Friday, December 7, 2012

Using TripBuilder's Phone Apps

Mobile Web version
of the finished app. The
iPhone and Android
versions were gorgeous
in comparison.
Last June I was directed to work with TripBuilder about creating phone apps for our Conference in November. This had been done two years before with not a lot of enthusiasm by attendees but we felt that maybe there would be more people using smartphones this year. New territory for me, but the people at TB were great. They gave us a deadline for having a substantial amount of data flowing into their Web-based content management system (CMS) for handling the various functions for scheduling, listing speakers and attendees, creating surveys, and so forth.

I assume that the phone apps business emerged out of TB's original paper-based scheduling and pocket guides to conference cities service. A module providing a guide to the city of Atlanta was also included in the services extended by the apps: iOS (iPhones), Android, BlackBerry, and Web-based mobiles (including Windows phones and tablets) would be created. My main job was to take the logo for our conference and adapt it to numerous sizes and formats for these four applications. Associates of mine would use Excel templates downloaded from the TB CMS to insert data on sessions, speakers, attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors, as well as text for an About page. We could continue to update the CMS via these templates, however, as we got closer to the event, it was better to insert the data on attendees one by one so as to not overwrite notes that early adopters might be adding to their records.

Opening screen for the TripBuilder CMS.
We used the Section's Facebook page, monthly e-Newsletter, and Website to inform members about the apps and how to download them. To every email we sent out regarding the conference in the last weeks leading up to it, we appended a notice about the apps. By the time Conference started we had close to 200 apps downloaded for the branded phones. I could track adoptions via reports provided by the TB CMS. I also saw there had been 800 views of the mobile-based schedules, though we had no way to translate that into unique users. What really told us the apps were a success, however, was when we had more than 100 downloads during the first day of sessions. It was obvious that people were showing off their apps to friends and the friends were liking what they saw.

Graphics were uploaded and stored for use by the TB programmers. You couldn't vary from their precise size requirements by one measly pixel!

This tells me two things: we had done enough promotion to prime the pump for adoption before the conference and the apps were easy enough to learn that the early adopters wanted to show off to whomever they ran into at Conference. It's obvious that this will play well next year, since by the end of Conference we had close to a 50% adoption rate. That translates to having a sponsor and selling banner ads to run on the apps. More artwork for me to upload to their CMS next year but well worth the effort.

During Conference a decision was made to handle session evaluations online. This turned out to be about 24 on the first day, 33 on the second, and 17 on the final half day. Putting these together using our ABA Qualtrics account took about three-and-a-half hours each for the first two days and two hours for the last one, typing in each speaker's name and session titles. Instituting similar surveys via TB's CMS took me all of a half-hour! That's the power of a database-driven application kicking ass. The former set of surveys had to be emailed en masse to the attendees and they had to go from one session to the next in order to ensure they saw a survey for the sessions they attended. I got some email complaints on that!
Building surveys was a breeze with the TB CMS.
 The phone apps, first of all, allowed attendees to create their personal schedule of sessions they wished to attend. So referring to their MyScehdule, they had already eliminated sessions they hadn't attended and were able to press a button for taking the session survey. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to this aspect of the evaulation process next year!

TB is not standing on it's laurels, however. Next year, they will be able to allow our speakers to fill out their own biographies and other data to the TB CMS, which we can download for our own use (print copies, CD files). There will be an app that allows people to fill out forms and actually print out CLE certification documents for attending CLE-approved session. They are coming out with a spin-off application that will use HTML 5 to make the Web-based apps look more like the iOS apps and less like the screenshot elsewhere on this page. This app will be a 365/24/7 social networking tool.

It was great working with the TripBuilder team and I'm looking forward to continuing the relationship.

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