There are a lot of nuances surrounding mobile apps for events. People will tell you “you’ve gotta have mobile”, but in order to decide what you actually need and how much – if anything – it should cost you, requires a little clear thinking. So let’s start with the big question: “What issue am I trying to address?”

Issue 1: People are now using mobile devices instead of (or in addition to) desktop or laptop devices

Nowadays people are increasingly using mobile devices including phones, i-pads and tablets to access the internet and do things they used to do through desktop PCs or laptops. If this is your issue, then the first place to look is your main event website. Does it offer a full range of functionality – registration, delegate profiling, conference agenda, session selection, one-to-one meetings, personalized itinerary, payment and event feedback? If it does, then what you really want is a way of ensuring that all this great functionality also looks good on a mobile device.

This used to be a big issue. Mobile devices have a smaller screen size than desktop PCs and laptops. Software producers had to write separate programs to cater for them.

But thanks to an exciting development in IT called responsive design, websites are now becoming intelligent enough to know what sort of device they are being displayed upon and reformatting themselves accordingly.

So if your event website does everything you want, there’s just one question you now need to ask your IT department or your software solution provider: “Is our event web-site designed to be responsive?”

If the answer is yes, no specific mobile app is needed. All people need is a link to your event website and an internet connection.

Issue 2: There is no internet connectivity at my event but I want people to be able to view certain information on their phone

Of course, if there is no internet connectivity at your event, such as wifi or a mobile internet connection, e.g. 3G, 4G or GPRS, because the local environment or infrastructure does not support it, then it will be difficult for people to view your website at all.

If it is imperative that people see information relevant to your event during the event, then the only solution may be a mobile app installed on their phones. There are some apps out there that do very clever things. But even with these, there are three major caveats of which you should be aware:

  1. If people have not already downloaded your custom event app to their phone before coming to your event, they may struggle to do so at your event and many will fail or give up.
  2. You can display static information and functionality through your custom app, as long as it does not need to interact with a web-server. But if, for example, you wish to allow people to see other attendees and issue meeting requests or make appointments, they will be unable to do so during your event.
  3. Mobile apps are device dependent. All serious app providers will address the both i‑phone and android markets. Not all will go the extra mile to reach users with Blackberry and Windows phones.

Should I have to pay extra for mobile?

If you have a fully functional event web-site built with responsive design, the answer is probably “No”. With internet connectivity at your event, users can do pretty much everything they need before, during and after your event. What else is there to pay for?

A company such as Delegate Select will sell you a complete event registration site with your own branding, delegate profiling, session selection/tailored agenda and one-to-one meeting functionality for up to 500 participants for under £1,250. Now, with the implementation of our new responsive design, your site will run across mobile devices, i-pads and tablets at no extra charge.

However, if you do want a fancy stand-alone app requiring no internet connectivity built for i-phone and android that allows users to see where they are and plan their route to an exhibitor’s stand or the coffee and doughnuts, then expect to pay handsomely for it!