Thursday, November 3, 2011

Do Not Go Blindly Into That Good App

There have been a lot of posts in the association world lately about apps, and with good reason. Everyone is buzzing about apps! If you can order groceries, turn on your car, video chat with a friend in another country, and do your banking all from apps on your phone, the next obvious step would be to have your association's app available to everyone, right?

I'm with you. I could go into details about how I think it is wise to include an element of game dynamics in your app to keep people invested and coming back. I could remind everyone of the ongoing debates on whether or not associations should spend money on app development.

But before we go too far, let me warn you this is not a post about native versus web apps or whether or not your organization should be considering an app. For that, you can check out this post, this post, or this post and get your fix for that kind of discussion. This is a post for associations hoping to create an app and concerned with time.

Just like the wrong way to build a social media plan is to start by saying, "We want a Facebook," it is the wrong idea to start out your quest for an association app by saying, "Everyone else has an app, so we need one, too." Organizations should always identify the audience, goals, strategy, and the technology they will use before making a decision on whether or not they need an app.

In the very least, you need time to execute your desires once you figure out what they are. I have one really good reason why your app deserves this time for planning: crappy apps breed unhappiness. Good apps create a positive experience and way to connect.

The typical development time for a "successful" app in my *completely unscientific poll* for association executives is about 6 months, but this can vary wildly based on what the app is supposed to do. An old post on iPhone app development features a timeline of 2.5 to 3 months. If you would like to share your own organization's experience and timeline, please post in the comments. I think there are many, many people out there who would love to learn from you!

The timeline for a well-executed app has a wide range dependent upon your organization's goals. So what are your goals? Do you want to keep people up-to-date by providing an app of your blog or events calendar? Do you want to build an app for your upcoming conference? Do you want to create a game within the app for students in your organization? Do you want your members to have their database information available to them?

I asked a few people on Twitter about their app-development process and their responses confirmed what I had witnessed in the association space. It takes much more time to discover the vision for the app, gather buy-in or arrange for the budget approval, and evaluate options for implementation (in house development vs. outsourced development) than they originally thought it would. Also, the details were beastly.

  1. @kikilitalien we outsourced ours and spent a month + getting the data transfer together. #assnchat
  2. @kikilitalien we're now meeting to see what else it can do. #assnchat
  3. @shannonburke Thanks for sharing! What was the toughest part of the process for your crew? #assnchat
  4. @kikilitalien #assnchat Most Difficult - The level of precision data must retain. It really lives up to "you get back what you put in"

Jeff De Cagna of Principled Innovation has a list of questions he suggests association executives look at while considering an app and Joshua Paul from Socious shares a helpful list, as well. You might just want to take a little more time to develop your app so you can make sure you do right by your members and be sure you've taken a look at the right questions before announcing you have a new app to the staff or members.

Deposite: 2 cents. ;-)

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