Case Studies
Smart Apps for Better-Informed Wayfinding
Grand Rapids and San Antonio, Texas
build community, 
improve environment, 
prevent violence, 

Grand Rapids


GR Tag Tour website and branded logo. (source: Experience Grand Rapids)

Grand Rapids’ GRTagTour is a smartphone-enabled, 1-mile loop audio tour of 12 of Downtown Grand Rapids’ major landmarks, gateways and streets. The initiative is a project of the Grand Rapids Community Media Center. The audio portions of the tour were produced in conjunction with The Historical Commission and WYCE-FM.

The GRTagTour is designed to entertain and educate visitors and residents about the Grand Rapids community using mobile technology to bring location and information together on a user-friendly platform. The project developed a custom QR code icon that differentiates it as a brand people will recognize while out and about in the city.

A scanable barcode for each stop along the tour connects people to a mobile website containing:

GR Tag Tour website and branded logo. (source: Experience Grand Rapids)

  • Location facts
  • Audio history related to the location
  • A gallery of visitor submitted photos
  • Link to the Downtown Grand Rapids mobile site to find places nearby
  • Link to the third party mobile check-in application, Four Square
  • Walking map and directions to the next stop

The GRTagTour website takes the extra step to help people who are new to using QR-codes with their smart phone. The page provides clearly written information explaining how the technology works, how to use a scanner app, and how to immediately get started using the audio walking tour. A downloadable PDF map is available for those who prefer using a print resource. The website also gives people an opportunity to share uploaded photos taken on the tour and connect with others about the tour experience using social networking. People can provide tour feedback to the Community Media Center through e-mail or phone, which indicates an interest in collecting information from people that may not use smart phones.

C2: San Antonio


San Antonio downtown website on iPhone, Source: MIG

Downtown San Antonio has a mobile smart phone friendly website and app. Created by the non-profit Downtown Alliance San Antonio, the website and app provides a very user friendly directory with maps, GPS enabled directions, events, mobile coupons and more. Launched in 2012, the website and app help provide all the necessary information to tour, stay, shop and dine in Downtown San Antonio. It also provides information about the different destinations, including the iconic River Walk, minimizing the need for traditional printed brochures and maps. While the smart phone friendly app and website provides information in several forms, there is room to more fully develop the application to enable user feedback and user contribution to the experience itself.


San Antonio Riverwalk Source: MIG

Lessons Learned
Potential Benefits:

  • Provides a low-cost way to engage city visitors and younger people who are accustomed to using mobile technology for daily activities.
  • Can be updated at a central source.
  • Provides users with the opportunity to provide dynamic feedback.

Potential Issues:

  • Signs: QR code tours and wayfinding features still require the use of traditional signs to post the actual code near the attraction.
  • Temporary signs: Temporary, low-cost signage can be quickly installed but does not weather well and can look like an afterthought.
  • Non-smartphone users: QR code tours and wayfinding may not provide the same experience for people who do not own personal smart phone devices.
  • Breakdown: May be subject to breakdown with technology glitches, disabled internet or phone networks


Olivo, Benjamin, May 12, 2011. "New River Walk Tour Uses QR Technology | The Downtown Blog | a Blog." Blogs - San Antonio Express-News. (

Photo Sources

MIG, Inc.