Responsive Design or an App? Why Not Both?

Sometimes the best answer to a challenge is actually two answers, according to tech professionals at a conference this week exploring how mobile is changing the way associations are engaging with their members.

At the top of most associations’ technology priorities probably sits the issue of mobile—especially whether to create a mobile app and how to design a website for mobile devices.

For Bob Panger, senior director of information systems at the American Marketing Association, mobile is at least priority No. 1 or No. 2, he said this week at an Emerging Technology Trends conference in Chicago, sponsored by TMA Resources, Inc.

Everyone knows why mobile is important, Panger said: “It’s the pervasive technology platform.”

What’s more important is getting to the bottom of the what, how, and when questions and tailoring your mobile strategy to what your members really want.

“If you’re going mobile, you need to really understand your audience—who is the customer you are trying to hit and what do they look at as valuable,” Panger said, “so that if you go there, it’s going to be something that they are going to want and that they’re going to use.”

Panger and his co-panelist, Charlie Melidosian, chief information officer at the Association Management Center, also discussed the issue of whether to focus resources on an app or a website that implements responsive design.

“I don’t know that you can really pick one or the other,” Melidosian said. “If you want to communicate something, you have to hit it on all channels, all times of day, all languages. The more and the broader and the more complete you carry out a message, the better it will be received.”

In serving user needs, there’s room for a wide variety of apps and website functionalities, Melidosian said.“It’s kind of like your computer—you don’t use one program on your computer. You might use Excel for this, and you might use Word for this,” he said. “The reality is one solution is not going to do it all.”

One of the advantages of an app, for example, is the ability to push information and news to members and proactively engage them, compared to passively communicating with members as they browse information on a website. But the advantage of websites is that they are easier to maintain and update.

Regardless of the form, the panelists agreed, mobile is here to stay, and it will continue to change the way associations interact with their members.

“I think that the mobile device is just one more way to stay top of mind, engage that member, and hopefully keep those renewals up and perhaps even use it as a recruiting tool,” Melidosian said.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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