Behind DangerOz: what did we learn?

By: Dr Lynda Kelly, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 30 Sep 2011

DangerOz was a long time in development. A few false starts, a couple of staff changes, Government tendering and contractual requirements all combined to slow this project down. However, we learned a great deal along the way so thought I’d share some reflections. 

DangerOz - Discover

DangerOz - Discover
Photographer: Jen Cork © Australian Museum

Project management
Treat app development like a mini exhibition – establish a team with clear responsibilities, have regular project meetings, nominate a Project Manager to look after timelines, contracts and budgets. One person should have overall responsibility for all content, writing and fact-checking – this ensures a consistent voice, especially if content ranges across different areas of the organisation. In the beginning work out a system of keeping track of content, content updates and suggested changes using Excel – this is especially important for both accuracy and time management. Remember to have a good sign-off system for content, preferably the Project Manager in conjunction with the content person, and get content edited and proof-read by an objective third-party.

The app development process
Decide on the platform early and be clear on why the choice was made (and also why a particular platform was not accommodated – go here for our reasoning about an Android version). I believe it’s OK to go on particular platforms as long as there’s a good reason, especially as we’re all still learning about this stuff.

At the same time as you’re planning Stage 1, plan for Stage 2 – both in maintenance and app support, as well as updates. Content for DangerOz is directly linked to our website’s CMS so adding new material shouldn’t be too hard (but agreeing on the next ten dangerous animals to include might be!).

Also decide early on pricing. Should we have charged $2.99AUD? I don’t really know but I’m glad we did as we learned a great deal and now will be able to be a bit more creative with pricing of the next version as well as future apps.

The Store
Get onto the Apple Store as soon as you know you will be developing an app – setting up your business account and the associated paperwork takes more time than you think.

Remember that when you release the app you won’t get figures until the last time zone is closed (and it took some time for us to work out when that is!). This post, At what time is an app released on the App Store when set to a specific release date? helps explain some of this.

Keep monitoring the figures as well as the reviews. We have a few negative reviews for DangerOz and are talking steps to deal with them (a starter is this blog post about our app development process).

Marketing and Launch
Pick a launch date and stick with it. If necessary (and in the spirit of agile development) just get a beta version out to test the market. Determine a marketing plan early, especially if it involves competitions and special deals (and be wary of how you give it away on Facebook and Twitter – it isn’t as straightforward as you think!). The Apple Store gives a maximum of 50 promotional codes per app so remember to keep aside some for journalists and use them as they only have a four-week time span.

Galvanize your community and encourage plenty of shares, retweets and likes – word of mouth is our best selling tool as outlined in this blog post: In selling apps, word-of-mouth is king. We also found this handy How to MarketYour Mobile App guide from Smashing Magazine that was useful.

We experimented with QRCodes, and while this is a fairly new'ish area for museums, I think it’s worth pursuing. See this blog post for more on QRCodes.

Our Facebook ad did well with over 650 clicks over three days, resulting in new Likes for the Museum’s Facebook page and sales (we believe). I would definitely do this again.

We made the New and Noteworthy section of the App Store and still are the number one selling paid app in the Education category. Again, while it’s a bit hard to tell, we think this also helped sales.

Final thoughts
In hindsight I suggest starting with a straightforward app and take baby steps – like we did with DangerOz. Use the rapid agile development approach and keep in mind that we’re all still learning, so keep on sharing feedback (and thanks to Seb at the Powerhouse Museum for his useful blog posts about their Love Lace app).

If you want some insights about developing the app check out this blog post. Any thoughts you like to add please feel free to comment, or find me on Twitter - @lyndakelly61.


Lynda Kelly - 5.10 PM, 09 October 2011

Thnx for your comment Seb. I like the magazine analogy. I guess each mobile product is unique – some will be like mini-exhibitions with a major release and then some minor tweaks, and others will take the magazine model of new content and regular updates. I think DangerOz is a bit in the middle here as we will be adding new animals and doing some design work on the nav to make it more attractive, yet there will be an end-point as we need to commit resources to other projects.

The point I have learned is that we need to think about and plan for whatever approach at the very beginning of the project and not as an afterthought.

Another big learning curve with apps was that we need to be very responsive to feedback. We have had some negative comments in the store about DangerOz (mostly on price) and, even though it was a small proportion compared to the amount of sales, appearing right there on the App Store is a bit sobering! As a response we have cut the price to $1.99, and as a result we believe sales have increased again after petering off. We made the decision to do this now and not with the next release as we wanted to see if price was a factor and it appears so (plus we have met our income target already so the timing was right). As you point out, (and another lesson we learned) charging a higher price initially has allowed us to experiment with pricing, so in hindsight this was a good thing.

Our study, Measuring the Value of Mobile Apps, has shown so far that people have said price isn’t a factor in deciding on an app, although I believe that perceived value for money, rather than the actual costs per se, is an important factor, especially when comparing with other products in-store

So, thanks again, and we’ll keep you everyone posted on our experiments.

sebchan - 5.09 PM, 30 September 2011
I think a better analogy in the museum world that more accurately reflects the commitment and effort involved in sustainable App development is not 'mini-exhibition' but 'member magazine publishing'. Think of each App version as a 'new issue' - you;d never release one issue and then shut the publication down. You'd engage your readers, listen to their feature requests etc. You'd have an ongoing commitment of resources to content production and maintaining relationships with users etc. The problem with the 'mini-exhibition' analogy is that it puts all the focus on the launch, when it is actually what you do after the launch to sustain things that really matters. And as far as DangerOz pricing goes, you've got plenty of flexibility to adjust the price and experiment!

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