6 Reasons to Launch an App for Your Museum
From families to students to curious explorers of all ages, museums offer so much to their local and global communities, and in today’s digital age, there’s a huge opportunity to amplify that impact. Museums and historic sites offer unique and interactive educational experiences, and are great places for fostering intellectual curiosity at any age. Each year there are approximately 850 million visits to American museums, more than the attendance for all major league sporting events and theme parks combined. In addition, museums also receive millions of online visits each year.
However, one concern is keeping museums relatable to younger generations in a more digital society. In a world where information is one click away, what do museums and historic sites do to maintain relevancy? How do they fit into the lifestyle of the growing population of digital natives? While it might seem counterintuitive, a mobile app can be a great digital aid for this analog experience.
Museum apps or apps designed for historic sites can offer visitors a variety of services in the palm of their hands. By digitizing most of the necessary and logistical steps to visiting a museum, an app takes away the time-consuming planning, giving visitors more time and mental energy to enjoy their experience and learn in a new way. But that’s not all. Apps can also provide a more seamless and modern on-site experience, and maintain engagement after a visitor, or member, has left the building.
Key Benefits and Features of a Museum or Historical Site App
Digital maps and information guides
Arguably one of the most popular and essential benefits to an app for a museum or historic site is including digital maps and information guides. For art museums this can include everything from exhibition locations, articles around each piece, or even free audio guides. For an outdoor historic site, such as a battlefield, this could also include trails around the site, interesting tidbits, or a digital timeline of the events that took place there. In an effort to reduce single-use maps, brochures, and other papers, digital information through an app is extremely useful to any visitor, giving them all the information they need right from their phone, as opposed to gathering up multiple bits of paper they’ll just end up throwing away. Apps can get even more sophisticated if you include location-based maps, which help give visitors step-by-step directions to get to the next exhibition or site without having to track down a security guard or volunteer.
While some people prefer guided tours with a knowledgeable guide, many enjoy going at their own place and seeing only the sights that interest them. Self-guided tours are a great feature to add into a museum or historic site app and can be customized for any user. Maybe you offer users several different trail options for your nature preservation, each varying in length and difficulty. A science museum could have a self-guided audio tour for each exhibition, with the ability to skip over sections if the visitor has limited time. Including digital tours can be great for visitors who don’t have the time or patience for traditional guided tours, and best of all, they can repeat the tour again and again after they’ve left the museum, providing continued engagement and interest into the future.
In-person tour management
While offering self-guided digital tours is great, some people really do prefer in-person, guided tours. A museum app can also provide a service here, allowing visitors to book tour times in advance, and get to know their guide. This guarantees they have a spot on the tour, and can provide other helpful information such as where the tour starts (and directions if they share their location), how long it will take, and any other useful information they might need. If the app allows for push notifications, users can even receive messages for reminders before the tour starts and alerts if anything is running off schedule.
Every museum, monument, national park, or historical site has an event at some point during the year. Whether it’s a specific exhibition opening, a performance, a holiday celebration, or a day of remembrance, most of these locations have an event to manage. An app can be great tool for management and promotion for this event. The app can include calendars so users can see when the next big events are, digital ticketing, timed reservations, and other event management software needed to help the increased number of visitors navigate in a smooth, easy way. You can also promote events ahead of time with push notifications and offer feedback surveys afterward to get opinions regarding how the event went. After all, getting quick feedback allows you to make fast changes, and implement improvements.
People around the world are using their mobile devices more and more for payments and purchases. In early 2018 it was reported that 62% of smartphone users made a purchase with their mobile phone within the past 6 months. And with the growing popularity of PayPal and other mobile wallets, buying tickets on your phone is a much easier and more time efficient way for museum goers to secure tickets for timed entrances or special exhibitions. Including digital ticketing in a museum app helps to make it easier for museum goers to pay ahead of time and skip the line, making the museum app invaluable for any visitor. It also provides a more secure platform for ticket sales, giving both the museum and visitors a greater sense of safety versus a mobile website.
Group discussion boards are an easy add-on to a museum app that are a great way to get quick answers to even the most trivial questions. Professionals can be present for any highbrow questions that might arise, but many people enjoy having discussions with other visitors or members. This is a great tool to building a transparent community and foster connections between members. Your forum can enable visitors to share ideas, reactions, theories, and experiences. And while the app might be programmed to support multiple different languages, having other visitors who speak the same language and can answer questions can be extremely helpful for foreign tourists who know little of the local language.
