As more cities adopt mobile applications as part of their digital footprint, the number of apps available to us as citizens can be a bit overwhelming - and disappointing when the apps available aren't the ones we'd like to use.
Since 2010, when our company signed on our first city government client, our team has worked with nonprofits, cities, and government agencies to develop and deploy GovTech-focused mobile apps.
While many of these apps have gained broad community adoption, a few have not. The biggest difference between the wins and disappointments has almost always been whether the app was something that people in the community wanted to use.
When a city's app can make our lives a little easier by improving on current processes that are miserable or difficult, there is a much greater chance for that app to become a success.
Here are three apps created for the residents of Albuquerque, our first and longest government client, that have gained broad community adoption as a result of reduced points of friction.
Transit App With Realtime Tracking
The ABQ RIDE mobile app was the flagship app for the City of Albuquerque's open data launch, showcasing the ability of a mobile app to access the city's open data feeds for the city's transit system.
Why did the city start with a transit app as well as other transit-focused technology solutions? Because the city's 311 call center data showed that the primary reason callers were accessing the service was for transit related calls. In fact, operators fielded over 900,000 transit-related calls.
Since each call into the 311 system cost the city well over $2 per minute, it was hoped that riders would download the new mobile app and independently access the needed information.
The city's decision paid off.
After its launch, the ABQ Ride app gained steady user adoption as bus riders found it preferable to view the app's real time tracking feature instead of calling 311.
The transit department's communication team also used the app's push notification feature to notify riders in real time about delays on specific routes or upcoming route changes due to construction. Users could opt in to receive both system-wide notices as well as those to their favorited routes, meaning riders would not be disturbed on their smart phone by notices sent to routes that they did not use.
ABQ Ride reported a reduction of three positions within the 311 call center as well as a cost avoidance of over $500,000 accrued the first two years after the app launched in 2012.
The ABQ Ride app has been downloaded over 55,500 times, and over 29,200 users receive push notifications through the app today.
Public School Mobile App With Emergency Notices
In 2015, Albuquerque Public Schools' communication team needed to find a more effective way to communicate emergency information directly to the students, parents and staff in their district.
While the school's automated phone system provided district-wide communication for closures and delays due to inclement weather, parents often discovered in-school emergencies like shelter-in-place or school lock-downs from local news reports.
When the district opted to develop a mobile app and use the app's push notifications as their primary direct communication tool, the communications team gathered data on the top reasons visitors were currently accessing the district's many websites.
The school district's mobile app features focused on addressing these primary points of friction for their community, including easy access to school lunch menus as well as calendars and information for local school. The app also invited users to opt into push notifications, both for district-wide as well as favorited schools, and the communications team began using the app's notification feature to only send emergency notices to the community.
Because the app resolved friction for both the school district's communication team and the app's users, it has steadily increased its user base since its launch.
The APS mobile app has been downloaded 11,163 times and currently has over 7,000 users receiving push notices.
Cultural Services Mobile Apps
So it wasn't all that surprising to our team when the Cultural Services team opted to develop their own suite of apps for the city's museums, BioPark and library. While most of the initial apps were mainly interactive brochures, the Library app boasts several interactive features, and the BioPark app now includes beacon integration as well as an interactive map of the zoo.
Beacon integration was added to the BioPark app specifically to address zoo visitors' main complaint - missed feeding times. By deploying a beacon at the front entrance that broadcasts upcoming feeding times, visitors can now plan their route to catch these feeding times.
The City of Albuquerque's Cultural Services Department included mobile technology in their marketing plan as early as 2010, using an exclusive feature developed within our company's first app, a local city guide, to host ticket giveaways, announce new births at the local zoo, and offer in-app information about each of the department's facilities.
Remember, this was 2010.
The Cultural Service's Library app addresses patron requests for easier mobile access to their account information as well as the finding out if the library had copies of books they want to read. The app's ISBN scanning feature makes it possible for users to scan any book's ISBN code and immediately find out whether their local library has that book available to borrow.
Released in 2016, the ABQ Library app has been downloaded almost 5000 times.