Apps can be a great way to reach members, but they come with complications and considerations that other technologies don’t.
Apps have become an integral part of many associations’ member engagement strategy. “It’s an effort to reach the members where they are, but it’s also a nod to the fact that mobile’s dominance is really here,” says Joanna M. Pineda, CEO at Matrix Group International.
To build an app that actually benefits members, you need to consider its purpose, says Matrix Group Lead Front-End Developer Roger Vandawalker: “What areas can you really add value by way of an app, and how can that app be differentiated from competitors and from other aspects of your organization that you’re already offering?”
After answering those questions, you may decide to move ahead with one of these three options:
Templated app. A precoded app saves development costs, time, and the need to hire in-house developers and designers. But it does not provide a unique user experience and may not integrate well with your existing systems.
Native app. Building an app allows you to customize the branding, the functions and integrations, and the member experience. However, it requires significant work, time, and development costs—especially because a native app needs to be coded separately for each operating system, such as Google or Apple.
Hybrid app. By relying on a mobile-development framework, a hybrid app allows for customization. It also saves time and money, as precoded features from the framework can be pulled in and the code can be applied to all mobile operating systems.
Keep in mind that the work doesn’t end when you release your app: You still need a plan to maintain the app and to encourage members to adopt it.
“This is definitely not a build-it-and-they-will-come situation,” Pineda says. “This is another product that … needs a marketing plan.”