It seems that everyone is talking about apps these days. A word once known more for its prowess at dinner parties has now become synonymous with mobile applications. With this craze, people everywhere are thinking, “hmm..maybe I should get an app for (insert creative thought here).” A word of caution, not all app ideas should be invested in and not every organization needs their own app. So how do you know if you should take this venture on, and if so, where do you start? The road of mobile development can be daunting, so it helps to plan well and to know where to start.
First off, there are many kinds of apps. For the sake of this conversation, I’m going to primarily focus on apps built for churches and ministries. For those looking to build an app for your organization, follow two simple rules: provide content and deliver quality. It needs to be done really well and it needs to have a reason for people to use it regularly.
If there is no reason for someone to download and then repeatedly want to use your app, it’s probably not going to be very successful. You need content, lots of fresh meaningful content. That’s one of the biggest reasons a lot of churches and ministries have had wildly successful apps.
At Subsplash, we have had the opportunity to work with incredible ministries of all sizes. We see over half a million page views daily on our platform. People are using it like crazy and the number one reason people use these ministry apps is to access media. Churches are in the unique place of being content creators and at least once a week there is a new sermon that they want to get into people’s hands. Not only are churches and ministries adding sermons to their apps, but there are a whole host of other things you can provide through the app such as blogs/news, events, online giving, sermon notes and bulletins, music, small group resources, Bibles and reading plans, and pretty much anything else you can think of. The app shouldn’t just be a duplicate of your site, but rather a source to get relevant content into people’s hands. Keep it simple and put your best foot forward.
Along with content, you need to make sure that your app is done incredibly well. As technology continues to develop, people demand more. They want it to be cooler, faster, smarter, and much more fun to use. So, if you have incredible content but you develop a sub-par app, people will hit the eject button before you get a second chance.
Apps are a powerful tool if done well. They can do much more than a mobile site or simply accessing the web through your phone. Take a feature like listening to audio in an app. If your app audio player only allows you to hit play and pause or do a simple fast-forward/rewind, you are going to add frustrations to the end user. What happens when you get a phone call while listening to a 45 minute sermon? Shouldn’t the app remember where you last left off? Or what if you live in a place where you don’t have the best cellular coverage, wouldn’t it be nice if you could download that audio for offline listening? These are just a few examples that seem like luxury items, until you start using the software and realize how important they truly are. We often don’t notice the quality until we use something that doesn’t meet our expectations. Don’t get caught being the church that built an app that was frustrating to use.
Overall, your app should be simple to use, it should work how you expect it to, and it should look really nice. It doesn’t have to win awards, but make sure it’s visually appealing and a delightful experience.
Most of the churches that have utilized our software have seen more downloads of their app than attendees in the church. Sometimes up to 50 times more downloads of their app than church members. Also, most churches see their sermon downloads increase as well as a spike in online giving. As an example, one church with a membership of 1000 people saw 2,000 downloads, 22,000 launches, and increased giving within the first six months of having their app. If your ministry has content and wants to present it well, doing an app might just be the right next step.
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