marketplace.
The nuances to the PDF smartphone guide structure that resulted have significantly advanced the guide’s functionality and been incorporated across the other guides in the set.
This guide is focussed on the needs of visitors to the Echo Point precinct and the Three Sisters Aboriginal Place at Katoomba.
The trailhead sign at the start of the track network leading into the valley walks features a QR code link advising people not to take a photo of the map, but rather to download the PDF walks guide to embed trail maps and notes onto their phone.
The guide was established in 2014 and since this time has proven a very effective and consistent means of delivering data to users. Downloads track closely with both weather and general use patterns and indicate the effectiveness with which QR codes can be used to deliver content to users when connecting with a product that people are actually interested to seek out.
Whilst the Falls Creek Alpine Resort has good internet coverage that is used by the delivery of the Falls User Guide product, the surrounding Bogong High Plains does not offer coverage.
People venturing out from the resort into more remote parts of the surrounding region are hence invited to download the PDF smartphone guide before setting out in order to embed track content onto their phones.
We developed this smartphone guide in 2015 for the Lord Howe Island Board to assist specifically with the roll out of their new island pest species quarantine regime.
The guide was designed to provide a ready reference source for both local residents and visitors alike.
Extensive tracks details and the compilation of maps covering both the terrestrial walking trails and marine national park zoning requirements are designed to provide a one-stop-shop for users seeking orientation information.