How to Kill Your App in 3 Seconds or Less

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“Every second counts” has never been truer than with mobile app: you literally have two or three seconds to win, engage and keep a user.

Think I’m exaggerating? Look at the numbers from a recent report:

  • 80% of users say they expect a mobile app to load in 3 seconds or less — and 59% expect under 2 seconds.
  • 79% of users are willing to try a mobile app a second time if it fails the first, but only 16% will go back for a third try.
  • 48% of users say they’ll abandon a mobile app for poor performance, and 34% say they’ll switch to a competitor’s app.

Yet mobile app performance continues to flounder. Research shows that many consumers — in some cases, a majority — continue to encounter problems with mobile apps. Specifically, 62% say they’ve encountered crashes and freezes, while 47% say their apps are slow to launch. And the worst: 40% have apps that won’t launch at all.

Put your app to the test

Knowing all of this, you’d think that developers would put the resources into ensuring that the performance of their mobile app is top-notch. But a report last year showed that only 24% of organizations in North America and 30% in Asia are currently testing their mobile apps — which likely causes the frustrating experiences users have with them.

If QA isn’t in your project plan, build it in:

  • Figure out which devices you want to test. Don’t just test on the latest generations of hardware and OS’s — test on older tablets, smartphones and operating systems too, if you’re developing your app for those devices. Make a definite decision about how far back you want to go and what OS’s you don’t want to develop for, too.
  • Set up a test environment on those devices. Get your hands on all the devices you plan to test on. (Can’t find them? Check out eBay or craigslist for older-generation devices.) Install the app on the devices.
  • Create test scenarios. Your QA lead should develop a step-by-step list of actions to take on the device: basic usage, more advanced features and specific scenarios. Perform these same actions, in the same order, at regular intervals — every couple of days — for a set period. Possible things to test include:
    • Different options for inputting data (keyboard, touch screen, etc.)
    • Performance on different networks (wi-fi, 4G, 3G, etc.)
    • Battery life while using the app
    • Performance while using other apps simultaneously
    • User permissions/login
    • Integration with social networks
    • Location-based functionality
    • User interface design effectiveness: readability, contrast, intuitiveness
  • Consider testing with users. Testing your mobile app “in the wild” once you’ve worked out the bugs can be very effective, especially for understanding whether the navigation and design are intuitive and effective for the average user. However, keep in mind that the kind of feedback you get, while useful, can be subjective and not always relevant.

Stability and scalability are your best friends

In addition to testing your app, you need to be able to feel confident about what’s going on in the back end. Where you’re hosting your mobile app, and how that has an impact on your performance, is one of the key things you need to consider when you’re first setting out to develop your app.

Many mobile app developers are turning to the cloud — and that’s largely the right move. The cloud provides the kind of flexibility and scalability mobile apps require, so that as more people adopt the app, you can easily scale up for limitless storage and bandwidth and no interruption to service for your users.

Of course, moving to the cloud also gives you less control. You gain back in productivity (by not having to wrangle servers) what you might lose in control, but it’s still important to feel confident about your cloud provider’s ability to keep your app up and running and your data secure. Demanding a service-level agreement that clearly defines performance guarantees, vendor responsibilities and consequences/penalties, is essential.

Take the steps to make sure your mobile app will perform as promised, to prevent having to win back disgruntled users down the road. The extra time and due diligence will pay off in app stickiness down the road.

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Yuan Weigel

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