How To Build Your First Crisis Management App
From environmental emergencies such as fires and floods to computer-related or technical ones like viruses or cyber-attacks, disasters can happen at anytime and in any company and it is important that you are prepared for them.
Traditional crisis management systems have been based on sheets of paper required to be carried around by employees. These sheets of paper would contain a list of the relevant emergency contacts that employees could use to report incidents by phone or text message.
However, this has proved to be an unreliable and extremely inconvenient method; not only does it require employees to always carry the sheet around with them at all times, but it also requires them to ensure that they always have an up-to-date copy. This can be particularly inconvenient when it comes to companies where the list of emergency contacts changes regularly.
Thankfully mobile apps can help in this area. With an app management can ensure that everyone has an up-to-date list of emergency contacts and that they have access to it no matter whether they are in the office or on the road. An app can also allow employees to report incidents directly simply by tapping on the right contact number, reducing problem-solving time.
Crisis management apps offer these and many other benefits, including:
- Instant access. By keeping all emergency-related information in one place, crisis management apps make it easier for employees to access relevant information. This can help reduce problem-solving, which is particularly essential in emergency situations.
- Improved communications. Apps can make communications between employees instant too, helping to connect teams more efficiently during an emergency.
- Better decision-making. App can also help reduce the risk of human error by allowing employees to find out how exactly they should proceed in an emergency situation.
- Speed up support. Finally, crisis management apps can enable employees to easily exchange valuable information, speeding up support in emergencies or when urgent assistance is needed.
1. Plan your content
The first thing you need to do before you begin any app-building is ask yourself what sort of information you would like the app to contain.
To answer this question you will firstly need to think about the business objectives behind the app as well as have an understanding of your target audience.
Understand your business needs
Every app has an audience; even if you’re building an app targeted at employees you still need to think of what your target audience’s needs are if you want your app to be successful.
The main question you need to ask is why does your company need a crisis management app and which business processes will it actually support?
For example, a crisis management app may be needed to ensure your employees always have access to the relevant contacts in an emergency or that they are aware of what appropriate emergency and business continuity procedures to follow depending on the situation.
Only once the overall objective of the app is understood will you be able to think about what content and features are required.
Understand your audience
The second question you need to ask is who your app is intended for. A crisis management app will often be designed for the office environment and therefore be relevant to all employees working in that office, but it could equally be designed for teams working “in the field”.
Determining your audience is a crucial step as it will help you ascertain the kinds of situations and environments in which your audience will use the app and consequently the kind of design that will be appropriate for those situations, from app features to user experience.
Select your app features
Now that you know what audience and business needs your app will be meeting you can think about the features that you’d like to include. Some examples of useful crisis management app features are:
Emergency contact directory
The most basic feature of any crisis management app will be a directory to let employees find out who the relevant emergency contacts are according to the type of emergency.
This can allow any employee to contact the relevant person to report incidents or for any other emergency-related queries.
A directory feature is pretty straightforward – all you need is a database with a list of contacts and to ensure that it’s up-to-date.
You can also design the app in a way that only the relevant emergency contact for a particular shift appear on the app, so that employees find it easier to locate the relevant contacts quickly.
A bonus of the directory feature would be to allow users to directly tap on the relevant contact that they wish to contact in order to call or email them, rather than having to copy and paste this information into the relevant phone or mail apps.
Emergency response plans
A crisis management app can also be helpful when it comes to learning how to deal with emergency situations.
An emergency response plan feature could include scenarios of emergency situations and how the employee should proceed.
It could also include useful tools such as checklists per incident to help employees ensure that they have taken all the right steps.
A map of the office site, with meeting locations clearly marked, could be a part of this to allow employees to ensure they are proceeding to the right meeting location.
Finally, including training resources such as videos for first aid and encouraging employees to engage with them could prove essential in the event of an emergency.
Emergency situation management
Finally, an emergency situation management feature is a great way to help employees manage emergencies appropriately.
This can be used to support managers in charge of handling emergencies and to help them ensure that everyone is safe and that risk is minimised.
A useful feature for emergency situation management is push notifications. Particularly when it comes to large offices or disparate workforces it can be a challenge to communicate to every single employee that there is an emergency. By sending them a push notification, however, it is more likely that employees will be notified instantly.
