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Fremantle WA 6160
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  • Apt to have an app?

20th August 2015

When is it apt to have an app?

Do you need a mobile app for your visitor information?

We get a lot of queries about the best way to provide visitor information and create a great experience. A big question is – do we need an app? The answer is – it all depends on what you need it for.

Firstly, What is an app?

An app (short for application) is typically a software program designed to run on your smartphone or tablet. Mobile apps are downloaded from the Apple Store or Google Play. Think of a mobile app like a software program (eg: MS Office) that you’d install and use on your desktop computer. An app is a software program specifically designed to work on a small screen. And just like MS Word on your computer, an app will work even if you’re not connected to the Internet.

Do you need an app?

The simplest way to answer this question is to ask – will people need to access your app when they don’t have phone coverage or access to the Internet?

Let’s say your town or shire wants to create a tourism trail to give visitors an experience of the history of the town. You want them to be able to access a map of the trail with information about the different points of interest. If the trail is in town, where there is phone coverage or WiFi access, you can have an online map and interpretive information available on your website. This will be cheaper to set-up and easier to maintain than an app. Just be sure your website is mobile-friendly (so it works well on a phone or tablet – not just a desktop).

If your trail is through the bush, outside of phone and Internet coverage, and you want people to be able to access the map and interpretive information, you will need a mobile app.

The biggest advantage of an app over a responsive website is the integration it allows between the app and the phone or tablet’s GPS. This turns the app into a navigational device. If navigation is important, then an app is the way to go. An app also allows integration the with device’s in-built camera plus social media, like Facebook and Instagram.

Historical Information Online

A good example of what towns can do to provide visitor information online on a limited budget is The Shire of Toodyay Wikipedia page. Wikipedia is built on a responsive platform so it works well on a mobile phone.

This page gives historic interpretive information about Toodyay landmarks. Each landmark in Toodyay also has a QR code so you can quickly access the corresponding information on the Wikipedia page.

Advantages – Easy to set up, built on a trusted platform, no site maintenance costs.

Disadvantages – Cannot access GPS (to guide you around the trail), won’t integrate with social media.

Tourist Information using a mobile app

A very good example of a mobile app is The Nullarbor – Australia’s Great Road Journey. The app was created through a joint project between WA’s Australian Golden Outback and South Australian Tourism.

This app is available from the Apple Store and Google play. This app is perfect for accessing all of the travel information as you cross the Nullarbor. It’s all there at your fingertips.

Advantages – does not require internet access once the app has been installed on the mobile device, accepts ‘push notifications’ (inform users that there is an updated version available to install), and integrates with phone GPS

Disadvantages – is more expensive to develop, harder (and more costly) to update.

So, online tourist information and apps both have advantages and disadvantages and in an ideal world it would be great to have both.  But, if you can’t, choose the one that will work best for the features you want and the limitations you have.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to call me or email me.