The key questions to consider when building an app for students

An app must reflect the university and speak to students' needs

As mobile applications become increasingly popular on college campuses, developers must keep five key points in mind to build apps that will be valuable to students, Korey Pimental writes for eCampus News

1. Does your app have a specific goal in mind?

There are countless reasons to develop an app—for academic support, to improve residential life—but all that really matters is creating something that your students need. Poll your students to determine what features would be most useful to them and focus your app design on their feedback.

Also consider launching a campaign to promote the app before development begins, allowing you to gain feedback as well as creating buzz in the process.

Many institutions still haven't tapped into the full potential of mobile, says Ed Venit, senior director at EAB.

"We've done user group research with thousands of students," he adds. "They told us that their schools could be doing a lot more with mobile to make critical information more accessible, customized, and timely."

Learn more: How can a smartphone improve student success?

2. Is your app on-brand?

Your app must fit into your institution's overall brand so that your students view it as a tool necessary to be engaged in the campus community. Make sure that your app's interface includes your school's colors and that you use relevant photographs depicting life on campus.

Engage students further by recruiting them to help design the app or holding a contest to decide its name.

3. Is your app research-driven? 

After you've determined what kind of app you'll be creating, research the apps other universities have developed.  Take notes on what you like and don't like about their apps, details of their design process, and how your app could be even better than what's already out there. Also be sure to speak directly to schools about how they went about creating their apps.

4. Do you have the right resources?

It's crucial to plan for the resources you will need and challenges that may arise before building the app. If your app needs to integrate with another system, make sure you have everything necessary for a smooth integration. Knowing what you have and don't have available will make the development process much smoother.

5. Do you know how you'll test your app?

When testing your app, a good place to start is a focus group that can offer customized feedback and user reactions.

You'll be collecting feedback at multiple stages of development, so keep a testing schedule in mind. You will need feedback after the prototype is complete, after a user interface is created, and at other stages on a continuous basis. Also remember that user needs will change over the course of your app's implementation, so be flexible with testing methods (Pimental, eCampus News, 7/18). 

Also see: Why texting your students isn't coddling

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