1. Getting started – what do you need to build your app

Building an app might seem like a massive task but it is actually easier than it looks like. However, we do have some recommendations on what to do before building your app so you will not have to make changes too often.

Gather your assets

You will need your resources to add content in your app and design it. Before starting building the app, we recommend you have the following elements with you:

  • Brand colour palette (pantone colours) – this will help you make your app consistent with your brand. If you do not have this information, you might want to get in touch with your designer.
  • Logo and image files in high resolution
  • Guest directory – bonus points if you have a digital version, it will make it easier to add some of the content in your app

Consider your app’s content structure

 

Now that you have gathered your assets, it is time to think about what your app will look like. You have to think about what type of content and functionalities you want in there and in which order they will appear. You might also want to think about the size of your app – do you want a lot of features for more content or less for easier navigation?

We suggest making a list of the sections you want in your app and then consider their importance. What, in your opinion and from your experience, will be the first elements your guests will want to know? Is it the Wi-Fi password, the contact info with instructions on how to get there, is it your recommendations or how-to guides?

Basically, ask yourself what you want your app to be for your guests. You will see in the examples below that there are a lot of common features between these apps. That does not mean you need to add the same type of content. It is more about how you envision your app, what content do you know your guests want and need?

 

Here are a few examples from some of our customers:

The Knight Residence

Guest Information

Wifi Password

How-to guide

Great things to do

Food and Drink

Booking

Emergency services

Weather

Facebook

Twitter

Feedback

Auchrannie

Welcome

Find us

Weather

Dining

ASPA

Leisure

Room Info

Travel

Accessibility

Attractions

Walking

Appliances

Booking

Offers

Facebook

Instagram

Gallery

Messages (Push notifications)

Emergency

The Scotsman Hotel

Welcome

Guest Info

Wifi Password

Food and Drink

Attractions

What’s On

Weather

Emergency services

World News

Social Media

Hotel News

TripAdvisor Review

Book direct

Late check-out

Travel

Car Parking

Find Us

Contact Us

Gift Vouchers

Hotel website

Push notifications

Of course, this is just a draft phase, you will likely change your mind about some elements while you are building the app, but it is a good exercise that will allow you to build your app with a clear idea of what you want it to be.

Looking for ideas? Discover our eBook: The definitive guide to compiling a guest welcome pack

2. ADDING CONTENT – HOW TO ADD VALUABLE CONTENT AND FUNCTIONALITIES

Introduction

Now that you have everything you need, it is time to start building your app. The first step will be adding your content. Of course, you can do the design first if you want to. However, we recommend starting with the content. It will be the most important part and having your content finished will actually help you doing the design later on.

Basic Information

CONTACT INFORMATION

Let your guests find and contact you easily

One of the most important piece of information will be your contact details. Indeed, your guests/customers should be able to contact you easily from your app. Make sure to include everything you have – address, phone number, email address, social media links, online chat…

When you build a contact us feature, you can add links, addresses and phone numbers. Those will become buttons your users can use to directly call, email you or visit any page from the app.

💡 Tip : Use the “contact” feature to build a practical page with all your contact details. The feature will be pre-populated and you will simply have to replace the fields with your information.

WI-FI PASSWORD

To stay connected at all times

Chances are that the Wi-Fi password will be the first thing your guests/customers will ask for when they arrive. You can easily add that information in your app. Use the feature “Wi-Fi” to add your Wi-Fi password. A pre-populated text field will appear. Edit it and replace the text with your password.

?Tip: If your Wi-Fi requires further instructions, you can simply type them in the text editor. This feature works like a custom page, you can also add images, attachments, links and more.

Guest welcome/ROOM INFO

Welcome your guests

Similarly to the “Contact us” page, you can use a Custom page to create a little welcome message for your guests. It is a nice little touch that can make a big difference. You can also use this to add room information and more details about your accommodation.

Getting around

Let your guests know the best ways to get around with local transports

This feature works like a custom list. Simply click on the “Getting Around” feature and edit it with all the transport options you want to add. 

💡 Tip: Organise your transports in categories (e.g.: trains, buses, subway, taxis etc.) and include as much information as possible for each (how to get tickets, links to a ticket app, phone number, ticket prices etc.).

EMERGENCY SERVICES

Let your guests contact emergency services easily

This feature can be particularly useful for international travellers who might not know the local emergency numbers. This feature works like a custom list. Simply click on the “Emergency Services” feature and edit it with all the emergency numbers you want to add. You can organise them in categories and you can add a phone button, which will all your guests to call directly from the app.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Show your guests the best there is in your area

Your recommendations are an essential part of your app. Your local knowledge will help your guests make the most of their stay.

There are pre-built features to add your recommendations, such as takeaways or places. They are based on the custom list feature. You can create as many as you like. We recommend using custom lists as you can easily organise your recommendations in groups.

For example, let’s say that your first custom list will be “Food and Drink”. You would then create a custom list, change its name to Food and Drink and change the icon. In this custom list, you can create a group. This group will be a category. In this example, we will call the group “Italian restaurants”. In that group, you can now add pages, which will be each of the Italian restaurants you want to recommend to your guests.

