Monday, November 22, 2010

Are Mobile Apps a Waste of Time for YOUR Association?

Photo by by Cyril Plapied

Interesting debate going on in the association blogosphere recently--whether or not mobile apps are or are not a waste of time for associations. My take? You can't know unless you ask your members.

And yes I mean ask your members--not use data to guess their mobile usage needs based on behaviors you can see such as how they're accessing your website (or not) from their mobile devices via Google Analytics, or looking at your demographics and deciding that no, they won't be interested in apps because most of them are too old.

I just got back from ASHA's annual convention and it was a total eye-opener with regard to this subject. I got to meet lots of members and spend lots of time in the exhibit hall and what I learned totally flew in the face of what data would suggest. Are they using mobile devices to access our website? Not so much. Are they "digital natives?" Not by a long shot. But does that mean they're not using mobile devices in their work? Absolutely not.

They're using them in therapy. They're using them as assistive devices instead of the ones that cost $8,000, and having the same or better results. They're using them to motivate kids with severe autism--apparently mobile games work exceptionally well as motivators for kids with autism. They're using them to train kids to blow, to retrain adults how to move their mouths to form words. They're using them to take photos or videos of kids to send parents to augment paper progress reports. Using the metronome app to help stutterers pace their speech. Using the stopwatch feature to time appointments--because, as one pointed out, the font is much easier to read/larger than her regular stopwatch! And so on, ad infinitum.

As an association staffer who is not a speech therapist or audiologist there's no way I'd have imagined how big a part iOS devices are playing in our members' lives and practices if I hadn't heard it straight from them. Having learned what I learned this past week there is no way my association can NOT spend time and probably resources on apps in some way or another (in my opinion, at least).

Maybe ASHA is uniquely suited to apps, but I doubt it. I have a feeling that no matter what segment of professionals you ask, apps could well be playing a huge role in their lives and daily work. Does this mean you need to spend $50k creating apps featuring the content on your association's website? No. But does it mean it's worth asking members how mobile devices figure into their professional and personal lives, rather than assuming that because they're mostly older or employed in non-techy fields, you shouldn't be wasting time or resources on apps? Definitely.

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