Why a Pilot App Makes Sense

1 May

It’s tempting to think about creating an app that highlights every historical point of interest in your city; or every artifact in your museum. Stop! Don’t go any further.

While it’s great to dream, and to plan in grandiose visions, the truth is – you should dip your toe in the water before jumping into the pool. What do I mean?

Mobile apps have changed, even in the couple of years they’ve been around. Now you can build them yourself – or use template-based app builders like TourSphere – to quickly and easily build apps. The best approach, in my opinion, is to build a pilot app. This is a scaled down version of an app that you can build in 4 – 8 weeks and without much staff time. Then you have a viable product to give to your visitors. They, not you, provide feedback on the experience. They, not you, tell you how to make it better.

Once you have real, quantifiable data from your visitors, you can continue to build out and enhance your mobile app. Then you’re building something your visitors want – not something you think they want.

Let’s take an example. I spoke this morning with a museum that has a campus of six buildings; at any given time they have 3 rotating exhibits; a permanent outdoor sculpture garden; and a permanent indoor collection of over 10,000 objects. They were considering making a massive financial investment, and literally years of planning and staff time, to build an app that included EVERYTHING.

That is potentially a tragic waste of resources. I encouraged them to instead offer a simple “Curator’s Choice” app, which would highlight 20 curator favorites in the permanent collection. The app will take about 6 weeks to build. They will have it in time for summer; and they will have Analytics and a built-in Visitor Survey, in the app. This will give them real data – to inform their long-term mobile app strategy.

This is the way to do it. It saves you time, money, frustration – and leaves the decisions regarding the visitor experience to, well, the visitors.

One Response to “Why a Pilot App Makes Sense”

  1. Petri Koski May 13, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    I certainly agree on, not setting too high ambitions initially. Our experience on working iPad app projects for museums and exhibits (and in general) is to start with s simple idea – test it and develop from there. The implementation is much easier and realistic and the result is a better app.

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