August 2, 2013 § Leave a comment
By Julie Caan
Vollrath Associates recently had the pleasure of working with Festa Italiana on the creation of its first mobile app – Festa MKE. The app launched in late-June, but the planning began months out. While we are certainly not app “experts,” we have definitely learned a thing or two throughout this process along the way!
Here are a few key things we learned and tips for those interested in creating an app for your business or event:
Step 1: Have a purpose. Before we began, we asked ourselves, what is our purpose for creating this app? Apps are like new toys. However, unless they serve a purpose, they run the risk of becoming shiny new toys that are never played with (or downloaded).
Make sure your app serves a real benefit to your customers and key target audience. In our case, we wanted our app to serve as a comprehensive source of information both before and during the festival. We considered our demographic, families, many of whom use their smartphones daily to check emails, use the Internet and access social media sites. Festa was also interested in reaching a younger, more tech-savvy audience so this parlayed nicely into that.
With nearly 40 food vendors, seven stages, countless entertainment acts and a wide variety of attractions, we wanted a way to streamline all of this information into one, easy to use location. Hence, the need for an app. Now you can say, hey, there’s a Festa app for that!
Step 2: Determine scope. Once we determined that we did indeed need an app, we needed to figure out how to create it. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is an app. Our agency specializes in public relations and, while we are certainly skilled marketers and copywriters, the whole “building an app” thing was a little foreign to us. Luckily for us, we had great partners. We worked with THIEL Design (who had previous experience building apps) to create the app’s interfaces. THIEL, in turn, recommended Xorbix Technologies to us to help actually build and program the app.
Step 3: Functionality. Going into any app, aside from having a purpose, you need to know what you want your app to do. Do you want it to serve as a selling tool? An extension of your marketing efforts? Offer a new way for your customers to engage? Once you nail down what you want the app to do, you need to determine how you will do it.
For our part, we wanted an app that was on one hand, extremely user-friendly, and on the other, encompassed A LOT of information. These two goals don’t always go hand-in-hand, but in the end, our app managed to merge the two harmoniously.
The app’s wireframe included a home screen, weather widget, entertainment lineup, general info., interactive map, food vendors, history, photo gallery, social media integration, sponsors and Italian phrases. We incorporated a mix of need-to-know information, along with some fun things to enhance the festival going experience. In building the app, we determined the areas that would get the most use (entertainment line-up, food, festival map) and made sure to make them top-notch.
Step 4: Thorough Checking and Testing. All total, the Festa app took about 4 months to build. One of those months was devoted solely to testing. An app such as this that incorporates a large volume of information needs to be checked and tested thoroughly. We checked all of the information several times as well as the usability knowing that we wanted to limit our updates after launch.
Testing is something to keep in mind when you are planning your app’s timeframe. We knew our app needed to launch mid-June for the start of the July 19 festival so we made sure to build time in for testing and approvals.
Step 5: Promote. Once our app launched, we got busy doing what we do best – promoting it! Remember when we said what good is an app if it doesn’t serve a purpose? Similarly, what good is an app if no one knows about it?
Make sure to list your app prominently on all marketing materials, along with information for how and where to download it. For Festa, that meant putting the app’s icon on the website, digital billboards, traditional and online advertising and across social media platforms (we created a custom cover photo for Facebook).
Since this was a big step for Festa as the first ethnic festival in Milwaukee with an app, we made sure to let all local news outlets know about its launch via a press release and some separate pitching. The press release resulted in several articles and social media interactions that reached our target and garnered great feedback. We also made sure to mention the app and show how to use it in all of our TV interviews leading up to and during the event.
Looking back, the app was a great success and had several thousand downloads. We are looking forward to refining the app and making it even better for next year!