One of the most powerful and useful tools that can be brought to a business via a web designer/developer is online applications (apps). These are not standalone native applications like you have for desktop computer, tablet or smart phone. Instead these are web based applications that live on and work on a web server in some far distant corner of the world and are operated on any platform through any standard web browser.
Native Apps vs. Web Apps
A Native App is an app developed essentially for one mobile or desktop device and is installed directly onto the device itself. Users of native apps usually download them via app stores online or the app marketplace. An example of a native app is the Camera+ app for Apple’s iOS devices.
A Web App, on the other hand, are basically Internet built apps that are accessible via the mobile device’s web browser. This makes them available to anybody that has a web browser regardless of their platform or device. They need not be downloaded onto the user’s device to be accessed.
For this article, we are going to use Ohio Archer’s Association (OAA, www.ohioarchers.com,) a state chapter of the National Field Archery Association, as an example of what can be done with an online app and the benefits you can get from using one.
A little history.
The OAA is a state chapter of the National Field Archers Association. They manage state membership to the national organization and sponsor several archery events throughout the year in the state of Ohio. The events are either held at a single location or at various archery shops, statewide, during a specific weekend. These statewide competitions are known as mail-in events.
For several decades, the OAA used Excel spreadsheets to manage membership, registration and scoring. All of the membership and registration fees were collected in cash at the events. The association managed the events manually and had a very basic website that was created with a content management system called Joomla! which is very similar to WordPress.
Their method of administering events, registration, membership, scores, etc. was time consuming but manageable when their membership was 150 people or less. It to a great deal of time and effort calculate the scores, notify the winners and distribute the awards. In addition, more time and effort was invested into managing the membership, the historic data and calculating points for the shooter-of-the-year award.
With the current online app, the OAA can handle the following activities and data through any web browser. Multiple people can be working in the app at the same time which proved to be very productive for them during an event for registration and check-ins.
Listed below are the basic areas that are now managed with the OAA online app:
- Master Registration List
- Register for Events including PayPal for registration fees and membership dues
- Event Scoring
- Shooter-of-the-Year (SOY) Points
- Event Medal Labels
- Historic Shooting Records
- Tournament/District Breakdowns
- Shooting Classes/Divisions
- Election Info/Results
- Photo Galleries
- Video Galleries
- Club Info
The Benefits of an online app.
Using the above example of the OAA, let’s look at some of these specific tasks - how they have changed and the benefits that were achieved with an online app.
Before the app:
In the past, event registration was done through handwritten forms that were mailed-in with the events fees either in cash or with a check. Then the information was transferred to a spreadsheet. At the actual event, during check-in, all the information that was previously mailed-in had to be confirmed. Event fees had to be collected for those who did not send in their money. If somebody was a walk-in, who hadn’t registered yet, their information had to be entere manually in the spreadsheet and event fees had to be collected.
The main problems with this system were:
- It was time consuming.
- All of the information was recorded manually leaving a lot of room for typos and errors.
- Collecting the fees and handling a lot of cash at the events.
- Only one person could do check-in at an event.
After implementing the app:
After the development of the web-based app, the workflow changed dramatically which resulted in a considerable change in the effort and time it took to check-in competitors at the event.
The new system requires people to register online. During the registration process several items are completed simultaneously. As they were creating their registration for that event, the person registering was also creating a master profile of themselves and their shooting style, age and class. This was done to make it more convenient for the competitors when they returned to register for future events which in turn promoted the use of the online registration system. Returning competitors simply had to enter an email address or nickname to retrieve their information which automatically completed their registration form. Because the end user was entering the data such as name, address, contact info, etc. there was less chance for an error.
Once the competitor was finished registering, they were redirected to PayPal to complete the registration with a payment. A PayPal payment “success” and the transaction number were added to the registrant’s record in the database. The competitor would then receive a verification email that they were registered and payment was complete.
During event check-in, the OAA could use several computers and tournament officials simultaneously to do check-in. The officials were able to quickly search for registrants, in a table format, that would show their name, class and payment status. For those who paid online, the officials only had to confirm the registrant’s shooting class and click a check-in box to confirm they were there.
Using this system, the amount of cash that was handled at an event dropped by 95% and amount of time it took check-in a registrant decreased from a 5-minutes to mere seconds.
To summarize, these are the main benefits the OAA gained from using an online app:
- It greatly accelerated check-ins.
- There was a significant increase in the accuracy of information. Duplication of information was eliminated.
- Cash flow was increased because registration fees came in throughout the registration time frame and not at the event.
- There was less handling of cash.
- There was overall streamlining of the entire registration process for both the registrant and the OAA.
- There was a reduced amount of paper to handle.
- Check-in could be done by several people simultaneously.
Event Scoring, Historic Scores and SOY Points
Before the app:
When an event was finished, the score cards were collected. The scores were then entered into a spreadsheet. Once that was completed, the spreadsheet was sorted by shooting class and scores. A list was made of the winners (1st, 2nd, 3rd) for each class and the scores were reviewed to determine if there were any tie scores that required shoot-offs. The winners’ information was then copied to a Microsoft Word template to generate the labels for the awards.
For the historic records, the process was completely manual requiring a comparison of scores from the current event to those of past events in separate spreadsheet. These records were often completed days after the event.
Shooter-of-the-year (SOY) points were managed in another spreadsheet requiring a time-consuming process of transferring data and making calculations. This was process that wasn’t completed for several days to a week after an event.
When there were only 100+ shooters at seven events in a year, this entire process was time consuming requiring a lot of manpower. Now, with nearly 400 shooters and a growing enrollment of about 20% per year, the manual method of handling scoring is impossible.
The main problems with this system were:
- A very time-consuming process. With just 100 shooters, after an event was finished, it would take up to 30 mins. or more to manually tally the scores. Then, it would take at least 30 mins more to generate the award labels to be presented to the winners.
- There wasn’t any simple mechanism to generate historic records – all of it was done manually.
- Calculating SOY points required more manual work in another spreadsheet.
After the app:
After the development of the web-based app, the workflow for scoring decreased which resulted in a significant change in the completion of the events.
The new workflow starts with collecting the score cards as before but the new online app has a special screen that allows scores to be tallied rapidly and efficiently with no manual, handwritten work involved. The screen is customized based on the type of event making the score tallying as simple and quick as possible. With this revised method, 150 shooters’ scores can be entered in under 10 minutes.
Once the scores are entered, the tournament officials can see, instantly, who placed where and if any shoot-offs are required. With another click all the historic information is updated. With a third click, the labels are for the awards including new high score award. With the final click, SOY points are calculated in seconds. All of this information is immediately available on the website for viewing.
In summary, main benefits of the online app:
- A huge time benefit. Completion time changed from a 2+ hour process (and several calendar days) to just 10 minutes.
- There is no manual management of the data and no spreadsheets.
- The historic information for past events is available indefinitely.
- The knowledge and skill required to complete event scoring is now minimal.
- The website data is updated immediately.
Consolidating and dispersing activities all at once.
As we have shown in the two detailed examples above, switching to a web based app increases efficiency and consolidates all the data in one place for immediate updating and viewing. Another added benefit is that it disperses the tasks involved in scoring, membership and sponsoring events to multiple people working simultaneously from a single or multiple locations at once. Whether you need to perform your tasks at your desk or on the road at an event location, all the data is housed, managed and available from a single location without any priority network.
These few examples should provide you some ideas of how you can change your workflow through the use of an online app. A web designer/developer is the ideal individual to review and develop a streamlined workflow that will make your business perform more efficiently and effectively.