Three things you need to know when evaluating a mobile app for your visitor attraction.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we’re sharing our top tips for looking below the s̶u̶r̶f̶a̶c̶e̶ ̶ user-interface and focusing on what’s underneath to find your ideal app partner. After all, it’s what’s on the inside that really counts ❤️
Ellen Wilkinson
February 2022

So you’ve decided to invest in a mobile app for your visitor attraction and now you’re in evaluation mode, comparing everything from a custom agency build, to DIY platforms and ready-made SaaS solutions, like Attractions.io. Annoyingly, despite your optimistic googling, Gartner hasn’t released a buying guide for guest experience software yet. 

So where do you start?

We’ve put together our top 4 tips for evaluating attraction mobile app providers and, crucially, what to look for to guarantee you invest in a resilient, enterprise-grade solution that delights both guests and your team.

1. Beauty isn’t everything

Don't get us wrong, great design matters – that's why it's one of Attractions.io's core values. But too often, design becomes confused with customisation and branding, rather than it being an opportunity to improve the guest experience.

“In the past, we believed our entire app needed to be customisable if we wanted a branded guest experience, but ultimately, the amount of customisation we had compromised the performance of the app and led to stability challenges that affected our users’ experience.We realised we needed to balance our need for an authentic branded experience, with a robust solution that was low maintenance and would free our marketing team to focus on their goals.” – Espen Rønning, Marketing Manager at Hunderfossen.

Hunderfossen’s experience isn’t unique, and over the past few years, we’ve worked with a number of attractions that have found first-hand that heavy-branding opportunties and customisation, don’t always result in a great user experience. Yes, guests expect a beautifully designed user interface that helps them achieve their goals – meaning navigating the app should be straightforward and intuitive to help them to get the most out of the day. But they're unlikely to prioritise the customisation features that often capture buyers attentions.

Fortunately, great design, usability and stability aren't mutually exclusive! So when you're searching for your perfect partner, look for a balance of beauty and brawn. For example, with Attractions.io, you can customise your app by adding your logo, branded icons and colours, plus add a hand illustrated map from our illustrators, while benefiting from the stability of a tried and tested SaaS solution that’s used by millions of guests.

2. It’s what’s on the inside that counts ❤️

So if design is just one part of the puzzle, what else should be prioritised? 

For us, the core app platform is always the most important thing to consider when evaluating providers. After all, what guests care about most of all is packing even more action into their visit, and if yours suffers from performance issues… like downtime, or drains guests’ mobile battery in all of 10 minutes, they’ll experience more friction than fun. 

Here’s what to look for when evaluating performance and stability:

1. Uptime

A resilient, well-architected app should offer 99.9% uptime. Don’t settle for less. 

2. Battery Life Optimisation

Ensure your guests can enjoy the benefits of a mobile app with all-day battery life. 

3. Over The Air Updates

To avoid disrupting the user experience, a great attraction app will automatically update with the latest content. All while using minimal data.

4. Offline Support

If you’re in a poor signal area or you have international guests, data cannot be taken for granted. Make sure your mobile app works on and offline.

3. The best providers won’t leave you waiting⏳

Stability aside, the next question everyone wants to know when launching a mobile app is “how quickly can we go live?” This rings especially true in the run-up to peak season when you might be looking to launch in a matter of weeks rather than months.

“We had a clear vision of what we wanted in an app. When we shared it with Attractions.io, they returned to us with a fully functional prototype in less than a week. That level of agility and quality was exactly what we were looking for.” – Kieran Harvey, Global Digital Director, Merlin Entertainments

Although exact timescales vary based on your requirements, as a rule of thumb, a SaaS app can be delivered in a short timeframe, even in as little as six weeks in some cases, without compromising stability. This is possible because the system’s foundation is already tried and tested, so the provider can focus on customising it to your needs rather than building solutions from the ground up, which requires complex cycles of development, testing and iteration to perfect the app core.

Whichever route you choose, a great tip to speed up your launch time is to break your app delivery into milestones and focus on first launching an MVP. That way, you can share your companion app with guests quickly and continuously improve their experience over the months to come.

For more on how long it takes to launch a mobile app for your attraction, click here.

4. And most importantly; they’ll always be there when you need them 👐

When evaluating mobile app providers for your guest attraction, it's easy to get caught up in the delivery stage. But, by skipping ahead and discussing maintenance and updates early on, you can make sure you're protecting your investment for the future.

How you access maintenance and support will depend on your app provider. For ready-made app solutions, like Attractions.io, support is included in the annual app subscription. This means you can access 24/7 hour assistance and a dedicated customer success manager if you need help resolving an issue – plus, you have the added benefit of instantly getting access to the latest technology and features as they come available.

If you're having an app built by an agency, support can be a little more complicated – so make sure your plan is agreed upon before signing your contract. Agency builds typically include support for a set duration - such as your launch year and any updates, maintenance, or additional features after that are payable by the hour. Add a monthly support package so that you're not left to handle any issues alone. 

"One of the things we value most about Attractions.io is their ability to look ahead, evaluate guest needs and develop the product in line with changing expectations – which takes the pressure off our internal teams having to do that scoping work. We're able to have honest, collaborative conversations with our success manager, who takes the time to understand the needs of our business and our goals for the platform." - Jacqui French, Digital Product Manager, Apps at Butlin's.

Fall head over heels for your app provider

Launching a world-class app means looking beyond what you see on the surface. But that doesn’t mean you have to compromise on design. By asking the right questions, you can make sure you invest in a mobile app solution that’s robust, feature-rich and scalable, all while creating an authentic, branded experience for your attraction’s guests. 

Remember, the perfect partner will tick all the boxes ✅ Don’t settle for less.

To learn more about how to launch a successful mobile app for your visitor attraction, download a copy of our free guide: How to launch a mobile app at your visitor attraction.

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Ellen Wilkinson

Content specialist, zoo enthusiast and french bulldog [s]mother
February 2022

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