Apr 07 2014

Questions to Ask When Developing an App

District leaders who have built mobile apps for their stakeholders offer these pointers to peers who are considering such efforts.

Is it a good fit? Mobile apps are best when information needs to be pushed out to users wherever they are; when it's time-sensitive; or when it requires input while users are on location, such as reporting maintenance issues or crime.

Are your users or other stakeholders on board? Make sure you know what features your users want and whether teachers, administrators or other staff can handle any extra effort during maintenance or operation.

Is your vendor up to the task? If outsourcing, choose a vendor that is established, has developed similar applications, truly understands the scope and intent of the project, and provides proven customer service.

Have you designed with the user in mind? Ultimately, success will depend on the user experience, which should be simple, intuitive and highly responsive. The app also should deliver regular, relevant updates. "Otherwise, people will use it once or twice and then give up," says technology consultant Chetan Sharma.

Is it secure? For apps that deal with student and family information, security tops the list of concerns. The DeKalb County (Ga.) School District effectively addressed this with a three-layer security strategy. Parents must input their child's unique school identifier, a password and the last four digits of their Social Security number to access grades, attendance information, school bus pickup and drop-off alerts, and (soon to come) online registration.

What's your testing plan? Because first impressions mean everything to savvy users, be sure to set aside enough time to work out any kinks before you officially unveil your app.

How will you publicize it? Your target audience won't use it if they don't know about it, so make sure you develop a campaign that includes traditional communication, as well as your website and social media channels, to get the word out.

Are you prepared for tomorrow? A mobile app isn't a one-and-done venture. Make sure you have the budget and manpower to effectively maintain it, apply ongoing upgrades and provide customer support.