Even though you use mobile apps every day, during the event app selection process you’ll come across concepts and terms you might have heard before, but never really understood. A better understanding of event app basics and lingo will help you choose the best event app for your association’s conference.
Native App vs. Web App
One of the first decisions in the meeting app selection process is whether to get a native app or a web app. And, naturally, one of the first questions is: what’s the difference between a native app and a web app?
Your phone’s home screen is filled with native apps. Native apps are developed for a mobile device’s operating system—Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android—and must conform to the design guidelines set by Apple or Google. Attendees download native apps from the App Store or Google Play. Because they’re built specifically for a device’s operating system, native apps can interact with all the device’s features, such as the camera, microphone, GPS, and contact list.
Native apps work without an internet connection—a crucial difference between native and web apps. If attendees can’t access a WiFi signal in all parts of the event venue, a native app is the better choice. Native apps also provide the fastest and most reliable experience for users.
A web app is a web-based app that’s accessible via a device’s browser. Web apps work on any device or browser but, unlike native apps, they’re not available in app stores. Instead, the attendee goes to a URL (website) to use, not download, the app. The app doesn’t show up as an icon on their phone’s home screen like a native app would.
Because the app is web-based, attendees need an internet connection and browser to use the app—something to consider if your venue has a spotty WiFi signal. Web apps are a less expensive option but provide a slower and, possibly, inconsistent experience for the attendee.
Types of Event Apps
In June 2017, Apple announced new guidelines that prohibit branded event apps that look and feel like other branded event apps. Since this ban, Apple is encouraging event app developers to use container apps. That’s why we believe container apps are the new event industry standard. Our container app, Eventpedia, is fully compliant with the new Apple Guidelines 4.2.6 and 4.3 and is available in the App Store and Google Play.
A container app contains the event apps of several tenants (conference organizers) and their events. Attendees download the developer’s container app from the App Store or Google Play and pull up your event in the app.
Container apps have two significant benefits over the old standard (custom apps): shorter development time and lower cost. You no longer have to spend weeks on the app submission and approval process. You can have your app in a matter of minutes. As soon as you’re ready to publish your event content, it’s instantly available to your attendees for download. Container apps are, consequently, much less expensive than custom apps.
Attendees enjoy the same app features and functionalities as they did with custom apps. They’ll recognize your familiar branding because you can brand the app at the event level of your content. And you can restrict access to your event app by requiring attendees to log in at the start with their username and password.
Custom apps are still an option. But to be fully compliant with Apple guidelines for “uniqueness,” customization requires a longer development time and, therefore, a larger budget.
Content and Data Import Process
During event app research, you’ll notice many apps offering the same feature set with a few differences here and there. But don’t overlook the app’s content and data import process—your frustration and stress level depends upon it.
Ask potential app vendors how their import process works so you know what you’re getting into. Many event apps are not planner-friendly. Some still require planners to manually enter data into the back-end (content management system) of the app. Can you imagine? Some vendors offer an Excel template for bulk data import, but others don’t.
You want an app that makes your life easy by integrating with your event management or registration system and/or your association management system (AMS), like Eventpedia does.
Event App Development Timeframe
Your event planning timeline is fixed but full. But, as you get closer to your event, new tasks have a way of getting added to your timeline. To avoid having anything fall through the cracks, we advise our clients to start importing content well in advance of announcing your event app’s availability to attendees.
For container apps, we suggest starting six to eight weeks ahead so you have enough time to load all your content and test everything before you make it available to attendees. On the other hand, because custom apps should be tested before submission to Apple and Google, start the content import process two to three months before announcing the app.
As soon as your content is entered, it’s instantly available when you click the “Publish” button. Even during your event, if you have to make a change, presto, it’s live as soon as you hit “Publish.”
One more thing: container event apps are ready when you are. You can start importing content as soon as you wish. But, custom apps take time because they require coding (programming) from scratch—that’s the nature of customization.
Event App Monetization
Ask potential vendors about the different ways you can generate sponsorship and advertising revenue with your event app. Make sure their monetization features are user-friendly and don’t interfere with the attendee’s event experience. In an earlier post, we suggested several ways an event app can drive revenue for your events and your association.
Event App Glossary
Before heading into the event app selection process, take a minute to learn some basic app lingo.
- Native app: App developed for a specific device, downloaded onto the device from the App Store or Google Play, and accessed via a home screen icon.
- Web app: Web-based app that’s accessed via a website using a device’s browser, not downloaded.
- Container app: Native app, like Eventpedia, that contains events for several organizations.
- iOS: Operating system that powers Apple’s mobile devices.
- App Store: Apple’s distribution platform for mobile apps that run on its iOS operating system—where attendees download your event app if they use Apple devices.
- Android: Operating system developed by Google for mobile devices.
- Google Play: Google’s distribution platform for mobile apps that run on its Android operating system—where attendees download your event app if they use Android devices.
- User experience (UX): The emotions and attitudes experienced while using an app—developers optimize their software so users have an effective and enjoyable experience.
- User interface (UI): The look and feel of an app—a key element in the user experience.
- Configurable: A feature is configurable if you (the event planner) can modify it, for example, change the color scheme, menu style (icon vs. tile style), and names of menu items.
- Integration: Sharing data between two systems, for example, an event registration system and an event app.
- API (Application Programming Interface): The code that gives software and applications the ability to communicate and share data with each other.
- Banner ad: Rotating or static advertisements on the bottom of the app’s screen.
- Splash page: The first page a user sees when opening an app, often used as a sponsorship opportunity.
- Push notification: A message sent out by the event organizer that pops up on the app’s screen. These messages can also be sent on behalf of sponsors and/or exhibitors.
- Interactive map: An app feature powered by Google Maps that directs attendees to their destination, for example, a specific meeting room or booth.
- Lead retrieval: An app feature allowing exhibitors to scan attendee badges and collect visitor/prospect information.
We didn’t want to get too technical here, so if you run into an app concept or term you don’t quite understand, please give us a holler. We’re happy to translate and teach you more about the inner workings of an event app.