wasting bandwidth since 1999

Our New App for Better PR Delivery

With great fanfare, our overly-large school district recently released it’s first iPhone app and, after playing with it for a couple of weeks, I just have one question:

Why?

Ok, so there’s nothing really wrong with the software. I suppose it does what our PR office intended, which appears to be repackaging district press releases and other carefully filtered materials, adding a few carefully produced videos, into a mobile-friendly format. Basically the same information anyone could view on the website, except in a far less confusing interface (and missing the illusion of a functional search tool).

The most interesting part is the inclusion of something approaching a comment section. It comes in the form of a link to the system’s account on Uservoice (also found on the website), a service allowing organizations to to collect ideas and suggestions from their community, which the members can then vote up or down.

Overall, however, the app itself appears to be lacking any input from students, teachers, parents or most anyone outside of the communications office.

I wonder how much different this project would look if they had turned the whole thing over to a group of students and asked them what should go into a mobile resource about their schools. The lunch menus and sports schedules would probably still be included but maybe they could create something more useful, and interesting, than this narrowly-focused propaganda app.

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1 Comment

  1. Dave

    I have no idea about your district, but I can speak to the ones I’m familiar with, states away:

    Mobile apps are pushed for by parents and community members just because it sounds good. “Hey, apps are neat, my phone is neat. My cousin’s district has an app, so we should have one, too. I read an article about apps, so I think we should have one.”

    Of course, a real pro/con discussion shows that the benefits are more nebulous, or that alternatives are better overall, or that the ideal app would be unrealistically expensive to put together.

    Sometimes, the result is checking the boxes. “You insist on an app, here is an app that we put together on a shoestring budget.” The insisters get what they want, and they can’t tell the difference because they weren’t actually trying to solve any real world problem anyway. The school district saves as much money as possible while still satisfying that vocal minority and their problem of the month before it turns into a huge, expensive debate.

    I think that’s the balance I’ve had to learn: which battles to fight, in which places do we have room to really run and put out something top quality. The rest of the time, by necessity, we have to do the 80% solution for 20% of the cost.

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