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Event Apps: Think Tapas, not Smörgåsbord

by Will Scott
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A review of the ill-conceived Mobile World Congress event app shows how poor design can have a broad impact on attendee experience.

Every year, the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) holds the Mobile World Congress (MWC). It’s a fantastic event, and in 2015 the massive international gathering included more than 93,000 corporate mobility leaders.

Like other trade shows and events, MWC is where executives come to connect, learn, develop relationships, grow, and get excited about the industry.

Since MWC is all about changing the world through mobile technology, I was surprised that the event app didn’t live up to the standards espoused at the show. The MWC app should have gone beyond the expected to showcase the full potential of mobile apps.

Events apps should enhance the physical experience for the user, not detract from it. Instead of creating an app that attempted to do too much, MWC would have benefitted from an app that did a handful of things elegantly. Attendees were offered a smörgåsbord when they really only needed tapas.

Some of the issues I noted with the MWC app include:

  • The web platform couldn’t handle the large number of users. While the app opened like a native app, it had to to pull data requested by users externally. With nearly 100,000 attendees, this sucked up a lot of limited bandwidth on the WiFi system and made for a slow response and poor user experience. The app should have been native or a hybrid app engineered to cache information and images. With a native app, most of the information would reside on the device and show instantly.
  • The validation process was slow and clunky. The app included a validation process that was supposed to speed things up. Users were required to upload a show pass with information and a photo. However, this process was very slow and didn’t always work. It was easier to just use my physical ID badge.
  • The app didn’t save time. There were too many menu items that required multiple touches to get to vital information. Much of the information required significant scrolling. If I tapped onto a different page and wanted to go back to where I was scrolling, I’d lose my place. Every time I opened the app, I was prompted to calibrate the compass on my iPhone, which was a real waste of time. This demonstrates the need to conduct user testing well in advance of the event.
  • Event and speaker information wasn’t easily accessible. Agendas were long scrolling lists. Speaker bios were in a long list in their own separate section, but were not listed in the schedule list view. This required users to select a talk, scroll down to a list view of the speaker, tap the speaker to see a partial bio, then tap one more time to read the bio in detail. Speaker information should have been visible on the event preview screen with a direct link to the full bio. A better approach would be to simplify information and not try to create one app to manage everything.
  • Integration with native calendars was missing. Attendees interested in attending an event had to save the event to a calendar in the MWC app, which didn’t integrate with iCal, Google Calendar, or Outlook. This required attendees to use two calendars or skip the calendar app altogether. Since native apps already exist on smartphones and are quite robust, it’s best to integrate with these apps (Evernote, notes, contacts, camera, calendar, etc.) for a seamless and powerful user experience.

Just as important as all of these details is timing. Release event apps at least two months in advance of the conference. Event attendees plan their trips months in advance and many of them are coordinating with sales and PR teams to make the most of their time at the show. This requires coordination for several months. A mobile app could be a big benefit during this planning time.

The GSMA has a global audience at MWC. It’s time they had an app worthy of the wonderful event they host.

Image of dizzying buffet selection courtesty Shutterstock.

post authorWill Scott

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