Audio guide apps are the simplest, most affordable way to provide self-guided tours for visitors.
Whether you’re looking to supplement docents, earn additional revenue, or cater to accessibility requirements, you can do so with a well-designed app.
85% of Americans own a smartphone capable of accessing an audio guide app, and you can offer devices for those who need to borrow one.
Below, we show you how to launch your own app in 5 easy steps, plus we offer 3 examples to kickstart your research.
What is an audio guide app?
An audio guide app is a mobile app that allows site visitors to take themselves on a self-guided tour of your location, whether that’s a museum or city park. Because users can rely on their own mobile devices, there’s no need for complicated audio equipment.
Organizations can launch a web-based application that doesn’t need to be downloaded from an app store, or—if wifi connectivity is a concern—they can provide a native mobile app that allows users to download tour content before they arrive.
How much does it cost to create an audio guide app?
If you use a platform designed for building audio guide apps, you can drastically cut your budget. The annual cost is typically below $3,000, with a small startup fee, or none at all. Compare this to the average cost to develop a custom app ($70,000 to $150,000 to launch and then $40,000+ per year for maintenance), and it’s easy to see why many companies choose to use an app-building platform with no coding required.
In addition to saving money, you’ll also launch your app a lot faster.
Using STQRY, World of Wine was able to launch their Francis Bacon exhibition app in just 3 weeks, instead of the standard 6 to 12 months that it takes to develop a custom app.
Many different types of organizations offer audio guide apps to their visitors, including:
- Cultural sites
- City, state, and national parks
- Self-guided tours through cities or special regions
How to choose the right audio guide app
Looking to build your own audio guide app?
Make sure that the app builder you choose offers these key features:
Great UX out of the box - Because the platform is intended to be used by non-technical staff, it should offer a great-looking app right out of the box. Explore example apps built with the platform to check that they have clean, smooth UX that’s easy to navigate.
Designed for building audio tours - There are many different app builders on the market. Choose one that is designed for creating audio guides specifically. Otherwise, it’ll be more difficult to build an app without technical expertise.
Multimedia content - The audio guide app should be able to support multimedia content (text, images, audio files, and video files) in one seamless interface that makes it easy for users to interact with the content that works best for them.
Multilanguage experiences - You’ll want to make sure that the app supports the languages that matter to your audience. Users should be able to select their language immediately upon opening the app.
Location-based technology - The app should also provide location-based features, such as GPS triggers and Bluetooth, so that audio content autoplays as users move through your site.
5 steps for launching an audio guide app
Follow these simple steps to launch your own app in 3 to 8 weeks. Your timeframe will largely depend on how quickly you can finalize your audio tracks.
1. Choose the type of mobile app (native, web, or both)
The first step is to determine which type of mobile app you want to create.
With STQRY Apps, you can launch a native app in the iOS and Android stores, and with STQRY Guide, you can make your app available within our branded app and on the mobile web.
The second option is more affordable, but many organizations choose the native route because they want a branded presence in app store search results. You might also choose a native app to offer users the ability to download content before they arrive.
If you want to allow users to either download the app from their app store or engage with content from their mobile browser (without downloading anything), then you can choose both options. Our team at STQRY is available to help you decide.
2. Strategize your audio content
The next step is to create a content strategy for your app.
Here are some important questions to answer:
How many tours do you want to create? (Most organizations have 1 to 3, but we recommend no more than 10.)
How many stops will each tour contain? (We recommend 7 to 15 stops for each tour.)
What static information pages do you need? (Most organizations need just one page for hours, FAQs, resource links, etc.)
Do you want to sell tickets to other experiences? (If so, you might create a separate page and embed your checkout.)
Once you’ve got your plan all mapped out, you can move on to the next step.
3. Write, record, and edit audio content
Now it’s time to start writing your audio scripts. You’ll need one script for each stop on your tour. Audio tracks should be 2 to 6 minutes long. Make sure to get stakeholders involved at the writing stage to work out the kinks before you record.
Once your scripts are finalized, you can enlist the help of a colleague or voiceover artist to record the content. In post-production, add audio effects sparingly to bring your stories to life. If possible, layer in real audio from the time period or person described. Get more tips for creating audio content here.
4. Set up your app pages and tours
Now you can start building out your tours. For each tour, add a header image. And for each stop, you’ll want an image and a text description in addition to your audio content. You should also provide transcriptions for your audio files. With our text-to-speech tool, you can automatically generate transcriptions for your audio content in a variety of popular languages.
You’ll also need to arrange your stops on the map, and set up your location-based triggers. (Our team can walk you through this.)
Lastly, set up your static app pages. For instance, you might have an “Info” page with basic hours of operation and contact information.
5. Test and launch your app
Once you’ve added all of your content, our team can set your app live quickly. However, if you’re launching a native app in the iOS or Android app stores, it might take a couple of weeks to get their approval.
Before you share your app with your target audience, make sure to test it thoroughly
Use a few different mobile devices
Test every stop
Check for errors in the content or missing files
Move in different directions to test location triggers
3 audio guide app examples
Explore these examples of audio guides to help you get fresh ideas for crafting your own app.
1. Walt Disney Family Museum
At the Walt Disney Family Museum, visitors can learn more about the innovator’s early creative works, how the character of Mickey Mouse began, and the journey towards becoming an entertainment powerhouse.
2. Bloody Mary’s Museum and Haunted New Orleans Tours
The app for Bloody Mary’s Tours is a great example of an app that generates revenue all on its own. Rather than being free for in-person visitors, the app costs $3.99 and allows users to guide themselves through haunted sites in New Orleans.
3. St. Louis Public Library
With the St. Louis Public Library audio guide app, people can take a quiet, self-guided tour of the library (without having to ask librarians repetitive questions). The app covers the architecture, history, and circulation content of each room.
Check out more of our favorite audio guide app examples.
Overall, a great app should offer high-quality content in accessible formats so you can cater to your entire audience.