I was recently introduced to Twoppy – an online tool which enables event organisers to build a mobile app for their event quickly and easily, with no coding. I have been playing with this for the last few days, and cannot resist commenting on it any longer.
Twoppy provides an interface for organisers to add programme information, maps, speaker biographies and other useful information about their event, which is then published to the web as a mobile-friendly site, compatible with most smart phone browsers. The service is not yet optimised for tablets, but I have been discussing this with Twoppy co-founder Jasper van Blerk, who assures me that this (along with several other developments) is in the pipeline for the future.
When you view the site from a smart phone, the site gives you the option to “download the app”, which in reality involves placing a bookmark/springboard icon to your event’s mobile site onto the phone’s home screen. You can then browse the site, which does feel extremely app-like in its design, as can be seen from the following screenshots (taken from three different event sites hosted on Twoppy):
This tool is obviously aimed at delegates who are physically present at the event, and is certainly the type of thing that I would like to use for my own reference during an event. However, my role as an event amplifier is to think about the remote audience for an event. Many of the features, including the programme, speaker profiles, twitter hash tag search and social features, will be applicable to both audiences. However, there is currently no space to add additional pages with features such as live streaming for a remote audience. Van Blerk noted that they anticipate people viewing live video streams via a desktop rather than a mobile device for the foreseeable future, which I agree is likely to be the case whilst data transfer costs and speeds remain prohibitive, and live streaming products remain predominantly Flash-based. However, with increasing wifi coverage and the penetration of more tablet devices into the market, I would expect this situation to change.
In terms of pricing, this is a freemium service. The basic features are free, but you can be paying up to $145 for premium features, which include customised branding and pages to showcase your sponsors. However, the free core features are more than sufficient to create something user friendly in a resource efficient way, which makes it a very appealing solution for a low budget events. There are also a number of free social features, including a news stream showing events that your friends are attending, which could be useful from a marketing perspective.
As I have been considering recently, there are up sides and down sides to both the web and app mechanisms for involving mobile in an event, and whilst the Twoppy approach bridges the gap – particularly for conference producers on a budget – there are still issues to consider. Foremost is that your event’s mobile site remains on Twoppy’s servers and cannot currently be directed to your own domain name. This means that there are the normal risks involved with using any third party service which sits away from your own domain. I would not be very surprised to see a demand for a white label service or self-hosted package as premium features in the future to address such issues.
My other observation is that whilst this service creates a really convenient site that brings key information about an event straight into the delegate’s pockets, it does not, as yet, really produce mobile engagement with the event itself. There is use of the device’s location-awareness to help delegates position themselves on a map of the venue or surrounding area, but nothing that uses that information to change your enhance your experience of that specific point in physical space. In oracle mode again here, I would predict that incorporating something akin to Foursquare functionality or push messages that help stand holders or event organisers to communicate location-specific messages could be a killer feature to add to this application, particularly for larger-scale events. This would take Twoppy from being a convenient way to create a mobile friendly portfolio for an event to being a functional feature of the event experience.
I am really looking forward to testing Twoppy out at an event in the near future to see both how well it works and how audiences respond to the facility. The service is still in the early beta stages, so there is undoubtedly more to come. The developers also seem really open to feedback and feature ideas so that they can improve the functionality of Twoppy, so I look forward to seeing how it evolves and the role it comes to play within events.