Cameron Gray is the Internal Communications Advisor at the City of Yarra responsible for digital content, videos and other internal communication channels. He provides leadership, advice and innovative solutions to the Executive, CEO and other staff on all internal communications matters.
Prior to this Cameron was the Healthy Communities Coordinator at Baw Baw Shire Council in regional Victoria working in social media, digital engagement and health promotion. In this position worked with Roadhouse Digital to develop Baw Baw’s first mobile app, Baw Baw Trail Trak – an app that encourages everyone to get active by providing some fantastic walking, jogging, and riding tracks throughout the shire.
He talked to Squiggle, our very old canine correspondent about the app development process.
Can you hear me? Tell us about the app you developed?
Yes I can hear you. You’re right in front of me. The development of the idea to create an app took several months. We wanted to look at more sustainable and innovative ways to convey information that was written and printed in a book on a semi-regular basis (the Baw Baw Walks Booklet). We tossed around the ideas of a website or mobile site but eventually settled on an app because of the engaging features it brings.
Why an app and not say, a series of loud barks or an Aerogramme?
We wanted people to engage with our information (a series of local walks) and get out and walk. A walking app allows people to use a device they are already using to already using to plan their routes, take photos, share with friends, track their walking. The app means that we can unlock information that we have never been able to secure before such as: how long it takes people on average to do one of the walks, popularity of different walks, what do people take photos of etc. Aerogramme?
Were you pleased with your developer?
We were very fortunate to work closely with a developer who has worked in the health promotion space for some time. They were very flexible with our ideas and brief and supported us through the process as subject matter experts. My advice for finding the right developer (which I think is key to success) is getting someone who has worked with your industry before, developed something similar that you can test and is prepared to take your idea, flesh it out further and keep you involved through the process.
During the war we planned everything meticulously. How detailed were your plans before talking to your developer about your app?
Not very meticulous at all. We developed a wish list of functionality through a brainstorming session then sent that high level brief to the market place and got them to respond to the functionality. Things we thought that would be complex from a developers perspective were cheap and easy, whereas things we thought would be more simpler ended up taking more time and costing more. In the end from our wish list we lost maybe 10% of our desired functionality, which we were very happy with. I think it’s important to divide what you want into three categories: Must haves, Should haves and Like to haves.
I also suggest you ask for a detailed brief back from a supplier, itemised and then work through that list with them. And don’t be afraid to ask questions! Always ask more than less!
How long did the process take? Was this longer than anticipated?
Yes! We hoped it would be done and dusted in three months but that just is unrealistic. I would encourage people to allow at least 12 months from “let’s do an app” to downloading onto your device.
12 months? Good Lord – that’s 7 years!
Development and testing (and you need to be very thorough with your testing) took about 4 months but there is the lead up to that point and the preparations for launch and roll out that still need to occur.
On testing. Always get multiple people testing the prototypes and always compare that to the brief. What did you ask it to do, what did they say it would do and what is it actually doing?
How much should it cost?
Difficult to say. I would suggest a decent basic app would cost between $15k-$35k depending on the functionality – unlike some webpages where developers can use a basic code, app development requires another level of detailed customisation and for two different platforms (iOS and Android). Once again your wish list given to a developer will assist you in determining the costing. We got quotes as high as $100k! I would suggest that you just brace yourself for figures that are higher than you expect.
Were you happy with the result? Tails wagging all round was it?
Yes – very much so! We got exactly what we were after.
Any cats hurt in the process?
No. Of course not.
Dachshunds are very popular. Is your new app popular?
We’ll have to wait and see until we launch it properly next month. Then we will be able to assess the impact. We are after a gradual uptake not a huge success over night.
Would you recommend an app as a marketing / comms option?
Depending on the service you provide and what you are marketing or communicating. I think you need to think about the objective first and the tool second. If you are wanting people to engage with your information regularly then an app could be good. And app will never replace your webpage so if you’re looking for people just to read or be informed I would stay away but if you’re looking for behavioural change or similar an app could work. Particularly for gamification and part of a broader campaign.