There are collectively more than 4 million apps in the Google Play and App Store today, but not all are equipped to serve their organization effectively. Determining what elements are essential for your industry is the first step in creating an app.
We are often asked about what the app creation process looks like. Just like everything else in the digital space, it varies based on the specific needs of current or future users. Sometimes, organizations come to us with a vision but need our technical knowledge to execute. Other times, organizations look to us for help planning and executing their app. Either way, there are key factors we consider to make sure the apps we build serve users well.
As one of the largest and most ambitious public parks ever created with private funds, Gathering Place serves as a cornerstone for the people of Tulsa, Oklahoma. We were grateful for the opportunity to build both their website, as well as an app to provide a closer connection between the visitors and each of the park’s features. We’ll walk you through why Gathering Place decided an app was the right solution and how Speak helped determine what components would serve the needs of their visitors.
An App Serves As Home Base
Speak joined the team before Gathering Place had even settled on a logo or color scheme, which created a unique opportunity. In today’s world of instant information, attractions must be strategic about what messages are getting to the visitor and when. Apps, like websites, social media accounts, and even printed information, are an additional touchpoint to keep your organization top of mind and keep your audience coming back for more. Due to the sheer size and number of different areas within the park, we knew an app would be essential. The Gathering Place app that would serve as “home base” by giving quick information to visitors. Apps allow the visitor to return home with a bit of their experience still in their pocket. When visitors are still able to access information and even experiences after leaving the site, the brand becomes more visible and a second visit is more likely. Apps allow your organization to stay top of mind and most importantly, on the home screen of your user’s smartphones. On our management system, our partners can seamlessly update their app and website at the same moment, allowing for a smooth flow of information.
An App That Helps Navigate
When we begin to look at what app components make sense for an organization, we evaluate the current or future users will need. It was clear that Gathering Place visitors would value a tool for navigating the park. One of the initial challenges for our team was how to create a map for a place that didn’t exist yet. We were tasked with illustrating the map and 3D figures, which was especially fun for us. Since this had to be done while the park was still under heavy construction, our team had to work off of photographs and drone footage. There were still decisions being made about the layout of parking lots and entrances while the map was being designed. Needless to say, we went through a lot of iterations until we landed on the perfect one.
An App That Drives Visitor Engagement and Creates Smart Data
Want to know how much time your guests are spending at an exhibit or area? Want to know where they’re headed next? Curious about what information they’re interested in and what they skip through? A well-designed app can answer all of those questions for you, and in turn, help your organization curate interactive content with your specific audience in mind.
A key piece of the Gathering Place app and how we gather this information is through beacons. Beacons are battery-powered Bluetooth radios. Each one has its own unique identifier that sends out a signal to the person walking by with the app. Unlike traditional GPS map tracking, this feature allows for specific data point capture. Our team had to get creative once it came time to actually install the beacons. Usually, when the attraction is indoors, there are many safe spots to disguise a beacon, but in an outdoor park, finding places to plant beacons where people wouldn’t mess with it required extra care.
After a matter of weeks, these beacons provided Gathering Place with all-new information on the habits of their visitors. It’s fun for the consumer and helpful for the organization, which is one of the things we like most about beacon technology.
An App That Creates a Connected Brand
The Gathering Place app provides a great user experience and helps support the mission of the park, but, in order for visitors to benefit from a cohesive brand presence, we needed to make sure that the brand we designed was also represented in the app as well as the website and marketing approach. They didn’t just build a great park, they built one with smart communication to accompany their unmatched experience. Whether it’s a website, app, QR code, beacon, or visual element, any technology piece should enhance the user experience rather than hinder or detract from it. An app can’t replace what it’s like to stand in front of art, watch lion cubs at a zoo, or run and play in Gathering Place but it can enhance a visitor’s experience while doing those things.
Consider this branding story in terms of your own organization. A strategically curated app experience could capture newfound interest, and therefore, revenue stream into your organization. Creating an effective mobile platform that utilizes the advantages of visitor engagement, smart data, and a connected brand is just the foundation of renewing your app’s onsite and offsite experience.
We’re excited to see what our friends at Gathering Place will do with their new Discovery Lab, which began construction in February. It will be a hands-on museum featuring classrooms, a café, grand plaza, and a 300-seat amphitheater. It is expected to be completed by the late summer of 2021.
Still curious about what an app could look like for your organization? Take a look at the apps we’ve created for the Memphis Zoo and Omaha Zoo. Let’s chat about how we can create an app that meets the unique needs of your organization.
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