Developing mobile phone apps

On 30 November I attended the AMA’s Digital Marketing Day and went to a great session about mobile applications led by @LoicTallon of Pocket Proof, ‘an independent design consultancy specialised in mobile experiences for museums’. You can see Loic’s presentation slides here, but here’s a summary of his key points:

Now that everything is possible thanks to the development of digital technologies, we have to ask ourselves what’s worth doing? Remember it’s not about the technology but the experience that you offer.

Here are some links to examples of good apps:
MoMa
AMNH explorer
Museum of London streetmuseum
Mercedes Benz Museum
Tate Trumps
Smithsonian Institute

And some bad reviews for the Lonely Planet city guides apps. These were launched as free downloads in response to the volcano crisis back in April – generating lots of good PR at the time, but as they were just the books in mobile application form they were very usuable.

Be aware that what works with one audience may flop with another

To ensure success, define your objectives clearly at the outset and know your target audience. This will help inform your design brief.

Consider the strengths and unique qualities of mobile technology
Don’t just put a book on an app. Think – why mobile? Why not a brochure or an audio guide?
Mobile is good for supplementary information and interactivity
Mobile is:
–          Personal
–          Digital
–          Connected
–          Mobile! But so is a leaflet or a book, so really think about why you are choosing it
–          Interactive

Manage expectations when developing an app and avoid scope shift for your project
Choose the appropriate level of technology for your organisation’s experience, skills and resources

Keep it simple, stupid!
Pocket proof’s industry survey shows that those who aren’t yet using mobile technologies are more ambitious (and unrealistic?!) about how it can be used

Don’t underestimate how big a job content creation can be – plan it in from the start to allow sufficient time and resources

Plan sustainability from the outset too
–          How can you update content?
–          How can you update branding?
–          Can you migrate the experience to new platforms?

Launching your app is not the end. You need to test, evaluate, develop, market it…
Test and evaluate throughout development and implementation, and measure it against the points above – i.e. experience, objectives, audience, expectation, simplicity – not just numbers of downloads. There is no way to track app usage or link to physical venue visits – though you can set up updates and track interactivity.

And finally – Loic thinks it’s easy to attract sponsorship for apps – so if you think this platform is right for your organisation – find a sponsor and get developing!

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