Last week Aviation Week’s new Paris Air Show app was made available for download from the iTunes app store (search for ‘Aviation Week’ to download it for free).
The app complements Aviation Week's dedicated Paris Air Show web page which next week will include a series of featured videos, news and blogs. Bookmark this page to keep up with the latest from Aviation Week's editors.
It’s the first ever app for Aviation Week (AW) so I’ve asked AW’s Shambo Pfaff to tell us more about it. Shambo works to create digital products and services for AW and was responsible for creating our mobile site – m.aviationweek.com
Why did you develop an app?
SP: Concepts for apps have been floating around at Aviation Week HQ for at least the last 2-3 years, since we recognized the mobile platform could effectively deliver content and capabilities that would be of value to our customers.
Why is now the right time?
SP: We feel that mobile technology has matured and is pervasive enough within our customer marketplace that it’s definitely the right time for AW to launch an app.
We’re really grateful to Airbus for their support and their willingness to partner on such an innovative product.
Why did you choose the Paris air show to launch this app?
SP: We’re constantly trying to enhance the experience for show-goers at major A&D events like Paris and Farnborough. In past years we have distributed the printed version of the Ultimate Show Guide which has always been hugely popular (some 15,000 copies were distributed at Paris 2009).
In a March ’11 planning meeting we were discussing going digital with the Ultimate Guide for this year’s Paris Air Show. We wanted to add capabilities that are obviously not possible in print, such as interactivity, real time news and weather, as well as continually updated exhibitor and aircraft listings. We recognized that mobile is the right delivery platform for this content at this event.
Your meeting was in March and the app was launched in May. That’s just two months’ development time. How did you do it so quickly?
SP: We had to be really aggressive with keeping things moving forward but also disciplined about defining the critical-to-success features. We knew we had to deliver a quality product within a small timeframe and we didn’t have time to get distracted by hype or gimmicks. We thought about what actually provides value to the customer versus a ‘nice to have’.
How did you go about deciding what functions to include?
SP: I wanted the functional design’s central focus to be on the map and being able to navigate around Le Bourget. One year at Paris, I was so furious after dragging my suitcase around for two hours whilst trying to find where I needed to be. So when designing the app, I focused on how to find your way around a huge site with multiple structures like Le Bourget.
The exhibitor list and aircraft display were essential as well. These are features we wanted to carry over from the printed version of the Ultimate Guide to Paris.
We also wanted to include a Paris city guide and a news feed. At that point, we felt we had an app.
But what about features like geolocation?
SP: While it’s exciting to discuss geolocation and other network-dependant features for a large event like Paris, we felt that the risk of unreliable network coverage outweighed the benefits.
Part of the reason we chose a native app is because we wanted all of the essential information to be accessible offline. The only features that do require connectivity are news and weather.
Similarly, other features were taken off the table to ensure that we could deliver essential information.
At the end of the day, there’s no point deploying technology for technology’s sake. We should only deploy it if it provides value to our customers.
The AW app looks similar to the NFL Superbowl app. Was that intentional?
SP: We spent a bit of time evaluating a lot of different event apps. NFL had gotten it exactly right with an app for a very large event site.
Who developed the app?
SP: Externally, we partnered with the app developers Innovative Strategic Group (ISG). They were already familiar to us because of their previous work with other McGraw-Hill business units (Aviation Week is a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies).
Internally, there was a core group of five people including myself, Joe D’Andrea and Elizabeth Sisk from the sales and marketing team, and Lisa Caputo and Greig Lewis from our art department.
Looking ahead, what else can we expect to see from Aviation Week on the mobile front?
SP: One of the key requirements for our next app will be accessibility on more devices. We appreciate the popularity of Android amongst our readers. We’re struggling with whether to continue to develop native apps or to pursue a different solution that could be used on multiple platforms.
Will we see geolocation in the future?
It is a key feature that we’d like to pursue. Again, the challenge for features like this is the dependency on a robust network infrastructure. We’re exploring opportunities to ensure network reliability at A&D events.