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How to build a 5-star app with mobile analytics

Peggy Anne Salz Chief Analyst, MobileGroove

Why do a few apps succeed where so may others fail? User experience (UX) is often the answer. Bad UX leads to bad ratings and a failing app.

So how can you ensure good UX? Good design up front is important, but so are mobile analytics. By monitoring how users interact with your app, you can take your app—and your whole company—from good to great.

Rising up the ranks

Consider how analytics helped SpeechTrans, designers of a highly rated speech-to-speech translator. Wielding analytics to remove friction and reduce frustration allowed SpeechTrans to rise from a three-star app rating to a five-star one.

In 2010, SpeechTrans started out as a voice recognition and translation app focused on enabling users to have a complete conversation with anyone in the world speaking any language in real time.

Five years later a sharp focus on analytics has equipped SpeechTrans to pivot from being "just" an amazing app to providing an outstanding platform for translation, dictation, and natural language understanding.

"That's the formula," says Yan Auerbach, COO of SpeechTrans, referring to the smart decision to depend on data, not guesswork, to prioritize fixes and improve the user experience.

The "15-minute investment of time and effort" his company made to implement HP AppPulse Mobile, a mobile app performance monitoring solution running in the cloud, has since paid huge dividends. By keeping it simple and opting for a solution that didn't require SpeechTrans to change code or add any tags, the company further freed up developer time to pinpoint pain points.

Why does my app suck?

Right away, app usage data revealed that users were taking 42 seconds to struggle through the registration process. "That allowed us to make the judgment call to put all our other development priorities on hold and focus on the friction that was bothering the users most."

SpeechTrans succeeded in getting registration down to two seconds in record time—just one of the UX improvements that has led to a fivefold increase in downloads and a threefold increase in conversions. What's more, the 0.04 percent conversion for the $1.99 monthly subscription has jumped to 1.15 percent.

"There are zero crashes and zero bugs," Auerbach observes, "and 100 percent of our users are updating to the latest version because they're getting 100 percent [of] the benefits with revision."

Auerbach expects analytics to take on an even greater importance as SpeechTrans transitions into its role as a platform provider and partner and evolves to work with more partners to reach more users.

Close collaboration with HP and Intel, for example, means SpeechTrans comes pre-loaded on some 80 million devices. Meanwhile, SpeechTrans has rocketed to 1.2 billion translation memory phrases, evolving to grow its dictionary and provide services on an enterprise scale. "We wouldn't be able to do all this, monitor performance and be regulat[ion] compliant if we didn't have this level of analytics," says Auerbach.

Deliver great UX

It's difficult to compare the stellar rise of SpeechTrans to other companies determined to pinpoint and improve what matters most in their apps. However, there are some lessons here:

1. Think proactively, not reactively

SpeechTrans didn't just use analytics to address issues in the app. It leveraged app usage data to identify opportunities to push the envelope on UX. Registration was taking 42 seconds, a poor user experience that may have caused users to abandon the app or delete it altogether. But SpeechTrans didn't wait around to find out. As Auerbach sees it, "Having analytics is like having a fire department on every street corner." But the real value of analytics is not in using it to fight fires so they don't spread to your entire user base. Instead, wield analytics—and the actionable insights they provide—to prevent fires altogether.

2. Make data part of the daily routine

SpeechTrans understood that analytics is never "set it and forget it." It harnessed its solution to continuously monitor the user's experience in order to prioritize and plan continuous improvement to the UX. Hard data, not guesswork, allowed SpeechTrans to attain the enviable position of a five-star app. Use analytics to help you up the ranks, but don't stop there. Let analytics be your guide to identifying what you have to do next in your development roadmap and—ultimately—what you need to do to maintain the momentum around your app.

3. With great power comes great responsibility

Embracing a freemium model has required SpeechTrans to rebuild the app from the ground up and rely on analytics to reimagine the UX. Now SpeechTrans is preparing for the next phase of growth and innovation, one that will also see the company double down on analytics to ensure its service—and its partners—are firing on all cylinders. SpeechTrans' user base includes government officials, military personnel, and medical professionals, all of whom rely on its advanced and accurate language translation to save time and lives.

Clearly, few companies offer an app that carries that level of responsibility. But be aware of your position in your app ecosystem and use analytics to ensure that you never let your partners or users down.

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