National Convention? There's an App for That
Attendees at this year's National Association for Gifted Children conference will be able to navigate the convention halls, the schedule, and the local area - right from their fingertips. A free app (in multiple platforms) is available with handy features to assist everyone in finding their way, staying connected via social networking, and making decisions about what to see or where to eat.
The "Maps" tab includes detailed images of the Convention Center and across-the-street hotel where events will be taking place. A detailed map of the Exhibit Hall is also included, listing booth numbers and their orientation. One feature that might be helpful in future versions of the Maps tab would be a "Where is...?" button where people could type in a room number/name and it would take them directly to the correct map (rather than having to look at each map until finding it).
The "Local Area Resources" tab links you up to lists and lists of nearby places to eat (organized by type of food), nearby places for evening entertainment (such as comedy clubs, the symphony, theaters, etc.), transportation options, and other possible needs (like the UPS Store, cleaners, print shop, and more). Clicking an item, such as a restaurant name, pulls up a page with its address, a link to its website, distance from Convention Center, and phone number. Clicking the web address takes you to the actual website, with a back button to bring you right back to where you were in the app. I'm assuming that clicking the phone number would direct call that restaurant from your smart phone, but since I have an iPod Touch (and my cell phone is very average), I can't tell for sure. It's also possible to click the address, which I assume would pull up a map of some sort to that location. Again, my old device doesn't activate whatever that additional feature is. Nonetheless, it will be handy to have all these details so readily available!
There are small ads on the bottom of each page, but all ads are of vendors that will be in the Exhibit Hall, so they are relevant to the app's audience. Clicking an ad takes you to that vendor's website.
Speaking of vendors, the "Exhibitors/Sponsors" tab lists all of them, and clicking one pulls up a list with the company name, booth number, and link to website. I also discovered that touching the tiny plus sign on the right side of the list of exhibitors creates a scroll bar for faster navigation to vendors farther down the list. An additional feature that might be handy for future versions would be the ability to touch the vendor's booth number and have the app take you directly to the Exhibit Hall map. (You can obviously still get to the map, but it's three clicks away from the vendor's page - Home Button, Maps, Exhibit Hall.)
Via the "Social Networking" tab, you can go directly to NAGC's various social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn) to stay connected with others or to follow what everyone is saying about the convention.
And finally, the "Schedule" tab contains the full conference program, including the ability to add any individual session directly to your device's calendar. Clicking a session's title takes you to a new page with more details (time, day, room number, presenter name, and the "Add to Calendar" button). The list of presentations also has the scroll bar feature which is activated by touching the tiny plus sign on the right side of the list of sessions. If you're searching for a particular presenter or topic, just type what you're looking for into the "filter" at the top of the page and it will pull up every session that day containing the word or name you typed in. (This search can only be done by day, not through the whole week's program. The search results give you results for that day only. You'll have to check each day if you want to find that person or topic on any day rather than a specific day). I have three wishes regarding the Schedule for future versions: 1) After viewing a session's detail page, when you click the back button to go back to the list of sessions, it takes you back at the top of the list, not the part of the list you were at when you selected a session to see more details. Given that there are hundreds of sessions, it's hard to find again where you were in the list once you've made your way farther down it. It would be nice to have the app take you back to that part of the list where you were, not the top. 2) When looking at the list of sessions, many are listed more than once, all right in a row. This is because the "Speaker" field only contains one name, so sessions with more than one speaker are on the list for however many times equals however many speakers it has. I think the list would be easier to navigate if each session was only listed once and all of the speakers could be contained in the detail page's speaker field. 3) Just like with the Exhibitors, it might be handy to be able to touch the session's room number and have the app take you directly to the map showing where that room is. Note: Special events (such as keynotes, the Legacy Series, Network events, etc.) are listed under the "Events" button, not the "Convention Schedule" button. But they add easily to your calendar just like the program sessions do.
Overall, I think this app will be a handy addition to the NAGC Convention experience!
Hope to see you there!