At the same time, an internal communications channel within the app can be used by employees to communicate and deliver any useful information, news or updates to the rest of the employees.
Finally, a useful way in which an emergency situation management feature can help maximise business continuity is to allow employees to access any necessary documents or files directly from their mobile device, regardless of whether they are away from their desk.
2. Build your app
Great news: now that you have your content, it’s time to build the app!
However, before you begin, you need to understand that building an app is as much a creative as a technical process. No matter how technically accomplished the app is, if the process of accessing content is not intuitive users won’t use it. In the same way, however well designed the app is, if it has lots of bugs or isn’t available for the device or operating system of choice, users will be unable to use it too.
Essentially, it is important to think of the app in a holistic way and to ensure that the design correlates with user needs, technical requirements and devices and operating systems of choice.
Here are the key considerations you should take into account:
Determine devices and operating systems (OS)
Although most people stick to similar types of devices and operating systems, it is important to find out which ones your target audience are using to ensure that they will be able to use the app.
Different devices vary in operating systems and development options (native or hybrid), so finding out what devices your intended audience use is a good way of establishing what kind of devices you should focus on.
In the case of, for example, both iOS and Android devices being used, you may choose to create two separate apps.
Another important consideration is whether you wish your app to be used on a smartphone or a tablet. Research shows that users use both of these in different ways so this is a huge consideration to have in mind when designing the app.
In the case of a crisis management app, for example, users are more likely to use an iPad for first-aid training purposes but they will almost definitely use a smartphone when it comes to emergency situations such as fires.
Think about logistics
Another important consideration is – who is going to update the app?
One of the most common mistakes that companies make when building an app is thinking that after it’s built there is nothing else they will need to do. They couldn’t be more wrong; apps are long-term commitments.
An app is only as good as its content and if content is out-of-date then users will simply not use it. This is particularly crucial in an app that’s designed to be used in emergency situations.
At the same time, any bugs or technical glitches that are not immediately dealt with will also likely lead to many users giving up on the app altogether.
So when building an app make sure you know who will be in touch of updating the app with new information and how you will deal with technical problems. Crisis management is a critical area and having a malfunctioning or out-of-date app will not help anyone and may cause more problems than it solves.
Determine the user experience
But ultimately it’s not enough to provide your audience with the features and content they need, even if this is up-to-date.
To truly ensure that they continue to use the app, you also need to make it as easy as possible for them to access the information they need. This means building a user experience that is accessible, intuitive and easy to understand.
In this article we outline some of the elements that make an app great from a user experience perspective.
The most basic of these is keeping content simple and easy to navigate. You can do this by including only the most essential information in your app and allowing users to arrive at it in as few taps as possible and following a logical navigation design.
Users will always be happy to continue tapping if that allows them to find additional information or to dive into more details, but they prefer for the core information to be easy and quick to access.
Another important thing to keep in mind is to take advantage of the native features offered by mobile devices. Integrating with the device’s native features can help users swiftly move from feature to feature as necessary, whether it’s the address book or the camera feature.
An example of this would be the ability to directly click on a contact in the directory in order to give them a call or message them.
A final key consideration when it comes to user experience is offline working. In emergency situations there is no way of knowing if employees will have access to WiFi; ensuring that the app works offline will be key to giving them access to essential emergency information.
3. Test and launch your app
And your app is ready to go! You probably can’t wait to share your great app with your audience and watch the benefits roll in, but before you do anything you need to test the app.
This is because any issues your audience encounter while using the app could potentially put them off using it ever again – that’s how high user expectations are.
The best way to test your app is to distribute it among a select group of people and ask them for feedback. By telling you what issues they are facing, you can work out how to solve these and ensure any bugs are fixed.
Only after you’ve done this is it safe to go ahead and launch the app.
4. Review – analyze and optimize
But even after you’ve launched your app the process doesn’t end here. If you want your audience to continue engaging with the app you will need to ensure that it carries on delivering value well after its launch.
A great way to do this is to look at data to figure out how your audience is using the app and optimize it according to their needs and behavior. For example, you could make use of analytics tools and pay attention to metrics such as number of users and frequency of app use.
Another easy way to analyze your app’s performance is to ask users for feedback. They’ll be able to tell you what issues they’re facing or how they would like the app to develop.
All this can help you keep the app up-to-date and in full working order and effectively deliver an app that your audience will love and use!