2 min Read
August 12, 2013

So you’re thinking about making a mobile app?

Allison Munson, Big Duck Intern

Mobile apps seem to be a hot topic for nonprofits, so it’s important to know the do’s and don’ts of this media channel—or if you even want to use it. As an intern at Big Duck, I’ve heard a lot of stories of organizations trying to make an app when they don’t have any real reason for one. Before you shell out money and effort, think about this question: what is your app for? The way I see it, there are four reasons for an app:

For entertainment. Whether waiting for the subway or going out for brunch, you’ll always find people playing on their phones. Chances are, most of them are wasting time on Angry Birds or Snapchat. This kind of app is pretty difficult to develop, especially if you want it to have meaningful content, but it can be a good way to get people interested in you and the content you have outside of the app.

For urgency. Whenever I get frustrated at the subway for making me late, I go to one of the many apps out there to see if my train is running late or just not coming. This kind of app is where the more serious content is usually used, helping people learn to cook or even respond to natural disasters. These apps may vary in the urgency of content but they all have one important factor: simple interfaces. If I download an app and it’s too slow or cumbersome to use, I delete it the same day.

For simplicity. Between classes, my job, and my internship here at Big Duck, I don’t get to sit still for very long. If your target audience is anything like me, they’ll only be able to answer an online call-to-action that takes less than 5 minutes. Anything longer than that needs to be approachable via web as well as mobile, which is my next point.

For continuity. Given my packed schedule, there are always things that need to be done in multiple sittings, if I get to sit at all! For example, I often begin writing an email on my laptop and then finish it on my phone as I wait in the morning coffee line. If you want your audience to engage more than 5 minutes a day, make sure the connections between online and mobile channels are seamless.

If you want to make an app to fulfill one or more of these uses you are off to a great start! If you’re hoping to target my generation you’ll need to make sure you have these things:

  • Aesthetics: a well-designed app doesn’t just run well, but looks good too. If it looks outdated, people will think it is, and won’t trust its information.
  • Give and take: I love to support a cause and get involved, but because I have so many ads online asking me for something everyday, I tend to get selective. If you want an audience of my generation to get involved, give them something in return – even something small like a tweet saying thanks, or a chance to win free flip flops.