According to the report by Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker, published on April 12, 2010, the mobile internet will overtake the fixed internet in the next five years. Museums have always had unique rich content to offer. The challenge now is to design ways to present that content in formats and markets where their current and future audiences are. Recent statistics indicate that 60% of users carry their smart phones with them, including at home, at all times. By 2013 the US smart phone market will quadruple to 160 million users.
Last week’s Think Mobile Conference, while aimed at large media companies, offered advice and insights that can help museums who are trying to create a meaningful and successful mobile experience. In Part 1 of my report I described three topics that dominated the presentations:
- the importance of defining the user experience before you begin
- the need to decide what mobile platform/s you’re going with
- the recognition that compelling content or a unique feature are essential to success
Here in Part 2, you can quickly read about the other three key elements to focus on.
Don’t Make Your App a Graveyard! Keep Users Coming Back to It
Everyone worried aloud about the issue of how to keep users coming back to their applications once they’ve downloaded them. It’s important because one of the ways to support the building and maintenance of your application is with ads, or in non-profit parlance, sponsorship. Sponsors want to know that they’re reaching users frequently, not just once. Their recommendations:
- Build a content management system for your app so it’s easy to update. Providing fresh content is one way to ensure sustainable engagement.
- Be ready to iterate, as improvements are made to the software, be ready to take advantage of them to improve the user experience.
- I’d recommend adding your Twitter feed, blog and or Facebook feed into the app to ensure that there’s a minimum of fresh content, and help users contribute to the conversation.
Ways to Support the Development and Maintenance of Your App
Since people download more free apps than paid ones, most companies want to make their apps free. But they also want to recoup their costs and/or make a profit. Conference attendees talked about three approaches to financing.
- Sell advertising within the app. For museums, this would translate to sponsorships. Everyone had statistics from surveys showing that users don’t mind advertising in applications, as long as the ads aren’t bad. (I know, how do you define “bad”?)
- Make your app free to download but sell upgrades within your application, either for premium content or new features.
- Alternatively, since people do pay for content they really want, charge for your app. The Apple store takes 30% of each sale, but you still get 70%.
- Museums could also sell memberships, have links to donate, or to shop.
Last But Not Least, Spread the Word That Your App is Available!
What good will it do to produce a beautiful mobile app or web app if no one knows about it?
- Museums have a built in membership base and many communications tools to help them get the word out: your website, newsletters, social media accounts, blogs, and of course onsite events, so you can remind visitors and members repeatedly about your mobile applications and how to download them. Reaching out to your base is one way to stand above the crowd in the app stores. Apple’s store is very crowded, with over 185,000 apps available and the number growing daily.
- Tie the release of your app to an event, when you’re generating and receiving publicity anyway.
- Build social links into the app so people can share your content on Facebook and Twitter at least, and promote your app simultaneously
Museums have always had unique rich content to offer. The challenge now is to design ways to present that content in formats and markets where their current and future audiences are. Recent statistics indicate that 60% of users carry their smart phones with them, including at home, at all times. By 2013 the US smart phone market will quadruple to 160 million users.