A dedicated mobile app is now essential for large meetings, conferences, and trade shows, allowing attendees to manage their experiences on the go and eliminating the need for printed materials. Standard features of an app include the ability to view the event agenda, maps, and speaker profiles, but many now go far beyond that. Here are a few of the questions to consider before you begin developing an app for your next event.
1. How does the app function without an Internet connection?
Wi-Fi and cellular service can be spotty in venues, so it’s critical to understand how the app can be used offline. Connectivity used to be one of the key differences between native apps and mobile Web apps: native apps resided on the device and could be used offline, whereas mobile Web apps were accessed through a browser and required a constant Internet connection. But those lines are starting to blur with the advent of HTML5 and other languages. “New and well-designed versions of both will create an offline database, which is critical because it allows you to continue to access your information based on the last time the app was synched,” says Jordan Schwartz, C.E.O. of Pathable. However, users will still need an Internet connection to receive updates for either type of app.
2. Do you want to send push notifications?
If the goal is to make your app the central source of information for your event, guests should be able to communicate through the app rather than by checking email or a Web site. For now, push notifications are only possible with a native app.
3. How will you create and update information in the app?
Most app providers offer self-service, online dashboards that make it easy for planners to create the app themselves by uploading schedules, speaker profiles, sessions notes, and other details.
4. Are social networks accessible within the app?
Guests are more likely to share your event’s content on their social networks if you make it easy. “If you want to do a Twitter update, you don’t want to have to exit the app and go into Twitter and put in the tweet and hashtag,” says Patrick Payne, C.E.O. of QuickMobile. Ask for a way for users to immediately post updates and photos through the app.
5. What else is integrated into the app?
The list of possible integrations is extensive, but common elements include photo streams, gamification strategies, meeting scheduling, surveys, and a private chat function. “What most attendees are looking for at an event is all of the functionality inside a single, unified app,” Payne says.
6. What do user profiles look like?
Rather than requiring users to manually create a profile, many apps now offer the option to populate profiles with information from existing social networks, most commonly LinkedIn. Advanced features can include the ability for guests to search attendee profiles to find others from similar industries and backgrounds to facilitate networking.
7. How will users access the app?
Native apps are installed from an app store and create an icon on the user’s home screen. Mobile Web apps are accessed from a URL, which can be shared with guests as a link in an email.
8. Is there a companion desktop platform?
While it’s safe to assume most of your attendees use a mobile device, they also likely work from a laptop or desktop computer with a full keyboard better suited for inputting information. “People can choose sessions beforehand, fill in a profile, exchange messages with other attendees and exhibitors all from their desktop computer,” Schwartz says. Following the event, guests can continue to access content and engage other attendees through the Web interface.
9. Are there sponsor opportunities?
Your app can become a source of revenue if you can sell exposure to vendors and include elements such as their logo, product information, videos, or Web links.
10. Does the app make use of location-based services?
Some apps make use of a device’s GPS to send information to attendees based on their location within the venue. For example, when integrated with a map, attendees can see where they are on the trade show floor, or the host can send an automatic welcome message as people enter the building.
11. Can the app be used for multiple events?
If you host many events throughout the year, make it easy for your attendees by allowing them to access information for all of the events in one app.
12. What type of analytics does the app platform provide?
Examples include data about how guests used the app, what content they shared on social networks, and how they interacted with one another and with vendors.