Customization vs. Personalization: The Mobile Event App User Experience

Posted by Matt Milloway on Sep 29, 2015

Event app features and benefits continue to increase along with the rise of attendees expecting an engaging mobile experience at meetings, conferences, and trade shows. The ideal event app addresses two big-picture ideas: customization and personalization. Understanding the difference between both ideas as they pertain to mobile technology and making sure both are addressed during the development process ensures everyone involved at the event—from hosts and planners to attendees—greatly benefit from going mobile.

The Event App No One Wants

Mobile event apps without significant customization or personalization are extremely generic and impersonal. Consider an example where the app retains the color scheme and branding of the mobile app provider. While the agenda and logistics are specific to the upcoming event, details are largely static and attendees are left interacting with a digital version of the paper program and no additional benefits. Mobile access is still convenient for a number of attendees, yet the experience feels disconnected from the host company or organization and the ability to use technology for engaging and interactive features has been overlooked.


The foundation of any quality mobile event app should rest on a highly brandable platform. Color schemes and logos should be dictated by the event host to ensure the mobile app downloaded by attendees has the look and feel of their organization. The hierarchy of content is also dictated by the priorities of each event—in other words, those with an emphasis on keynote speakers can make speaker bios a top-level menu option, while exhibitor-centric events might want the app opened to an interactive map of the floor plan.

In addition to flexibility with branding and content location, further customization involves the ability to add or remove a host of features and even work with developers on custom requests. Ensure options exist to include the type and amount of content important to each event, along with the ability to dictate the small details of a user’s experience such as eye-catching accent colors, offline access to important content, and intuitive shortcuts to key information from the homepage. The options to craft a unique experience are countless and the ability to address customizations are extremely valuable.

Finally, customization extends beyond the event app itself. Are solutions available to supply attendees with a branded landing page to download the app? What about the ability to schedule extremely important push messages through a user-friendly interface or obtain on-site support for an important annual conference? Customization and flexibility go hand in hand to ensure each event app becomes an embodiment of the host organization and all unique needs are addressed in a timely and transparent manner.


The personalization of event apps focuses less on what an attendee sees in the app and more on what he or she is able to accomplish with mobile technology in order to enjoy a personalized experience. The experience is perhaps far different than that of a colleague with the same app and enables event hosts to give attendees everything needed to maximize their own unique take on the event. Examples of features geared towards personalization are as simple as calendar integration and bookmarking to create a customized set of sessions, speakers, or exhibitors and become more complex—but just as important—when considering things like surveys, live polling, and user authentication.

Consider a highly customized app that still lacks the ability to personalize a user experience. While the app is truly a representation of the event host’s brand and content priorities, the experience still feels dull and lacks the ability to resonate with attendees. By giving attendees something as simple as session calendar integration with favored 3rd-party apps such iCal and Outlook, people attending the event are able to interact with the mobile app in a way they feel comfortable with in their day-to-day lives.

Take the personalization a step further and make the event app itself a unique experience; a user authentication feature provides tiered access to content and the idea of exclusivity. Perhaps non-attendees only gain access to event logistics. Registered attendees obtain the full session agenda and supplementary information, while high-level attendees—or those paying extra—receive valuable PDF abstracts typically associated with a 3rd-party subscription.

Other ways to personalize the event app experience for attendees is to integrate surveys or live polling to stimulate conversation and engagement. Set the event apart from its peers with not only static session information, but the ability to answer questions during the presentation and real-time results. Attendees are interacting with the event app and watch elements of the app change—acquiring more knowledge about important topics in the process. In short, the interactions between attendee and event app are a two way street with an unrivaled level of personalization.

The Bottom Line

By combining the important ideas of customization and personalization into a mobile event app for iPhone, iPad, and Android, hosts and planners are able to tap into the full potential of mobile technology and provide attendees with the best experience possible. A highly engaging experience for attendees only translates to bigger rewards for the event hosts and everyone associated with the meeting, conference, or trade show.

To learn more about maximizing the benefits of mobile event apps: