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Apps: The Pocket-Sized Guide to Big Outdoor Experiences

Published: 1 May 2024

Attraction Types: Open-Air Museums, Ancient Ruins/Archaeological Sites, Outdoor Heritage Sites, Botanical Gardens, Zoos, National Parks.

ATS Case Studies: Highclere Castle, Balmoral Castle, South Downs National Park, Darent Valley, Hylands Estate, and Glastonbury Way.

Beyond the basic information (location, opening hours, facilities), a well-designed app can become a valuable virtual guide. It empowers visitors with wayfinding, enriches engagement and fosters a deeper connection with your attraction.

This helps to boost visitor satisfaction which in turn leads to repeat visits and encourages positive reviews on sites such as Google and TripAdvisor. In fact, we discuss 5 reasons why apps matter for outdoor visitor attractions in our article Big Stories, Small Footprint: Apps for Outdoor Attractions.

We asked our in-house App Development team what 10 features an outdoor visitor app should ideally incorporate. Here are their suggestions:

10 Essential Features for Your Outdoor Visitor App:

  1. Ticketing and Booking: If your attraction requires entry fees or offers guided tours, integrate a ticketing and booking system within the app. This streamlines the process for visitors and provides a convenient way to purchase tickets or book slots in advance.
  2. Interactive Maps: Detailed maps are a must-have. Integrate GPS functionality to allow users to track their location and explore at their own pace. Consider layering options for different trail types, points of interest and amenities. Or provide ‘Turn-by-Turn’ navigation which offers clear, step-by-step guidance for navigating trails or reaching specific points of interest.
  3. Detailed Information on Points of Interest: Provide engaging descriptions about landmarks, historical sites, flora, and fauna. Include high-quality photos, audio recordings (such as birdsongs), and even short videos to bring the information to life.
  4. Multimedia Features: Go beyond static information. Incorporate features such as pre-recorded audio or video tours narrated by park rangers, historians or local experts.
  5. Accessibility Features: Make your app accessible to all. Offer text-to-speech and audio descriptions functionality for those with visual impairments and close captions on videos for D/deaf of hard of hearing visitors. You can provide interactive maps with accessibility overlays and virtual tour videos for inaccessible areas, allowing visitors with mobility limitations to experience more of the attraction. Apps can also offer content in multiple languages, catering to international visitors.
  6. Real-Time Updates: Provide alerts and updates on weather conditions, trail closures, special events or exciting wildlife sightings. This helps visitors plan their experience and ensures their safety by highlighting potential hazards.
  7. Push Notifications: Use push notifications strategically to engage visitors. You can send notifications about upcoming events, highlight lesser-known trails on quieter days, or offer exclusive content to app users.
  8. Offline Functionality: Ensure core features like maps and point-of-interest descriptions are downloadable for offline access. This is crucial for areas with limited or no mobile service.
  9. Make it Family-Friendly: Cater to families with features like interactive treasure hunts, educational quizzes designed for younger audiences, for example identifying bird calls, navigating based on a compass app or learning about different types of trees.
  10. Include Educational Resources: Take the opportunity to promote environmental awareness with resources about conservation efforts and tips for responsible outdoor recreation.

Developing a successful app requires careful planning, user-centred design and ongoing maintenance and that’s where our App Development team get involved.

Software Technical Manager, Ryan, says

We make sure the app interface is user-friendly with intuitive navigation and clear icons and will avoid clutter to ensure all features are easy to find and understand.
An important, but sometimes overlooked, detail is to make sure you use high-contrast colour schemes and offer options for adjusting text size to ensure the app has optimised readability for visitors with visual impairments.

Aisling, Web Developer, also adds

Don’t forget to encourage visitor interaction with features like social media integration and photo sharing which creates a platform for user-generated content, further advertising your venue.

As the outdoor recreation industry continues to evolve, embracing innovative technologies like apps will be key to attracting and engaging visitors. By investing in this valuable tool, you can unlock a world of possibilities and ensure your outdoor attraction thrives in the digital age.

Great storytelling (and a flair for the creative!) is at the heart of what we do and the expert teams at ATS can advise on the best way to bring your story to life. So get in touch for a chat.

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