DangerOz was a long time in development. A few false starts, a couple of staff changes, Government tendering and contractual requirements all combined to slow this project down. However, we learned a great deal along the way so thought I’d share some reflections.
Treat app development like a mini exhibition – establish a team with clear responsibilities, have regular project meetings, nominate a Project Manager to look after timelines, contracts and budgets. One person should have overall responsibility for all content, writing and fact-checking – this ensures a consistent voice, especially if content ranges across different areas of the organisation. In the beginning work out a system of keeping track of content, content updates and suggested changes using Excel – this is especially important for both accuracy and time management. Remember to have a good sign-off system for content, preferably the Project Manager in conjunction with the content person, and get content edited and proof-read by an objective third-party.
The app development process
Decide on the platform early and be clear on why the choice was made (and also why a particular platform was not accommodated – go here for our reasoning about an Android version). I believe it’s OK to go on particular platforms as long as there’s a good reason, especially as we’re all still learning about this stuff.
At the same time as you’re planning Stage 1, plan for Stage 2 – both in maintenance and app support, as well as updates. Content for DangerOz is directly linked to our website’s CMS so adding new material shouldn’t be too hard (but agreeing on the next ten dangerous animals to include might be!).
Also decide early on pricing. Should we have charged $2.99AUD? I don’t really know but I’m glad we did as we learned a great deal and now will be able to be a bit more creative with pricing of the next version as well as future apps.
Get onto the Apple Store as soon as you know you will be developing an app – setting up your business account and the associated paperwork takes more time than you think.
Remember that when you release the app you won’t get figures until the last time zone is closed (and it took some time for us to work out when that is!). This post, At what time is an app released on the App Store when set to a specific release date? helps explain some of this.
Keep monitoring the figures as well as the reviews. We have a few negative reviews for DangerOz and are talking steps to deal with them (a starter is this blog post about our app development process).
Marketing and Launch
Pick a launch date and stick with it. If necessary (and in the spirit of agile development) just get a beta version out to test the market. Determine a marketing plan early, especially if it involves competitions and special deals (and be wary of how you give it away on Facebook and Twitter – it isn’t as straightforward as you think!). The Apple Store gives a maximum of 50 promotional codes per app so remember to keep aside some for journalists and use them as they only have a four-week time span.
Galvanize your community and encourage plenty of shares, retweets and likes – word of mouth is our best selling tool as outlined in this blog post: In selling apps, word-of-mouth is king. We also found this handy How to MarketYour Mobile App guide from Smashing Magazine that was useful.
We experimented with QRCodes, and while this is a fairly new'ish area for museums, I think it’s worth pursuing. See this blog post for more on QRCodes.
Our Facebook ad did well with over 650 clicks over three days, resulting in new Likes for the Museum’s Facebook page and sales (we believe). I would definitely do this again.
We made the New and Noteworthy section of the App Store and still are the number one selling paid app in the Education category. Again, while it’s a bit hard to tell, we think this also helped sales.
In hindsight I suggest starting with a straightforward app and take baby steps – like we did with DangerOz. Use the rapid agile development approach and keep in mind that we’re all still learning, so keep on sharing feedback (and thanks to Seb at the Powerhouse Museum for his useful blog posts about their Love Lace app).