All the pages you add in your groups work like a custom page, meaning you can add as much content as you want. As always, we recommend to you use the buttons to add their contact information (e.g.: add address, link to online booking, phone number etc.).

All the pages you add in your groups work like a custom page, meaning you can add as much content as you want. As always, we recommend to you use the buttons to add their contact information (e.g.: add address, link to online booking, phone number etc.).

? Tip: the more you can customise your recommendations, the better. For example, instead of having a feature called “places”, you could have several features such as “museums”, “walks”, “shopping”, “family activities” etc.

How to use the Custom List – Watch the video:

More coming soon.

3. DESIGNING YOUR APP – how to make your brand shine

Whether you are building an app for a large hotel or for vacation rentals, getting your design and branding right is important. It will be the first element your guests will see, and you know how important first impressions are.

How to manage colours

Criton allows you to use pantone colours to change the colour of every element of your app – text, titles, icons, borders, background and much more.

To make sure your app is on brand, use your brand’s colour palette in the app.  We can see below the example of Nira Caledonia. They have used their logo’s colour as the background for the features.

Simplicity and clarity are also key here. In the example below, you can see that Nira Caledonia has used two colours – their logo’s and black – in their app. This ensure a simple and elegant look and a perfect clarity in the app. Everything is easy to see and read.

Using images and transparency

If you want more than colours, you can use an image background and transparency. In the colours section, every colour as an opacity gauge that you can modify. 0 means it is completely transparent and 100 is plain. You can play around with your icons/text/icon background colours transparency to make your background image more apparent.

? Tip when using a background image: if possible, use an image with which you can use contrast on the homepage of your app, like in the example below – dark colours with light text.

Adding your logo in the app

It is relatively easy to add your logo in the app. In the Design tab in Criton, there is an option to add a Homepage banner. This is where you would add your logo, but you can upload more than one picture in this section.

? Tip: You can change the height of the banner and set what percentage of the homepage it will take. This is particularly useful to make sure your logo fits perfectly on the screen as logos can have various shapes and sizes.

4. testing your app – getting a feel for it

This is the final step before publishing your app. Even though your app does not have to be perfect when you first publish it, testing your app is very important for various reasons. It will help you make sure that:

  • It works on every type of device
  • It is user-friendly
  • Everything looks the way it should
  • The app is practical and the information easy to find
  • It loads quickly

Testing on different devices

Operating Systems

When you send your app to testing, make sure you have testers with iOS and Android devices. The app should function the same on both operating systems.

Smartphones vs Tablets

Your app will work both on tablets and smartphones. However, they will look different because of the screen sizes. Make sure the tablet version works well, especially if you have a lot of images and a homepage banner.

💡 Tip: Ask your staff, family and friends to test your app. The more devices the app can be tested on, the better. Furthermore, you can never have too much feedback!

Optimise your images

If you feel that your app is a bit slow, it may be that the media content in the app is heavy. If you have a lot of images, you can use an image optimiser too such as tinyPNG or tinyJPG. This should make the app load faster and improve the user experience. Nobody likes to wait!

Ask non-technical persons to test the app

The best way to make sure your app is practical and user-friendly is to ask people who are not necessarily comfortable with apps or technology in general to try your app. Their feedback will be very valuable. What seems obvious to you might not be for a novice user.

Try the app on plane mode

To have an idea of how your app will work without signal, turn on the plane mode on your device and launch your app. Most of the content should be available, except for media content (images/videos) and functionalities requiring an internet connection (online booking, social media, messaging, any link…).

5. publishing your app – how to choose the best option for your business

When you decide to publish your app, you will have several options. Each business has different needs and those options are here to offer the right solution for your business.

The main differences will be where you publish your app. You will have the option to publish it as a progressive web app, an iOS app, and Android app and as part of a container app.

Web app and progressive web app

What are web apps (WA) and progressive web apps (PWA)?

WAs and PWAs work with a link. They are basically a web version of your app. This means that once it is published, you will get a link that you can send to your guests and they will be able to access your app directly.

In the case of PWA (currently on Android devices only), the users will have the option to install the app on their homescreen, where it will sit like regular apps. Most of the PWA’s features will work offline. For iOS devices (iPhones and iPads), WA will become PWA when Apple releases that technology, which they announced should be in Spring 2018.

What are the benefits?

  • No need to go through an app store
  • PWAs work offline, ideal for locations with low signal
  • Cost-effective, ideal for smaller accommodations

iOS and Android Apps

iOS and Android apps will sit in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. From there, they can be installed on the users’ devices.

What are the benefits?

  • Your brand in the app stores
  • More technology integration
  • Most classic type of apps

We generally recommend this option for larger accommodations. All our plans that include iOS and Android apps also include a web app.

To publish an app on the Apple App Store, you will need your own Developer Account.
Learn more about the Apple Developer Program

Criton Auchrannie Google Play

Container App (Due to launch in Spring/Summer 2018)

Coming Soon.

