A correspondent on one of the discussion forums that I watch recently posted a message asking for advice about having an app created for the conference that he runs. Surprisingly, he wasn’t buried under a deluge of messages from apps developers. I provided a fairly basic response:
Before you make a decision, you need to ask yourself 3 questions:
1) Does the app I’m thinking about perform a useful purpose? (If you describe it to your attendees and their reaction is ‘And…?’ then it’s not worth spending the time and money on it.)
2) How difficult will it be to download and install? (Everybody has a pain threshold on this issue – some people have a higher threshold than others. In evaluating this, remember that the pain level involved in downloading and installing might be very different on different platforms. So it might be easy to install on an iPhone but a pain on a Blackberry. I was interested in downloading an app recently for an exhibition but they didn’t have a version for a Blackberry. They told me I could see the mobile version of their website instead.)
3) Will users be able to use it onsite? (If the app has to download all its information every time anybody wants to look at it, then is it going to be practical at your venue? This relates to the availability of a mobile phone signal or a wifi network. In addition, if the data has to be downloaded, ask yourself how many people will be at your event from overseas. Will they have data roaming disabled? If they do, will the app still work?)
People will doubtless tell you that there are free ‘build an app yourself’ systems. They’re probably fine if you know what you want to achieve and how you want the app to work. But even if you opt for this technique, don’t underestimate the amount of time you’ll need to invest in getting a good app.
From the nature of your question, you haven’t yet decided what you want an app for and have no idea about how to go about getting one. Under those circumstances, I’d advise that you approach the whole subject with extreme caution.