Take a look at some of the excellent resources currently in use around the UK and abroad - seeing examples in action is a wonderful way to spark your imagination and help you think of ways to develop and share your site more effectively with visitors before they visit you.
How to add pre-visit 'wow' by using digital resources
Before you rush out and spend a lot of time and money, begin by taking a walk in your visitor’s shoes and ask yourself the key question ‘Who are my visitors?’ don't just think about your ‘regulars’ include any new audiences you know would really enjoy your venue. You can involve and enthuse visitors a long time before they arrive on site so think ‘What do my visitors need to know before a visit?’ and ‘What is the best way of getting the information to them?
Visitors prefer to go somewhere recommended to them and often use the internet as well as friends to help them decide where to go and what to do; they want to be reassured that the time they spend is going to be worthwhile. In today’s recession people are looking for a good deal and value for money - so have offers on ticket prices or special activities available alongside opening times, prices and events on your website; Follow this link to see how the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh manage the multitude of everyday and special events on their website and for the latest research about internet use from the Office of National Statistics click here.
It is OK for you to think that your site is a great place to visit, but you need to communicate that enthusiasm. One of the beauties of the internet is you can show your potential visitors just how wonderful a place is in advance – with a digital camera you can make sure you always have a good stock of photos for your website – if you are unhappy with your snaps try 7 tips for shooting great digital photos at www.basic-digital-photography.com to improve your technique. Photos can be used to demonstrate anything from accessibility to special events, stored on a free flickr photostream and used to support blogs as the Imperial War Museum has done. Remember it is very difficult to run an event and capture it on camera at the same time so why not think about employing a local professional photographer like ours for media shots or contact your local college where photography students maybe looking for the perfect final year project..
When you are considering which media to use don't forget that short YouTube videos can be cheap and effective too, for information on how to create an account and videos click here. With most digital cameras you can make 2 to 3 minute videos or you can capture and share memorable tales or music on SoundCloud - creating a multimedia movie which combines video, photographs, narration and music is simpler than you think download free movie maker software to get started.
PDF documents can be used to make all kinds of information available in a secure way that works well alongside assistive technology. Save existing documents to this format, and then supply them as pre-visit downloads like information packs or this discovery map from the National Trust. Chedworth Roman Villa are also helping special interest groups such as schools get the most from their visit by putting pre-visit planning information online. Give an overview of everything they might see and do, demonstrate curriculum links to taught programmes and provide information which will take the headache out of trip organisation. Any leader or teacher will really appreciate this and return visits are more likely if the whole experience has been a good one. You can easily email the same information to targeted groups.
Finding your destination with ease helps to get any visit off to a good start and these days it seems as though maps are old fashioned and sat navs the only way to go – they are wonderful when they work, but if you have a large site make sure the postcode a visitor enters doesn’t lead to the back entrance! For those without a sat nav downloadable maps are still a handy tool for visitors to print off in advance and can be useful to warn about particular site access difficulties.
The speed of change in the world of technology means it can be hard to keep up with jargon and gadgets. But keep an eye on the latest trends; there are some amazing things happening. New Ofcom research shows that over a quarter of adults and almost half of teenagers now own a smartphone. Free QR codes are available online on sites such as 2DcodeMe.com and can be used to create links to individual items as the National Museum of Scotland have done or limitless information on the web which each person can tailor to their own requirements.
If your site is public access think about creating an educational geocaching event through the website www.geocaching.com/education/ or attract a whole new audience of SCVNGR followers. You could also develop free downloadable apps like the Natural England ones to supply bespoke information or wonderful GPS linked audio trails - this short and simple video demonstrates how the 'Stonebarrow Hill Smugglers Trail' iPhone app works - a GPS-triggered app produced on behalf of the National Trust and South Dorset AONB or podscrolls like these created for the Watershed Landscape project.
For more app inspiration take a look at the way the Museum of London applied an existing resource collection and used augmented reality for Street Museum.
But don't forget 73% of adults are currently smartphoneless so don't put your whole budget in one basket.
Finally make sure that all information is easily accessible and remember keep it simple and then with all the stories at their fingertips your visitors will find it easy to decide to spend the day with you.