6. PROMOTING YOUR APP – SPREADING THE WORD TO YOUR GUESTS

Like anything new, your app will need to be promoted and fully included in your communications with your guests to ensure they are aware of it and download it. There are many ways to do so and we have broken it down in 6 categories for you.

Face-to-face and on the phone

This will require a little chat with your staff. When they are on the phone with a guest or welcoming them in person, it is a great opportunity to mention the app. It should be relatively easy to explain to them what the benefits are and engaging them in that conversation will make them more likely to download and use the app.

? Tip: Depending on what type of app you have published (web app, iOS app, Android app…), make sure to be as clear as possible with your guests how they can get your app. If you have just a web app but do not mention it, they might look for your app in the Google Play or Apple App stores and will not find it. Remind them where they can get a link to your app (from your website, an email etc.).

In your emails

Emails are an easy way to communicate about your app. You can explain what the app does and include badges/links so guests can go to your app.

You can include your app in your email signatures and your automated confirmation emails. It is a good occasion for a first introduction to your app. Once again, briefly explain what your app is about and why your guests should download it.

Closer to their arrival date, it can be good to send a reminder the app. Your guests will likely be more inclined to get the app as they will be travelling to your accommodation soon – they will want access to the information they need in a handy way.

? Tip: Check our Resources page to get your Google Play and App Store badges.

On your website

Your website is a reflection of your accommodation. It is important to include links to your app on it. Your guests will most likely visit your website prior to their arrival and potential guests might be intrigued by your app. It is not necessarily common in the minds of travellers that the accommodations they stay at may have an app – use every opportunity you have to remind them that you do.

The best way is to include links or badges, which can be found on our Resources page.

On your social media pages

Usually, you can only include one link on your social media pages and that will most likely be your website. However, there are a few ways to promote your app on social media.

You can start by making a nice post. It is simple and effective. Make sure to include a visual – we have templates you can use on our Resources page – and all the different links to your app. Again, remind your followers why they should download your app. You can pin the post to the top of your page so it will be the first post/tweet people will see when visiting your profile.

? Tip: Do not tweet or post about your app just once. You should regularly communicate about your app as only a fraction of your followers will see your updates. You can mix it up by promoting different aspects of the app or by using reviews from your guests who have tried the app.

You can also update your banner image (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). Here is an example from one of our customers, Auchrannie Resort:

Auchrannie Hotel App Download

On your marketing collateral

After you have published an app, we recommend to include it on any collateral when you need to have them redesigned/reprinted, such as brochures, flyers or even the guest directory. Once again, it is about consistency in communication and making it obvious that your accommodation has a fabulous app.

? Tip: Since you cannot include a link on printed material, make sure it very clearly says how to get the app. If you have an Android/iOS app, state its full name and include Available on Google Play/Available on the App Store badges. If you have a web app, you can use a QR code to make it easier.

7. UPDATING YOUR APP – KEEPING YOUR CONTENT FRESH AND ENGAGING WITH USERS

After your app has been published, it is important to make sure that the content remains up-to-date. Of course, an app is much easier to update than a traditional guest directory, so this will not take too much of your staff’s time. There are also functionalities you can use to engage with your guests.

Keeping the information up-to-date

Over time, many things can change in your accommodation. It can be the appliances, the check-in process, the phone number… Much like your website or your guest directory, the information needs to be up-to-date. Criton is built in a way that lets you update the content instantly. As soon as you make a change from your admin panel, your app will automatically be updated. There is no need to republish or wait. It is all very quick, so make sure to update that information as soon as you can.

Recommendations

If you have recommendations in your app, such as places to see or restaurants, you will want to take some time every now and then to make sure that content is up-to-date too. Some restaurants close down. Sometimes the quality just drops and you might not want to recommend them anymore.

If you live in a busy area, you might want to update your recommendations with the biggest events as well, such as festivals for example.

Using push notifications (only in Android and iOS apps)

Push notifications are a great way to engage with your guests. It basically send a custom message that can contain text, an image and a link. It can be great to use as reminders or to promote events and special offers.

More coming soon.

8. ANALYTICS & FEEDBACK – IMPROVING THE USer EXPERIENCE

The app is made for your guests. To make sure you improve the app for them, their feedback and analysing how the app is used will give you the best insights. After you have published your app, chances are it will not be perfect. And that is perfectly normal! Time and small improvements will make it better and better.

How to get feedback from guests

Much like getting reviews on TripAdvisor or any other platform, the easiest way is simply to ask. Encourage honest feedback from your guests, sometimes the most negative feedback is the most insightful.

We recommend creating a short survey that you can send to your guests and link to in the app itself. You can also encourage guests to fill the survey with an incentive, such as a giveaway for example.

Platforms such as Typeform or SurveyMonkey are great to create short interactive surveys. You can include those as links in your app.

Great questions to ask for insightful feedback

  • What features or content would you add in the app?
  • Rate the quality of the content (1 – terrible, 5 – great)
  • How easy was the app to use?
  • Would you recommend the app to a friend visiting our accommodation? (1 not likely, 10 – extremely likely)
  • When was the app the most useful for you?

More coming soon.