If you're considering creating a mobile app for your members, you're not alone. There are roughly 2.2 million apps in the Google Play store and close to 2 million in the Apple App Store. Each of those apps cost quite a bit of money, although how much money ranges from several thousand dollars to several million.
On the low end of that scale (relatively speaking) are event apps. Event apps are specially built or customized programs that house information about a certain event. Associations commonly use event apps for their national or international conferences because they let members access event details easily while they move between sessions.
Event apps are becoming more and more essential as people come to expect easy access to information on smartphones and tablets. This has led to a surge in options. Many more event software providers and developers are offering event apps than in the past and each offers different pricing and customization.
So what is the price tag of a mobile event app today? Here are four of the top factors that contribute to the price of event apps, as well as the different levels of customization you can get for your money.
There isn't a set price for any type of app because there are different ways to design and build one. Each method includes a different amount of customization and coding, which affects development cost. However, before we jump into customization and coding costs it's important to review the other factors will have a large influence on your event app's price.
Not all events have mobile apps and if your members don't know there's one available for your event, then they won't search the app store to find and download it. If you want your app to stand out and be easy for members to find in crowded stores, you have to market it. That will take time and money.
People no longer use apps because of the novelty, nor will they download an extra app just to use it for your three-day conference. To get members to download and use your app you must make it valuable by creating an easier or more efficient way for your members to experience your event, customize their agenda, or get essential information. If your app doesn't provide value, then adoption will be more difficult and expensive for your association.
You have the option to take the design and production of your event app off-shore. Having your app produced in another country can be less expensive than producing it in the U.S., but may require extra effort when it comes to communication, vetting your developer, and dealing with legal concerns.
Android apps and Apple apps are developed differently, as are apps that are designed to work on tablets. If you want a cross-platform event app that works on all devices you'll need to pay more for additional development and testing.
While many factors will affect the cost of an event app, the largest pricing influence is the amount of customization and functionality that you want. There are three main levels of app customization and capability, each of which requires a different amount of coding. The more custom coding, the more expensive the app will be.
Custom-coded apps are your high-end option. If you choose custom coding, then your association's event app will be created from scratch to fit your needs. To commission a custom app, you need to work with a developer or team of developers to map out what you want your members to be able to do with the app.
This is the costliest type of mobile event app because it involves the most time and coding work. Exact prices will vary. Some associations work with high-profile agencies or developers to design an app that is theirs exclusively. They pay for the developers as well as an account or project manager who oversees the work and communicates what the association needs.
Developer experience and the complexity of what you want the app to do will affect your total price, although most custom apps range from $10,000 to $50,000. That may sound like a lot, but just remember that if your association were looking for a general purpose app, costs would likely run between $100,000 and $250,000.
Pre-built event apps, like Guidebook and Gather Digital, use the same framework for multiple organizations or conferences. The developer "skins" the app to match your branding but it's essentially the same app for every customer. This is similar to how many association management software companies work. They provide features that can be toggled on and off to configure the member experience, but you can't create custom functionality.
Pre-built event apps are a lot less pricey than custom apps because you share coding costs with the developer's other clients. Pre-built apps cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 depending on functionality.
Some pre-built apps are charged by user adoption or have a monthly fee, while others will be a one-time fee. Some software vendors even offer free or low-cost tailored apps for components of what they do, such as events. These apps may have limited usage, but are good options for those who don't want to spend the time or money developing a custom app.
The most cost-effective way to introduce an event app is with an app-like experience. App-like experiences can be included in the price of general online community software or your AMS and are typically respsonsive. They may be built on event microsites with customizable elements.
These web-based tools will automatically resize to fit any device and they provide a more unified experience because they work just as well on a laptop as on a smartphone.
Built-in mobile event experiences provide the same functionality as most full event apps as well as added convenience. Your members can use the tools on any device from, a desktop or tablet to a smartphone, without going through the hassle of downloading an app to each device.
App-like functionality is the most cost-effective event app option because you're not paying to develop extra software. The cost of the mobile experience is included with your base platform, such as your membership management software or event system, so there's no additional outlay.
Before you begin digging through your budget to figure out what type of event app you can afford, it's important to understand your goals and needs. Do you need a custom event app that's made for your association or would your members enjoy a more unified experience across all their devices?
Perhaps the most important consideration is whether your event attendees will adopt an app or whether they're just looking for mobile functionality. If your members don't want to download another app, then there's no reason for your association to pay to build one.
Ultimately, the best choice will depend on your member's expectations and the functionality your association is looking for. Choose the option that will will give your members everything they need without breaking your budget.