Does My High School
Need an App?

As mobile usage continues to increase, many schools are asking the question if they need to have an app.

Illustration of User Accessing A Mobile App
Published: 10.18.2017

Working in education, you’ve probably witnessed firsthand the rise in mobile usage among your students. This has lead to many schools asking, should we have an app? A mobile app is a software application developed specifically for use on small, wireless computing devices, such as smartphones and tablets, rather than desktop or laptop computers. Developing a mobile app for your school can be a big investment both in time and money. Such an application must be downloaded and installed from the Apple App store or Android Market place. Consider these questions before making the final decision for your school.

User Experience
What are your site visitors trying to accomplish that they can’t with your current site? First, take a look at your existing website. Is it responsive and mobile friendly? If not, this is a good first step to take before developing a native application for a smart-phone. The inherent nature of responsive websites makes them more accessible to all screen sizes since they are dynamic by design.

Responsive websites not only create a better user experience for your visitors, but search engines like Google take responsiveness into account so you may rank higher in search results. If you have a responsive website, take a further look to see how it’s performing. Conduct a usability test or focus group to see if there are changes or improvements to be made.

Barrier to Entry
The next step is to define who the intended audience is for the app. Will this be an internal app geared towards students, faculty or parents, or will this be open to the public?  Many visitors feel they shouldn’t have to download an app to get basic information, such as directions or a phone number. In other words they do not want to have a barrier to access the information they’re looking. According to Localytics, nearly 1 in every 4 users abandon an app after just one use.1 They also found that 80% of all app users (across all industries) stop using an app within 90 days.2 That means  only 20% of users are using an app longer than three months. If you’re considering this as a main point of contact with your audiences, it may be difficult to retain users.

Before you make your decision, you should also check your mobile vs. desktop reports in your analytics to see what percentage of visitors are accessing your site via mobile. Apps do not necessarily follow the “if we build it, they will come” mentality so determining how your audience is currently accessing and engaging with your site will help you in your decision making process. If the majority are accessing from their desktop, they may not be interested in downloading a separate app. The size of your school is another factor to consider; if you have a smaller audience, it may not be worth the investment. 

What's the Difference Between A Mobile App and a Website?
A website is typically built using HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. These are universal languages that are used across the Internet. To access a web site on your mobile phone, you only need a browser and an Internet connection. A native mobile app is typically written in a language that's specific for an operating system, such as SWIFT for iOS and Java for Android. To run a mobile app on your phone, you need to download it from an app store and install it on your phone.

This leads the question: what are you looking to communicate through your app that is not already available through your website? Many people consider an app for advanced features like uploading photos, GPS location, interactivity and push notifications but most of these can be achieved on your website, if developed properly. One advantage an app has over a website is the ability for push notifications, but schools can work around this through email or other communication tools.

Maintaining an app is much different than a website; you will need to support different platforms like iOS and Android and in multiple versions each time they are updated. As new phones and operating systems are released, you may need to update your mobile app to support them.  It’s a never ending struggle to keep your app updated.  With a web site, you make your updates through an easy to use content management system and everyone sees the updates automatically.

Overall, each school has different needs depending on their audiences and school culture. If your school is very technology driven, an app may be an option for you. But in many cases, having a responsive, easy to navigate website is the better way to go.

Interested in discussing communication solutions for your school? We’d love to talk!


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