micenet asks three experts for their top five tips of what to consider when designing an event app.
Compiled by EDWINA STORIE
- A proven track record – There are a lot of app producers out there, so be cautious with start-up companies or organisations that are learning from you. Make sure that the vendors you consider have a proven track record of providing solutions to those with similar needs to yours. Ask for examples, testimonials and case studies.
- Think about the user experience and keep to the budget – Have a well-thought-out user flow in place to ensure a logical navigational structure. Simply designing without a plan is the easiest way to create a convoluted flow that leaves users confused. Sometimes very simple design changes can make the difference between a feature that takes a few hours to build and one that takes a few days, which could have massive impacts on your budget. In other words, the design should not dictate the functionality.
- Make it easy to upload and consider Wi-Fi – If your app takes a long time to load, users could think it’s malfunctioning. Don’t keep your users waiting on a blank screen while the app is loading content from the web. Use a progress indicator to inform users it’s waiting on the network but is working. If you’re going to use it for speaker feedback during the event or meeting scheduling, consider onsite Wi-Fi options so attendees don’t have to use up their data.
- Integration with other systems – Ask if your app producer has developed any API’s (Application Programming Interface) to ensure there’s integration with your other systems, ie. your CRM or registration systems. Passing data between systems, enabling single sign-on and maximising the value of your data is imperative.
- Promote, promote, promote – Make sure your entire team knows how to download and use the app. If they’re excited about it, your attendees will be, too. Plan a comprehensive marketing and education campaign to promote your app before and during the event. Encourage your attendees to use it by giving them benefits to interact with your mobile event app to get the most from their event experience.
- Features and platforms – Determine your essential features and those your attendees expect from your app. Your app should be available on all platforms for the one fee to ensure you’re not excluding participants. The list of available features is growing rapidly as technology continues to evolve, but consider including some of these; event documents and links to external URLs, interactive floor plan, live polling and surveys, gamify options, note-taking for sessions, meetings requests, exhibitor lead tracking, and QR code scanners. Requirements will vary for each event but should not always be dictated by the list of features your vendor supports.
- Airplane mode? – Compare a native app or web-based html5 app. Trial them on your device in airplane mode to see the worst case scenario. To run a mobile web-based app (which is essentially a mobile website) the user has to access the internet via Wi-Fi or cellular connection. Native Event Apps® reside on the device itself and don’t require internet. This is crucial because in a hotel or a convention centre you may have hundreds or thousands of attendees trying to access Wi-Fi to use their Event Apps®, email, social networks, etc. Even the best Wi-Fi service can experience a virtual traffic jam. HTML5 apps may one day be the way of the future but for now native apps provide a greatly enhanced user experience.
- Ensure your developer speaks your language – It’s important that your app developer understands your event and can provide support services above and beyond app development. As part of the development process you will need to design graphics, prepare documents, capture and manage data, create marketing collateral, etc. If your app developer understands your event and can provide all of the support services this will make the development process a lot easier and produce a powerful event experience for attendees.
- What Costs? – There are a lot of points to consider when selecting a developer, and while cost is a major element, it shouldn’t be your determining factor. When it comes to Event Apps®, I believe you get what you pay for. Costs can be covered through sponsorship opportunities, banner advertising, enhanced exhibitor profiles, exhibitor leads generation, revenue sharing with your developer, and so on. Event apps that are developed as a revenue-generating tool should never add any cost to your event.
- Marketing and engagement – Once you’ve developed your app you need to get people to use and engage with it, and marketing it is the single most important process. If you don’t allow adequate time (we recommend two months) or resources to market your app to staff, committees, sponsors, exhibitors or attendees, there’s no benefit to developing an app to begin with.
- What value will your app provide? – If it will just be a replication of the event directory, it won’t be valuable and people won’t download it. Ensure you provide event app-only experiences to entice use. Advertise your app and its features on all your collateral, website and social media; you’ll need the majority of people using it to make it really worthwhile.
- Consider your audience – Depending on your audience, event apps can still be really foreign to some. Set up an information booth with friendly staff who can help people download it and use it effectively.
- Optimise relationships through social media – Events are about building relationships, so ensure that everyone has a good bio and photo attached to their profile on the app that easily links to their social media channels to enable ongoing connection long after the event is over. Features that interact directly with Linkedin make it easier.
- Ensure efficiency – Enabling delegates to create their personalised journey throughout the event is terrific. Have interactive scheduling functionality that allows one to add speakers and presentations to their calendar of events that will alert them when the session starts. Be sure to also brief the speakers on the app, how they can use it, and what people have been told. They will be more likely to mention it in their presentations.
- Source audience info – Getting data from your audience is priceless for your metrics and evaluation of the overall event, so use the app for plenary surveys, and ask delegates to submit comments and feedback throughout the event, not just at the end. m