For almost all events, an event website is a basic requirement to help publicise the event, provide information and handle registration. Event websites sometimes also have additional interactive features – such as allowing attendees to see updates or select preferences.
Event apps are becoming increasingly popular for events, particularly for larger events – it is something that attendees are coming to expect.
Event organisers need to carefully decide where to focus their efforts – should they just have an event website? Or should they also have an event app? We’ll compare event apps with event websites and highlight the key differences, advantages and disadvantages.
Branding & User Experience
Event apps allow a fully branded experience – they can be designed and built to fully comply with brand guidelines. It is worth noting that this isn’t the case for all event apps – some event app ‘platforms’ only allow limited customisation. Event websites can also be branded but don’t quite provide the same experience as an app can.
On mobile and tablet devices, an event app can provide a richer user experience than an event website. For example using touch, slide and pinch allows better interaction and navigation than can be done on an event website.
In terms of consistency of experience, apps are not (or only partially) reliant on a remote server, so performance when loading, navigating screens is consistent. However, event websites can slow down if the server they are hosted on is heavily loaded or the local network connection is poor.
User Interaction / Communication
Event apps offer several advantages over event websites in terms of communication and interaction.
One key thing with event apps (and apps in general) is push notifications. These can be used to send messages to specific users or groups. This can be great for events and can be used to send a reminder or to inform attendees of important last-minute changes.
Event apps also make it easier for user-to-user communication – such as messaging or event video calls between users.
Finally, group communication is good in event apps. For example, doing a survey or poll during a live event and being able to show the results instantly. This can be done with a website too, but the experience is often not so good.
Offline / Network
Apps in general have the advantage that they can be (at least partially) used offline. Almost all websites require a data connection in order to work.
At some events, network connectivity (both mobile and Wi-Fi) can be poor, so offline ability can be a significant benefit to event app use during an event.
Functionality / Hardware
As event apps reside on a mobile or tablet, they can use specific hardware, most of which isn’t available for event websites. This includes:
- Camera – This can be used to allow users to directly and easily share photos of the event they are attending. It’s also great for easy barcode or QR code scanning.
- Bluetooth and NFC – Can be used for ticketing to make registration/entry easier. If required, it can also be used for other purposes, such as sharing contact details.
- Alerts/vibration – This is great for notifying users – even in a loud environment like an event.
- GPS – This functionality can help attendees navigate to an event. Or for larger events to help navigate between different buildings or stadiums.
Ease of Access and App Store Acceptance
Event apps need to be downloaded, so this is slightly more effort than a website. However, once downloaded, they remain on the device and are easy to access.
On the other hand, event websites are very easy to access – you just need a URL, which could be a link in an invitation email. But unless a user bookmarks the website, it is harder for a user to come back to that site.
It is worth remembering, however, that apps need to go through a process and be approved to be available in the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Device Compatibility and User Reach
Event apps can be used on Apple and Android phones and tablets. Whereas websites are available to any phone, tablet, laptop or desktop user.
Therefore websites do have a larger user reach. However, it’s important to consider the type of audience for your event – if for example, you specialise in corporate hospitality, your audience are likely to be senior business people who almost all will have a fairly recent Apple or Android phone.
Ease of Making Updates
The majority of event websites allow changes to be easily made via a CMS.
With event apps, many (including our event app) allow content changes to be made through some kind of portal, although some types of changes require a new version of the app to be released.
Development and Maintenance Fees
The investment required to design and develop a mobile app will always be higher than a website. However, event apps which utilise a platform (such as our event app ) can narrow that gap and allow them to be created more cost-effectively.