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How we built the Calgary Stampede’s event app (in just 7 months)

You are ready for a day out at the Calgary Stampede.

Dressed to the nines in your cowboy hat, boots, probably some denim and/or plaid, and maybe even a spiffy bolo tie. 

But where do you even start? There’s so much to do over 10 days at the massive Stampede Park, which includes multiple stages, halls and arenas. 

Think: Rides on the mid-way, food vendors of every sort, and attractions that range from big-name concerts to animal acts and, of course, the famous evening grandstand show. 

It’s time to download the new Calgary Stampede app, so you can navigate everything the festival has to offer, and make your game plan. 

Begin by browsing the event listings that outline everything you need to know (location, times, descriptions and more) about the dozens of shows, tours and ceremonies going on each day. 

From there you can add the ones you want to attend to your personalized schedule. Then, when you’re ready to head to each event, let the application map guide you to where you need to go. 

As Meghan Kivisto, Director of Marketing and Sponsorship at the Calgary Stampede notes, “There is something for everyone at the Calgary Stampede and our new app is your digital tour guide to see, taste and experience everything The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth has to offer.”

Obviously, we’re a little biased, since we built this application from scratch (interesting fact: the festival hasn’t had an event app in almost a decade), but we’re sure it’ll help you — and the well over one million other attendees — up your Stampede game. 

Here’s how we developed the application.

Key challenges building an app for a globally renowned event

The biggest challenge for this app project was its hard deadline — Stampede happens rain or shine, every July. 

And we only had seven months to design, build, test and launch the app, which is shorter than the usual timeline for a development project like this. 

On top of that, the Stampede’s previous attempt at building an app with a different development team, years ago, did not go well. 

In our experience, when clients have had bad experiences in the past, they often respond in one of two ways. 

  1. Either they want to control every element of the development process and try to influence every decision, including those outside their expertise, or; 
  2. They choose to trust the insight and suggestions of the new team they’ve hired, because they know they’re working with a different developer, who has a proven track record of creating good products.

There usually isn’t much of a middle ground between the two. Either way, we approach every development project with a plan to build trust and work efficiently to create an app that meets the business needs of our client.

And fortunately, in this case, the Stampede team was a dream to work with. 

Adapting the development process to meet tight timelines

Great communication is critical under ideal development conditions, when you have enough time to design, iterate, build and test. 

When you’re expediting a project, strong, clear lines of communication with the client, as well as an adjusted requirements framework, are all the more important. 

To achieve this, we started with a deep dive into what the Stampede’s key business needs and requirements were: i.e. what features the app absolutely had to have, no matter what.

The team at Stampede identified that it was necessary for the app to provide wayfinding (maps and tracking/directions), event information, ticket purchasing (via external links, in this case), and the ability to create visibility — and even new advertising opportunities — for their sponsors, amongst other features.

Once we identified these priorities, we went about adapting our development process to accommodate shorter timelines. 

Normally, we would have designed low-fidelity wireframes to illustrate the app’s core functionality for the client’s input. Then we would have moved to full interface design or high-fidelity wireframes. And only after our client had approved all of that would we have moved into development. 

Instead — with the blessing and understanding of our client, because again communication is key — we skipped the lo-fi elements altogether. 

Their must-have app requirements were relatively simple so we created high-fidelity wireframes right away, allowing our client to see a fully designed representation of what we’d be building. 

Once they approved the direction, we moved into development straight away. We showed them more designs as they were completed, and rolled those into development too.

This adapted process was only possible because: 

  • Our team provided a clear project outline, based on an in-depth understanding of our client’s business needs, and;
  • The Stampede was flexible and communicative throughout the development process. 

They trusted us. And together, we worked to create a great product, on-budget and on-time for the kickoff of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

The secret to a great event app, is a proven development team 

At Vog, our talented in-house development team can create apps for any type of event. 

Whether we’re working with tight or comfortable timelines (our preference is the latter, of course), we focus on understanding your business goals first, then establish clear and consistent communication throughout the development process, and ultimately create an app that will elevate your visitors’ event experience.