Helping First-Time Visitors

Photo courtesy of Gary Lewis of Fellowship Bible Church – Longview

I have been a pastor at the Lebanon Bible Fellowship Church for 11 years. And recently, I have had a strong desire to improve our communication strategy and create a better experience for first-time visitors.

Entering the doors of a new church can be both intimidating and overwhelming. Thus, churches need to provide their guests with a way to find the information that they need in a quick, and simple fashion. With this in mind, I have been on the lookout for a way to create a simple, yet modern information center (or hub) for our first-time guests.

Enter WP Church Center.

The folks over at WP Church Team have created an amazing (and free!) WordPress plugin that enables you to build a user-friendly web-based hub for your church. The hub features several relevant links in a grid-type layout that can be targeted to first-time visitors, regular members, or both!

In the case of our church, I decided to combine WP Church Center with the power and affordability of Kindle Fire HD tablets, in order to create a sleek & user-friendly kiosk station to be used in the lobby of our church.

Since we are a church with an attendance between 200-300, being budget-conscious was a must. Thus, we found that a Kindle Fire HD 10 tablet was a far more affordable option than even the cheapest of PC & Monitor combinations. (For example, a $90 monitor, plus a $125 Intel Compute Stick, a $15 keyboard & mouse combo added up to about $230 per kiosk). In contrast, a tablet-based kiosk only costs about $160 each. The difference in price made the tablet-based option more preferable in our case. In addition, a tablet is more portable than a computer/monitor setup.  (Note: I originally recommended a Kindle Fire 8″ tablet, but for my taste, I found it to be too small.  I think paying a few more dollars for the 10″ model is well worth it.)

Prerequisites

In order for this setup to work in your own context, you will need the following things up front:

  • A self-hosted WordPress site (where you can install the WP Church Center plugin)
    • *If you do not currently have a WordPress site, Siteground is an excellent place to purchase a hosting plan, and wpbeginner.com will have all of the tutorials you need in order to begin learning the WordPress platform.
    • *Once you have created your WordPress site, download and install the WP Church Center plugin. 
  • Wireless internet access in your church building

Items to Purchase

How to Turn Your Fire HD Tablet into a Public Kiosk

The Kindle Fire Tablet is an excellent choice because of its price. However, it’s major flaw is that it lacks the massive app library of other Apple or Android tablets. Thankfully, however, there are ways to install the Google Play Store on a Fire tablet. This will give us many additional options when we search for kiosk software, which will effectively lock down the tablet to just our church hub (and prevent users from accessing other applications on the tablet such as the camera, settings, games, etc.).

Once you have completed the initial setup for your Fire HD tablet, follow these steps to install the Google Play Store and Browser Kiosk Software:

  1. Enable ADB on your Fire Tablet
    1. Go to ‘Settings’ -> ‘Device Options & System’
    2. Tap on the Serial Number seven times.  This will enable ‘Developer Options’
    3. Tap on ‘Developer Options’ and tap ‘Enable ADB’
  2. Enable Installation of Apps from Unknown Sources
    1. Go to ‘Settings’ -> ‘Security & Privacy’
    2. Under ‘Advanced’, turn on ‘Apps from Unknown Sources’
  3. Install all necessary files for the Google Play Store. (Note: if the ‘Install’ button is greyed-out on your Fire, simply sleep & wake your device a few times, until the Install button works.  This may take a few tries.)
    1. Install the Google Services Framework
    2. Install Google Play Services
    3. Install Google Account Manager
    4. Install Google Play Store
    5. Once the Google Play Store is installed, open the Play Store from your home screen and enter your Google account username & password.
  4. Download the Kiosk Browser Lockdown app.
    1. Note: There are many kiosks apps available, but this one has a high rating & is full of features.
  5. Enable the use of other launchers besides the stock Fire OS.
    1. Install a modified version of LauncherHijack** (Note: The original LauncherHijack no longer works with Fire Tablets.  This modified version does.)
    2. From the home screen, go to ‘Settings’ -> ‘Accessibility’, and turn ‘To detect home button press’ to ON. Then return to the home screen.
    3. Open LauncherHijack, and select ‘Kiosk Browser’ as your default launcher.
  6. Configure Kiosk Browser settings.
    1. Tap the 3 dots icon on the top right of the Kiosk Browser and choose ‘Settings’ (The default passcode will be ‘0000’).
    2. Set your church’s WP Church Center hub URL by going to ‘General’ -> ‘Kiosk URL’.
    3. Important: Do NOT use the ‘Idle Page Timeout’ setting!!!  (If this feature is turned on, your kiosk webpage will continue to reload, even when the tablet screen is turned off.  This will create a ton of false traffic to your website, increase your site’s ‘Bounce Rate’ (this is bad!), and potentially decrease your site’s rank in Google as a result.)  To turn this option off, go to ‘Settings’ -> ‘General’ and uncheck ‘Idle Page Timeout’.
    4. Set a new kiosk passcode by going to the Kiosk Browser Settings, then choosing, ‘Admin’, then ‘Settings Password’. (Don’t lose this new password!)
  7. (Optional) – Purchase Kiosk Browser Pro for additional features and settings.

**Note: By installing the LauncherHijack apk, you will be removing all access to the default Fire OS home screen. Don’t panic! To restore access to the Fire OS home screen at any time, do the following:

  1. Hold down the power button for a few seconds to force the device to turn off.
  2. Wait 5 seconds, then long press the power button to turn the device back on.
  3. Unlock the device using your Amazon passcode.
  4. This will return you to the default Fire OS home screen. (Note: Pressing the home button will immediately activate the Kiosk Browser and lock you out of the Fire home screen.  Do not press the home button unless you want to start kiosk mode.)  If you want to uninstall LauncherHijack, do the following:
    1. From the Fire OS home screen, select go to Fire Settings (the gear icon).  [Or, if you are already in the Kiosk Broswer, tap the 3 dots icon on the top right of the Kiosk Browser and go to ‘Settings’ -> ‘Admin’ -> ‘System Settings’.   This will bring you to the Fire Settings page.]
    2. On the main Fire OS settings page, go to ‘Apps and Games’ -> ‘Manage All Applications’, select LauncherHijack from the list of apps, and tap ‘Uninstall’
    3. After uninstall is complete, tap the home button to return to the Fire OS home screen.
    4. The LauncherHijak apk can be reinstalled at any time to re-enable the kiosk lockdown.

The End!

That’s it!  If you have followed all of the steps above, you now have a fully-functional Fire Tablet kiosk.

As I mentioned above, consider purchasing a tablet mount ($35) purchasing for holding the device, a USB right-angle charging cable ($6) so that the tablet is always charged, and a Bluetooth keyboard ($15), to make it easier for users to type in information (rather than using the on-screen keyboard).

If you need ideas on how to set up your kiosk interface, head on over to the WP Church Center website for some great examples.

Enjoy!

-David Brandt

David E. Brandt

Author David E. Brandt

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