Lack of advertising curbs student exposure to app

Ashley Bowen holds a phone with SF State's app open. The app released in the beginning of the month. (James Chan / Xpress)

The developers of SF State Mobile, the college’s first-ever mobile app, are seeking feedback from students to determine which features should be included in the platform’s second iteration. A lack of advertisement of version one, however, has stymied students’ exposure to the app and left the developers with limited feedback since the app’s debut Feb. 3.

Inquiries made to students across campus yielded a resounding, “Our college has an app?” Even staff in technology-related departments were surprised by the news.

“I didn’t know that our college has an app,” said computer science office manager Jen Schwartz.

As someone who works with many computer science students and other related majors, Schwartz said she was surprised no one in her department had mentioned the app.

“It should be advertised more,” said Roland Sayn, jazz guitar major. “They should definitely try to get people to put the word out – maybe have someone around (Malcolm X Plaza) spreading the word.”

Ashley Bowen holds a phone with SF State's app open. The app released in the beginning of the month. (James Chan / Xpress)

Ashley Bowen holds a phone with SF State’s app open. The app released in the beginning of the month. (James Chan / Xpress)

Despite limited awareness, reception of the app has been mostly positive among its users, said mobile applications team lead and coordinator Supakit Kiatrungrit. Kiatrungrit said he would like to see the volume of downloads and feedback swell, so he and his team know exactly what students want to see in the update. As of Tuesday, less than 10 percent of the student body has downloaded the app from Apple’s App Store and Google Play combined.

“The more usage and the more feedback, the better we can make the app,” said website services technical lead Srikanth Danapal. “Our definition of better may be different than students’, so that’s why we want to hear from them.”

With a target release date of sometime in Fall 2016, the second version of SF State Mobile will feature more sub-apps and processes tailored to the wants and needs of students, according to Danapal. Currently, the platform houses nine sub-apps, allowing students to do things such as pay tuition and other fees, keep up to date on University events and the academic calendar, and receive emergency notifications.

Information technology services Assistant Associate Vice President Nish Malik said that although the selection is currently limited, all of the app processes are entirely secure. He said the security of students’ personal information is paramount when it comes to adding new features to the app, and has been the main restriction as to why other services have yet to be made available on SF State Mobile.

Eventually, students will be able to complete tasks that are currently only available in the online student center from their phones, Malik said.

“This is just release one,” Malik said. “There’s more to come, and we are excited about it.”

Computer science major Zachary Bittner said the app is helpful and user-friendly. While not a regular app user, Bittner said he found that he now uses this app often. His favorite features are the Pay Now app, for paying tuition and fees, and the calendar, which he said is thorough and a useful way to stay up to date with what’s happening on campus.

“It’s a more acclimated version of the website basically,” Bittner said. “It’s a lot quicker and easier to use for me. I’m always on SFSU.edu, so for me it works easier to do it all from my phone.”

The idea for the SFSU-based app came in late 2014, Malik said, stemming from President Leslie E. Wong’s Strategic Plan and the question, “How can the college be more accessible?” Besides streamlining services in an easy-to-use way, the app is also intended to bring the campus community together.

The app has been available for download since August 2015, while it underwent a pilot process, but was officially released on Feb. 3.

“We want (the app) to be great, but it’s only great if the people use it,” Danapal said.