February 10, 2012 at 4:22 pm #152803
Several municipalities have released or are planning to release “City Apps”. These all-in-one type mobilie applications can provide services and information for multiple topics, e.g. garbage schedules, bike paths, swimming schedules, permit applications, etc. There’s also municipalities that have chosen to create apps for specific functions, e.g. just gargage schedules, or just bike paths, etc.
My question/s to everyone: is there an obvious better choice between the two or how should a city decide which to do?
February 10, 2012 at 4:30 pm #152823
Interesting question. I grew to love apps because the ones I tend to use all serve a single purpose. With the ability on my iphone to move them into folder with similar apps that kept things simple.
While I understand the drive to have the “one service” app, I’m concerned they’ll soon run into the same #ux issues our websites do. I don’t have the tech background to know if this can be easily addressed. I know I’d love to pick and choose my city apps and have a folder for them, although I could see value in a Transportation app (bus, bike paths, dare I say cabs? 😉
Looking forward to seeing what my city gives me…
February 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm #152821
At some level, this is a depth v. breadth conversation so I probably start by segmenting your audience in terms of anticipated usage. Obviously, there are some benefits to having an all-in-one application but you’ll also find associated costs – both financial and otherwise. And if 80% of your users are focused on a single function, it may not be smart to compromise the application by supporting additional requirements. By the same token, OMB has launched an effort to get rid of duplicative websites and I’m sure that we don’t want to be doing the same thing in a couple of years for duplicative apps so figuring out how to consolidate your requirements is important as well.
It was a slightly broader topic (web portal v. just mobile), but interesting blog from Gartner on efforts to create universal portal for all services within the U.K.
February 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm #152819
To me it’s like any battle between centralized and decentralized discussion (whether IT staffing or websites and multiple domains)…truth is in the middle
I think all in one apps can work well for say a city in the way of a portal.
If there is a killer use case, like in U.S. TSA and their screening app which isn’t just a TSA app but all about boarding airplanes. Or SSA Baby Name app which isnt about retirement benefits but about baby names, then I like a separate app.
Additionally, I think a big key in the end is promotion. Even if a good app, you got to really market it to get downloads.
February 14, 2012 at 5:15 am #152817
I like the idea of limiting the number of individual apps, but I’m wary of combining “everything but the kitchen sink” into one mega app … hoping it won’t be confusing to navigate and hoping the bugs don’t ruin the experience for each function in the app.
I think there is a middle solution that can separate the functions of an app the same way departments are separated in local government. A limited number of apps can be developed using similar structure to build on familiarity and a unified look. But, in truth, the individual apps are maintained by different departments and accessed by users who choose to install them. The installed apps an always give users the option to install related apps — but only those chosen by the user.
Fexibility without confusion is the key factor to consider … not just for our customers, but for ourselves.
February 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm #152815
I heard the decision criteria from one mobile app developer last night. The criteria he’s presenting is that any city with a population over a certain number (think he used 200,000) should split up the apps to single use/focus. Not sure this is a great way to make the decision, certainly simple, but it was interesting that this might be how it’s being presented to cities.
Seems so far that in the case of mobile apps that the narrow focus on key task is the preferred model, but that some common look and feel might be beneficial. Maybe that’s another question… what sort of guidelines should a governement put around look & feel for mobile apps? Will too many take away from flexibility based on subject matter, and too little leave room to impact the “brand”?
February 15, 2012 at 2:20 pm #152813
I would love an app for my community that included business, Government and fun! What a great tool that would be.
I may not find a bike path ap because I don’t associate with any groups riding bicycles, but if I stumbled on the fact that there was a bike path_right in my community_, well that I would probably look into!
February 15, 2012 at 3:07 pm #152811
I like your question. I had also been pondering a full post on the benefits and drawbacks of mobile apps for local governments and just posted a new blog. I agree with some earlier posters that it depends on the function, but I don’t know how the app developer you spoke to picked 200,000 population to make a separate mobile app per focus. I don’t see how that would do anything to help the app’s function or usage. I discuss the design element in my post, Mobile App Design and Organization.
February 16, 2012 at 1:51 am #152809
Sharing our experience so far in Hong Kong, we’ve tended to go for single purpose apps, letting people choose which best suit their needs and interests, then marketing them not just through the particular agency that creates them but also through a central gateway through which people can see everything that is on offer – http://www.gov.hk/en/about/govdirectory/mobilesites.htm
Building and improving single purpose apps is a lot quicker than working with a multipurpose app.
February 16, 2012 at 8:59 pm #152807
wow, looks like the Hong Kong might be a place to look for lessons on mobile apps!
February 17, 2012 at 5:38 pm #152805
We have done extensive user studies on productivity apps for employees, consumer and citizen apps, compared the results of our studies with similar ones conducted by Apple and Samsung. There is no room for doubt: Users prefer single purpose apps. Complexity is not appreciated by users. Martha McLean basically said it all 😉
There are striking practical advantages to users as well as the government agencies providing for them: It easier for the user to rate a single purpose app and comment and give valueable feedback on the respective app store, and similarly it is easier for the app developer to incorporate that feedback into the next update of the app quickly. You can update apps with low complexity much more often, and keep them fresher easier and sharply focussed on actual user needs.
Mobile apps are consumed in a different way than other applications, consequently the “rules” for mobile apps are just different than the well-known rules for websites, or for business software.
That said, cities (and for that matter other government agencies) may want to have a number of single purpose apps available to their users. Users will group apps according to their own preferences and categories, as Martha said.
Full disclosure: I am with SAP, a global software company catering to governments and to other businesses of all sizes. We help governments run better with mobility, analytics, in-memory computing, SaaS and – more traditional – business applications. We recommend to all agencies to go mobile, not only because it may be good business for us, but because it is actually good business for government. Mobility is not a one-app topic; we stress the strategic importance: Mobile apps extend the reach of government to places, situations and people that otherwise could not be reached at similarly low cost and efforts. That is true for reaching citizens, as well as own staff. Read more about how mobile helps government in my blogs here on govloop and on the SAP Community Network.
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