Quick we need an app!

Written by Frankie O'Brien | 1st January 2015

Is that a statement you have heard in your organisation recently? In our mobile, ‘always on’ world apps proliferate and its very tempting to think that your organisation must have one or be ‘left behind’. An app may well be a very useful way of achieving an objective, but have you thought through why and whether it’s the best way?

For example, have you thought about what apps do as compared to other digital methods, e.g. a mobile-optimised website? If the answer to that question is yes, then well done. You’ve done more thinking than most and you’re well on the way.

Mobile learning

Apps can be very useful for learning purposes. The mobile nature of apps mean that they can be more flexible when using on the move, e.g. recording information when you don’t have access to a big screen device or learning while travelling. The smaller screen size – for most smartphones at least; tablets are less of an issue – means that the screen layout and features have to be thought through carefully, but with a bit of care and planning this is no more of a challenge than designing PC-based learning.

Things to consider

  1. Does the app need to record information, e.g. evidence of learning to be stored in a learner’s portfolio or to demonstrate progress, such as completion of a task or passing a test? If yes, then the app may not depend on an internet connection, but it will need one at some point to sync the information elsewhere.
  2. What platform do you want to use? The two dominant platforms for apps are Android(Google’s mobile operating system) and iOS (Apple’s equivalent). Android is the world’s most widely used smartphone platform and there are over 700,000 apps developed, with iOS having roughly the same number of apps at the time of writing, which brings us neatly on to our next point…
  3. How will you market your app? The figures above show that for every Angry Birds success, there are thousands of others that largely lie dormant with very few downloads. Are you able to communicate to your audience that you have an app and give them good reason to download it, competing with the many other apps they may already have on their device(s)? if you’re going to charge for the app, you’ll have to think about the price point – apps are generally sold for a low cost – and also the cut you have to give Apple to sell through the iTunes store.
  4. How much do you want to invest? Like anything, you get what you pay for. Apps can be relatively cheap to produce, particularly compared to the early days of website development. But it all depends on how much functionality the app needs, e.g. storing information is going to require some sort of database, which will naturally add cost. We’re all getting used to the idea of rapid development and constant releases, so you may want to consider phasing functionality, offering a set of features to meet basic needs, and then adding others later if you’re app is a success. You have to balance this against offering too little initially to the extent that your app ‘dies at birth’, but if you’ve read this far then we suspect your mind is already whirring with the possibilities for your app idea!

We’re particularly interested in helping our clients with apps for learning purposes, so we can help you think through everything you need to consider before deciding to invest in app.

You can read about a learning app we recently produced for the Imperial War Museums here.

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