Digital technology can make on-site experiences much more immersive and interactive. A native or web app is a great way to create a deeper relationship with visitors by giving them extra information and a new way to explore your offerings.
It’s important to make sure that your app is as interactive and accessible as possible in order to reach the widest range of users and keep them coming back for more. Consider the following features and upgrades in order to increase your accessibility and interactivity.
The Basics: User Design Considerations
On the most basic level, your app should have text and images to cover the basics of your site. Most STQRY clients also integrate audio into their app, even if it’s just a recording of the text accompanying your images with extra information.
With a STQRY app, you can have the images and accompanying text laid out in list form (which can be organized alphabetically) or as a tour with stops (usually organized by distance). Think about which works best with your site so that users can seamlessly integrate the app into their on-site experience.
A touring app will also have previous/next buttons with the images and text in order to create sequential stops that match stops along your on-site tour.
Once you have the basic user design and structure of your app set, it’s time to consider the accessibility elements. If you only have images, audio, and text on your app, you are missing out on all of your visitors who may be hearing impaired or visually impaired, along with people who may need other methods of learning. This can significantly decrease adoption and usage rates.
Having struggled with dyslexia for most of his life, STQRY's founder, Thomas Dunne, has a unique understanding of the importance of accessibility. The idea for STQRY came to him while exploring a site in Grand Rapids Michigan in 2002. He wanted to use the audio tour option, but all devices were out of charge. He knew at that moment there was a better and more efficient way to deliver digital experiences.
App Enhancements for the Visually Impaired
In order to accommodate anyone with visual challenges like dyslexia, blindness, or any sort of vision loss, make sure you have descriptive and engaging audio features. An immersive and informative audio tour can help people with visual challenges experience the site to its full extent. You can also integrate alt text into your images to help people with visual impairments understand all of your content.
App Enhancements for the Hearing Impaired
For visitors with hearing loss or deafness, there are multiple features you can add to your app to enhance their experience. On the most basic level, making sure you have accurate text descriptions, along with engaging photos and video, can help the hearing impaired enjoy your site. Additionally, you can create transcriptions of all of your audio content and make sure your videos are closed captioned so that users can read along with the audio tour as they move through your site.
A step above this is a full American Sign Language tour. Creating ASL videos to accompany your on-site displays can make the experience much more enjoyable for deaf people who use ASL. And the good news is, it’s fairly easy to create – just hire an ASL interpreter and film them translating your existing content. With the STQRY builder, you can upload that video right into your tour.
(For an ASL tour example, we suggest checking out the Walt Disney Family Museum app)
Language and Translation Services
Your app’s accessibility assessment should also include whether or not your content needs to be translated into multiple languages. Do you have international visitors? Are you located in an area that has residents who are bi or even trilingual?
There are plenty of special circumstances where language translation services are useful. For example, the Parks Canada App (a STQRY client currently developing their app) is funded by the Canadian government. Anything funded by that government is required to be available in both English and French.
Overall, translations create an inclusive cultural environment that welcomes visitors from all around the globe, spreading your institution’s vision and message worldwide.
In addition to accessibility, there are a few key areas of an app where interactivity can be enhanced for all users. These include content such as your images and your audio, along with special features like GPS technology and quizzes.
Upgrade Your Images
To make your images more interactive, try a slider for “before and after” features, or panoramic 360 degree photos so that the user can immerse themselves in the scene. You can also integrate touchable hot spots within a panoramic photo to take the user through the image, giving them more information about what they’re looking at.
For example, if you are showcasing a monument within a panoramic photo of a park, that monument within the photo can become a touchable hot spot. When users click on that monument, more information on when, why, and how it was built can pop up for the user to explore.
Improve Your Audio
Aside from the basic audio tour that you likely already have on your site app, there are ways to improve your audio to make it interactive for the user. Some apps utilize stereo or surround sound audio, meaning that they sound can move from one ear to the other creating a very cerebral and immersive experience. This is very popular with theater or other types of storytelling apps.
Adding any sort of extra music, especially of the period and aesthetic of your display, will bring visitors into the scene even deeper. You can even integrate nature sounds into your audio tour if it’s appropriate for the subject matter. Any little touch like that can really set the scene for your audio tour and make it much more memorable for users.
Josh Gilbert, Director of Customer Experience at STQRY, says that a little bit of audio enhancement goes a long way. “You don’t need to have music beneath the narration for the whole tour. Just bookending it – so adding some extra audio elements at the beginning and end of your tour – can make a huge difference, and it’s usually easier to create, too,” he said.
While your primary content will likely be audio and visual, integrating special interactive features like location alerts can make your app even more interactive. Sites that range in size from large parks to small museums can utilize GPS triggered beacon technology to let users know when they are nearby a special point of interest. This location alert also reminds users to keep using the app throughout their journey so that they don’t miss any extra information.
For the younger demographic (or anyone looking for some extra fun!), creating any sort of scavenger hunt game or quick quiz for your site can also make your app more memorable and interactive. This is especially useful if your site is a common field trip location and teachers are looking for something extra to enrich the students’ learning experience.
Reaching All Visitors Digitally
Your digital app is there to seamlessly modernize the on-site visitor experience. Making your app as interactive and accessible as possible creates a more inclusive, inviting experience for visitors from all walks of life. Integrating the features mentioned above will help your visitors have the best app experience possible at your site.