Karmen Vladar

DIY or Buy

So, you are considering building your own app for your upcoming conference or event? Does your organization have a very good IT team or do you perhaps have a trusted developer that you can make use of? With a staggering 2,8 Million apps available for download in the Google Play Store and 2,2 Million in Apple’s App store (March 2017 figure), it is no surprise that Organizers investigate this as an option.

To DIY or to buy is a question we are faced with daily when discussing our event app platform with clients.

According to our strategic partner, QuickMobile, the 3 main stakeholders for an event app in order of importance are:
  1. Attendees;
  2. Event planners; and
  3. Event owners;
 
Ease of use, functionality, compatibility, timelines, support, budget, event objectives and required insights are all things that these stakeholders will find important when using an event app.  These are thus things that you would need to consider as a starting point when deciding on an event app and, whether building or buying would be the best option for you. But what else should be considered? What are the pitfalls?

We suggest you look at the following 5 items and then decide:
 
  1. What seems easiest isn’t always best
You might be confident that your inhouse IT team or 3rd party developer is more than capable for the task at hand but do they know all the ins and outs of developing for mobile? Something that will be compatible with the different platforms available? Are they available after the development cycle for onsite support? Will they be available to maintain the app if any of the mobile operating systems change and will they be able to adapt your app accordingly?
 
  1. It’s not about you!
Your focus should always be your attendee – the end user of the app. Imagine what they would want from your event app. Ease of use, easy to navigate through, something that is compatible with all the platforms with a possible web version as an alternative. It needs to include everything that they could possibly need at your conference or event. This includes logistical arrangements (if applicable), announcements, the agenda and information about the speakers and their collateral. How are they going to interact via the app? Networking? Live voting? Live commenting? Try and think of their needs holistically when you plan your requirements.   
 
  1. It’s about you!
The attendee experience is very important but so is your brand! You need a partner that can deliver an app experience that is an accurate representation of your brand. A partner that is flexible to changing requirements and that can offer you the support that you need, when you need it. Their platform should also offer you the required insights to prove a return on your app investment afterwards.
 
  1. It’s scary out there!
Scientia Mobile estimate that there are about 45 000 different Android devices out there. This means that your app needs to be compatible with more than 45 000 different devices, not to mention mobile web. You need to consider privacy settings, where your database will be hosted (and how secure this server is). What kind of support does your IT team or 3rd party supplier give you? Or will you perhaps be left to your own devices when you are onsite and need to make updates or announcements?
 
  1. It’s never that simple
When developing for apps, there are certain App Store rules that you need to adhere to. Your IT team might not be familiar with these which may delay the release of your app, resulting in your app not being ready in time for your event. Because their development might be just on a once off basis, the “back-end” might not be very user friendly or intuitive.  Also, last minute changes might not be possible.

Some additional pros and cons include:
 
Building Buying
Pros
 
  • - You define your required features
  • - Your app is guaranteed to be unique
  • - It has the potential to have economic value (perhaps your IT team is currently working on something similar that will reduce the required hours on your project as well as the costs)
  • - Market tested functionality. A company that specializes in event apps will have tested and tweaked each available functionality.
  • - Core competence. The company spends all their time building event apps.
  • - Focus. The company will continuously invest time in developing features that further enhance attendee experiences at conferences and events.
  • - Support. The company will supply you with onsite support if required.
Cons
  • - Can you get all the features that you need? Some of them might be too time consuming to develop.
  • - Is your app cross platform (or device agnostic)?
  • - Are you prepared? Developing an app is time consuming and might include long term costs like tweaks that are required if a new mobile operating system is released. There is also a chance that your app might not be ready in time for your event.
  • - You will have to give up the “uniqueness” of it just being your app.
  • - You will work with “outsiders” – not your internal team.
  •  - Your requirements might be basic and the app provider’s might do more than that which affects the cost.