An App for a Fine Arts Museum
Organization: The Museum of Modern Art
App: MoMA Audio
Description: We’ve mentioned the phenomenal MoMA Audio app in our previous post about app for nonprofits, but it’s worth mentioning again. MoMA Audio provides art gallery visitors everything they could possibly need while visiting the museum. The digital information guides tell users about current exhibitions and where they’re located in the museum. The app also includes audio for every art piece, told from the perspectives of curators, historians, and artists. MoMA audio even includes special sections for children and supports the top 10 visitor languages. This app perfectly utilizes many of the key features for a museum app, including digital maps and information, as well as digital self-guided tours, in a free platform.
App in iTunes Store
An App for a Natural History Museum
Organization: The American Museum of Natural History
App: Explorer – AMNH NYC
Description: Museums of all types have benefitted from mobile apps. The American Museum of Natural History in New York City has a well-rounded app called Explorer. This app is designed to allow the user to become their own guide (aka explorer) in the museum, giving you the option to select your interests beforehand. The app will then organize the perfect schedule for a visitor based on where they are in the museum.
The app has additional features, including a location-based map to get directions to restrooms and cafes, the ability to purchase tickets in advance, and additional information, video, and game content for each exhibition. The Explorer app makes it easy for users to plan their visit in advance, skip lines, and learn more about the exhibitions both during their trip and afterwards.
An App for a Historic Site
Organization: Arlington National Cemetery
App: Explorer – ANC Explorer
Description: In addition to museums, historic sites and landmarks are important places for visitors to learn about a city’s or country’s history. Arlington National Cemetery is one of the most famous cemeteries in the United States and has more than 3 million visitors annually. The ANC Explorer app helps visitors to navigate the 624 acre site by providing a map and location-based directions to different parts of the cemetery. You can even search for a specific grave by typing in the first and last name of the deceased, which will then pull up with directions and an image of the gravestone. In addition, the app also provides emergency and event push notifications and self-guided tours. The ANC Explorer app as proved extremely useful for all visitors, both those just wanted to view the historic site, and those looking for a specific grave.
An App for a Zoo
Organization: San Diego Zoo
App: San Diego Zoo – Travel Map
Description: One of the most iconic zoos in the United States, the San Diego Zoo has there own app to help visitors plan their trip. The San Diego Zoo is known for being heavily forested and hilly and this app provides visitors with a digital map of the zoo so they don’t need to rely solely on paper maps. The app also includes location-based mapping that gives you step-by-step directions to get to any animal exhibit, restroom, or cafe within the zoo. Users can also select specific animal enclosures to descriptions of the animals there, keeping visitors informed as they walk around the park.
An App for a National Park
Organization: National Park Service
App: NPS Yellowstone National Park
Description: Yellowstone National Park is a key travel destination for many travelers in the western United States, and with almost 571,000 visitors in 2018, their app has provided great services to all types of visitors. Like many of the apps discussed so far, a detailed map is included for directions and to locate services. And since mobile reception in a national park can be spotty, the map is downloadable before you get there, allowing you to use it whenever. You can also have a saved favorites list, giving you alerts when you’re nearby a saved site. But arguably the best and more unique feature of the app is a live data feed that gives users the latest geyer predictions, camping availability, road conditions, and more. In addition to all of this, visitors still get the informational services perfect for a self-guided tour, as well as accessibility information. The app is well rounded and has a good user experience for all different visitors, providing a valuable service to help you enjoy nature.
An App for a National Monument
Organization: Centre des Monuments Nationaux
Description: Outside of the U.S., one of the most simple and useful apps for museum ticketing and tours is JeFile, an app that allows you to book timed admission and tours for climbing the towers of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. You can book up to four people at one time and once you pick your time, you are given a timer countdown to let you know when you have to be at the entrance gate. You even get a notification when it’s your turn. The app is extremely simple and doesn’t have any added features, but in a world where almost everyone has a smartphone, it makes it easy and straightforward to plan a trip to the towers of Notre Dame.
It’s pretty easy to see how apps can benefit a variety of businesses and organizations. Non-profits, legal firms, associations, and many more can all utilize mobile apps to help provide useful services to users, resulting in increased interest and engagement. Museums and historic sites can use a mobile app in a variety of ways to benefit their visitors, including offering digital tours, information guides, maps, payments, calendars, and chat forums. But every museum and historic site is unique and therefore the app created for it should be specially designed for that site, giving your users the answer to why they should visit. And the added benefits and features help get them to come back.
Mobile app development might seem overwhelming, but there are many resources and platforms out there to help any organization, whether a museum or not, build the perfect app that fits into their budget. Hatch Apps is a service-enabled platform with a mission to bring transparency, speed and price stability to the software development industry. We work hand-in-hand with customers to deploy custom software, leveraging pre-built components and building more for less. Make sure to book a conversation with a member of our team to learn about how app development can fit in your marketing strategy and event budget.