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Study reveals top mobile app performance failures

Shane Schick Editorial Director, ShaneSchick.com
Survey says: when mobile app performance fails, the user experience (UX) is bad. Study the statistics!

When mobile app performance fails, it can be a public relations disaster.

"I'm done. Third time locking me out of my app," reads one tweet. "Okay, this is getting ridiculous," says another. "Not okay!" yells a third. And those are the more polite #appfail tweets.

Think of social media as a post-mortem conducted by the world at large. Most developers would rather avoid this public embarrassment, but performance is a problem that seems to be getting worse.

Performance fails to meet expectations

According to a recent mobile app performance study by Dimensional Research, 53 percent of users experienced "severe" app issues in the last six months, including apps that crashed or simply didn't perform as expected.

Performance expectations are intense. Of those surveyed, 61 percent say apps should start within four seconds. And 49 percent of users expect apps to respond to inputs within two seconds.

#appfail = Damaged brand

Fail to meet these expectations, and the fallout goes much deeper than venting on Twitter. About 37 percent of users will think less of a brand if its mobile app crashes or causes errors. Nearly half of users will remove the app, ending your revenue stream.

Think these consequences are severe? Consider how people choose apps in the first place:

Show me the features: Thirty-four percent of those surveyed said functionality drives their decision to download mobile apps. But a word to the wise: Marketing an app is like any other brand promise. If the promise is broken, it's almost impossible to win back trust.

What's the verdict? App store ratings and reviews were neck-and-neck with functionality at 34 percent. No surprise here: Reviews and ratings are the best proof points for an app's features and performance. They help products stand out in app stores that are increasingly crowded with copycat apps that may not work as advertised.

Buy? Bye: Although 29 percent of those surveyed cited price as a factor in choosing apps, it's probably fair to say that a growing number of mobile consumers are expecting great apps to be available at a low cost or, ideally, for free. Whether monetized by in-app purchases, advertising, or some other means, the playing field for mobile apps isn't won or lost based on cost alone.

Mobile app performance is worth the work

On the plus side, developers who deliver great mobile app performance can enjoy the kind of customer relationships that are almost unheard of in the physical world. For example, the report said 80 percent of mobile users turn to their apps up to 15 times a day, and another 18 percent use their apps up to a whopping 50 times a day.

The only caveat for developers is that people won't wait for fixes when performance fails. A majority of users, about 80 percent, indicated they will attempt to use a problematic app only three times or fewer.

Failure-proof mobile apps

As apps have surged in popularity, organizations are realizing that smartphones and tablets represent a major channel for reaching customers and conducting business. Some have even adopted the "mobile first" mantra, considering mobile usage a top priority when conceiving new products, services, and strategies.

The trouble is that IT departments aren't always prepared to deliver mobile app performance. IT departments have traditionally focused on security, because the loss of corporate data has bigger repercussions than slow software or laggy networks. In contrast, mobile apps users often care more about functionality and stability than security. The reason is simple: Consumers can't always see how their data is collected and used, but it's more than obvious when app performance stinks.

The main takeaway from the Dimensional Research study is that "mobile first" may not be enough. Instead, organizations should adopt a "performance first" approach. For developers, this means:

  • Thinking carefully about which app functions demand high performance and which are less critical.
  • Pushing apps to their limits before they're publicly available, just as you would any product that represents your brand values.
  • Monitoring application performance continuously. Usage patterns are highly unpredictable, and monitoring for possible worst-case scenarios is one of the only ways to avoid them.

Developers may even begin using "performance first" as a badge of honor—something they and their organizations use to market their commitment to quality to the world at large. Maybe, if all goes well, it'll even become a hashtag.


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