We ensure our digital products are fully integrated into the overall nature tourism operating environment. This includes expanding the utility of signage to ensure it serves as a portal to a deeper online experience delivering interactive nature tourism digital content.
We recognised that web-apps rather than native / hybrid apps were a better fit for conventional nature tourism settings in areas where internet coverage was available via either 3G/4G coverage or local precinct wi-fi.
Static webpages also allow for content to be delivered via local area networks without the need for any server side processing.
Interactive PDFs complete the product suite to ensure content can be embedded onto people's phones for use in areas remote from internet coverage.
In a simple practical sense, a native/hybrid app is one you download from an app store onto your mobile device.
A web-app by contrast is a platform that mimics the look and feel of an app, but however is delivered via conventional web pages loading as required in your phone or tablet's internet browser.
Web-apps ensure that the content is accesible to all users irrespective of their choice of mobile device. This is in contrast to most apps which are generally only produced for IOS and Android software platforms thus discriminating against Windows and Blackberry users.
Web-apps also allow non-English speakers to translate the content into their native language via the settings in their phone internet browser. [Chrome for example offers the user the choice to instantly translate 'foreign' language web pages when they load.]
Apps with even moderate amounts of embedded content (typically over 50MB) can only be downloaded with wi-fi connection. This means that users need to have loaded the app prior to embarking on their experience. Web-apps by contrast deliver their content on demand drawing on unlimited data archives.
Visitors with no prior preparation / planning can easily access this content on site via either QR code or else keying in simple URL links [carefully planning these being part of the platform development process].
Most of our clients use capital funding to implement any new product initiatives. These 'one off' ventures must be carefully planned so as to minimise any recurrent costs needed for their maintenance.
Static webpages can effectively be housed in an assets folder on an existing tourism website. As static pages they need no server processing to compile the page content and can generate the user response speeds one expects from an app experience (as distinct from CMS / responsive pages that are commonly sluggish to load on mobile phones).
By contrast the annual recurrent costs of maintaining at least an IOS and and Android version of an app (in terms of both content updates and upgrades to keep it in line with advances in operating system software) are significant. These act as a serious disincentive for small - medium organisations to develop conventional mobile app product. Web apps by contrast are within the means of most land managers to implement and maintain.
The Falls User Guide is a web-app we developed in collaboration with the Falls Creek Resort Management in 2016 based on the principles described above. Snap the QR code from your phone or tablet to view the web-app.
We developed the Three Sisters web-app in collaboration with the Blue Mountains City Council in 2014. Snap the QR code from your phone or tablet to view the web-app.
In 2014 we worked with Charters Towers Regional Council to instal a First World War digital heritage trail through Lissner Park in the centre of the town. A series of 8 posts lead visitors around the park with QR codes linking them to the relevant content page.
Interactive PDFs are of course a well established digital resource and many visitors will already have PDF reader apps installed on their phones. (iBooks for example is now provided on IOS devices as standard).
The feature of the smartphone guide is the way it designs the PDF file so as to mimic app functionality. It also takes advantage of the fact that it can use either vector or raster maps. This allows it to offer zoom in functionality of up to 16X in line with the capabilities of the PDF reader app (some are better than others).
The web-app will work on any mobile device in any area with internet coverage. Before people travel away from this zone they are encouraged to download the guide to embed the map content onto their phone.
A major advantage of using the PDF format to embed content onto the phone is that it can download a very large body of content and mapping material without exceeding the 50MB download limit beyond which wi-fi is required.
This is helped by the fact that it is content only data that is being delivered. The coding to interpret and present this content is already in place on the phone's PDF reader app.
A typical file size is around 15MB resulting in smooth and simple downloads for most users in most settings.
In early 2013, the Australian Alps Smartphone Guide was the first interactive PDF guide we produced following an exhaustive research and development process undertaken in collaboration with the Australian Alps Liaison Committee to ensure the presentation and delivery system of the guide worked effectively.
The Three Sisters Trackmaps guide was produced in late 2014 to complement the introduction of the Three Sisters web-app at Echo Point, Katoomba. Users can access the guide via QR code links on site.
We worked closely with the Lord Howe Island World Heritage Area in 2013/2014 to convey a range of vital user information including quarantine regulations and walking track details.
The production of an interactive PDF maps guide was an integral part of our roll out of the Falls User Guide in 2016.
Whilst there is no longer any debate over the need to build websites that present both desktop and mobile optimised options as part of the user interface, there is an active debate about the best way to achieve this outcome.
Everyone is now familiar with the responsive web design format whereby a single body of content is styled differently according to the screen size presenting it. Though this is now a relatively simple outcome to achieve with off the shelf content management system themes available, there is an inherent problem with this approach when it comes to delivering high quality browsing experiences for mobile phone users.
Basically mobile phones are the end of the line - the format you get after you've dealt with the needs of desktop and tablet users.
An alternative approach however is to develop adaptive designs to deliver web content. This option sees the mobile phone solution as a separate stand alone interface, unencumbered by the constraints of also having to deal with the needs of tablet and desktop users. This Nature Tourism Services website has been constructed using this mobile first, adaptive technology.
The benefits of the adaptive design process are evident here on this webpage when comparing how its content is delivered on a phone versus tablet / desktop.
The mobile phone version recogises that the single biggest challenge facing users is navigation and the way one quickly gets lost in a site when browsing on a phone.
To counter this our phone designs use a web app format focussed on making the browsing environment very stable - an ecosystem where new content is easily loaded onto the screen without you having to either scroll down or else click across to a new page.
This stable platform delivery is evident in the click through text box shown above left. The tablet user by contrast has a much more conventional web page format presented to them.
This customised differentiation between phone and tablet/desktop formats would simply not have been possible to achieve via responsive design platforms. It requires much more than a change in styling to deliver. The system we have used here is an architectural response - a rebuild whereby it is not just the presentation of the container that is varied. Rather it requires the reconstruction of the container itself and as such is outside the reach of responsive processing to deliver.