I just downloaded the TESOL 2013 App for my iPad and have been playing around with it for the last half hour or so. Overall, I am impressed and I think that it is a step in the right direction that all major conferences in the world need to think about.
The app is free and I downloaded the iPad version, as this made sense to have an app at that size. The app is made by eShow who I believe also handles their online registration, etc.
The app has several main features: users can look at an overview of the conference schedule; they have several ways to look at presentations (by session time or presenter); users can also look up exhibitors, see a timeline of people tweeting with the official hashtag (#TESOL13) and an interactive map.
It’s an app! I love the fact that there is an app for the conference. I will be carrying around my iPad anyway, and I’d love to be able to leave my conference handbook in the hotel.
I love the fact that I can read a session description and flag it (by touching the star in the corner) and the app creates my own personalized schedule. Very handy!
The app can only be used in the portrait orientation. I suppose that if you are using it on your phone this makes sense, but I would like to be able to turn my iPad in any direction.
The interactive map feature only shows the floor plan of the exhibitor area. It doesn’t show the rooms where the individual presentations are being held. If TESOL were a trade show, with a huge exhibitor area and limited presentations, that might be useful, but the opposite is true. TESOL has a relatively small exhibitor area and lots of presentations.
There is no search feature!
When looking at the entry of an individual speaker, after you are finished and hit the ‘back’ button, it takes you back to the top of the list and then you have to remember where you were and scroll down. If you are looking to see who is at the conference and what they are talking about it’s quite annoying to have to go back to the top.
There is no search feature!
What I wish it did
First and foremost, this app needs a search feature. I should be able to input a few key words, names, times, etc. and find exactly what I am looking for. I can’t believe that such a basic feature is missing.
Second, the presentations are only listed by time, which is fine, I definitely read conference handbooks by time to see what’s on when, but I also browse by theme or “session track” as it’s called in this app. I want to be able to see all of the presentations on individual topics in one place. This is very important for a big, diverse conference like TESOL.
Third, there is a lack of inter-connectivity in the app. For example, if I am looking at a session description, I would like to be able to touch on anyone of the category fields and be taken to other sessions with that same label. For example, if I touch the session type field, I’d like to be able to see all of the sessions of the same type. Or, more importantly, when I touch the room field, I’d like to be taken to the map to see where the presentation is being held.
Forth, I love the Twitter timeline, but I wish that I could tweet right from the app. In other words, I wish that I could see what everyone else is saying and be able to reply or add my own thoughts, after all, Twitter is about interaction, not just one-way communication.
The lack of a complete map of the conference center means that I will still have to carry the handbook. Also, because the app doesn’t list the sessions by interest section, I will still have to spend some time on the first day of the conference reading through the handbook to make sure that I haven’t missed anything. I envision myself using both the handbook and this app side by side.
Overall, I think it is a step in the right direction, I think that all conferences need an app, but because it lacks some critical features, I won’t be able to skip the conference handbook just yet.