Should Your Association Build an App?

November 7, 2021 Staff Writer

You’ve probably been thinking about your use of all things digital – social, mobile, data analytics, cloud, web, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things. We have one specific tech question for you: Should your association invest in creating an app?

We are app skeptics, and here’s why.

In December of last year, Tech Crunch reported on Apple’s most downloaded apps of 2020:

Top Free iPhone Apps

  1.     ZOOM Cloud Meetings
  2.     TikTok
  3.     Disney+
  4.     YouTube
  5.     Instagram
  6.     Facebook
  7.     Snapchat
  8.     Messenger
  9.     Gmail
  10. Cash App

Top Paid iPhone Apps

  1.     TouchRetouch
  2.     Procreate Pocket
  3.     Dark Sky Weather
  4.     Facetune
  5.     HotSchedules
  6.     AutoSleep Track Sleep
  7.     The Wonder Weeks
  8.     SkyView
  9.     Shadowrocket
  10. Sky Guide

 Meanwhile, Google makes its continuously updated list of most-downloaded apps public at: 

You may notice some (or a lot of) overlap.

What Do All These Apps Have in Common?

Two things. They’re either highly (maybe even addictively) engaging (social media, entertainment, games), or they allow users to perform specific important personal or professional tasks (video conferencing, HR functions, parenting, finance, health and fitness).

That’s why dedicated association apps that facilitate accomplishing a particular and important audience task — conference apps, apps that allow users to earn and track continuing education units (CEUs) — do well, and everything else generally underperforms expectations. Association apps aren’t addictive (which is probably a good thing), and there’s no compelling reason your members and other audiences need to use them regularly. 

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It’s more effective to invest your limited resources in creating a mobile-first website that’s fully responsive and has been tested end-to-end to make sure all the functions work correctly on tablets and smartphones.

 The Most Common Big Fail Out There?

It’s usually anything that requires interacting with something outside your content management system (CMS), like an association management system (AMS) connection that facilitates members’ joining or renewing or a learning management system (LMS) connection that facilitates taking courses and tracking CEUs.

If your AMS or LMS functions require people on smartphones to pinch and scroll to accomplish critical tasks — joining, renewing, registering for events, tracking CEUs — put your money into working with your vendor to fix that or into finding a different vendor, not into an app your members are unlikely to use frequently enough to justify your investment.

You’ve heard it before: think mobile first.

Here’s why, according to stats gathered by techjury:

  •     In 2021, mobile phones generate 54.25% of the traffic, desktops – 42.9%.
  •     55% of page views in 2021 come from mobile phones.
  •     Social media takes 25% of all digital media consumption and it is mainly accessed on mobile.
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We think that unless you have a specific reason for developing an app, don’t. Work on optimizing the user experience portion of your desktop, tablet and mobile offerings. We think you’ll get better results without building your own app.

How Can PROPEL Help?

You may be thinking, what does all this have to do with culture? Well, PROPEL’s Maddie Grant and Elizabeth Weaver Engel of Spark Consulting have written The No BS Guide to Digital Transformation  – a deeply researched white paper that will connect the dots for you. If you have questions about technology or how your association’s culture addresses technology, this white paper is for you. It makes sense out of all the jargon and confusing definitions surrounding digital transformation, and it can help you start thinking about how your association can use technology to better serve your members, customers and other constituents. It’s packed with information but also has a sense of humor.

Of course if you’d like to start a conversation, you can reach us any time at PROPEL.



Photo by Markus Spiske

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