The impact of mobile app performance on user experience

App Development

The impact of mobile app performance on user experience

It’s no secret that most people today feel anxious whenever they don’t have their smartphones on them. We feel lost and not just figuratively, but we can actually get lost! For example, when was the last time you had a physical map in your car? 

Today, we’re far more reliant on our smartphones and the mobile apps we’ve installed on them than we may even realize. According to a report by AppDynamics, 69% of consumers say their use of digital services is like a reflex – something they have little awareness of and use automatically while 55% of consumers report they can only go without their phone for up to four hours before finding it hard to manage everyday tasks.

Since mobile apps are becoming a crucial part of our everyday lives, we’ve become quite demanding of them; expecting them to be fast and reliable (and of course, well designed, friction free, and so on). A brand could have the most elegant app with a well thought out UI. However, if it constantly crashes or takes 10 seconds to load a single screen, users will abandon it.

In this post, we’ll cover what mobile performance is. Also, we’ll talk about why it’s relevant to the user experience, and how teams can make it a group effort.

What’s mobile performance?

Mobile app performance refers to how well an app behaves on a mobile device under various circumstances and loads. For example, does the app load slowly? Or maybe crash every time it experiences a peak in user activity, which could happen during a live event or promotion? Does it drain the user’s phone battery or have memory leaks?  

Performance is a result of multiple factors: the server, device, network, and even how the app is programmed. What’s most important though is how the users perceive the performance. 

The business impact of poor mobile performance

Especially now, brands can’t afford not to provide top-notch digital experiences. That’s because many consumers amidst the pandemic either choose to interact with companies online or simply have no other choice. The customer experience is now digital-first. Therefore, we should give it just as much focus as face-to-face interaction, if not more.

This is because, as detailed in the AppDynamics report, 83% of customers are likely to experience problems with digital services without notifying the brand. Usually, they don’t give them a chance to make amends. So, the sooner brands find and detect possible performance issues, the better.

Here are just a few stats that demonstrate the importance of this aspect of the user experience: 

  • 71 percent of app uninstalls are due to app crashes. (Source)
  • 52 percent of users feel frustrated by overall app performance. (Source)
  • 70 percent of users abandon an app because it takes too long to load. (Source)
  • 43 percent of users are unhappy if they have to wait longer than three seconds for an app to load. (Source)
  • 65 percent of users say a poor mobile experience negatively impacts their opinion of the brand. (Source)
  • Lastly, 44 percent of in-app defects are found by the user. (Source)

And, it clearly is a relevant and on-going concern as many brands often fail to prioritize this essential element of the user experience. An executive from User Testing, a platform for crowdsourced testing, noted that 56,000 videos of user tests included a complaint regarding app slowness. 

So, the goal for digital teams is to achieve an app that performs well and gives all types of users a great experience, across devices and networks of differing capabilities. 

Fortunately, there are many things that designers, developers, and testers can do to delight their users by finding problems and optimizing mobile app performance in diverse conditions.

Make performance a team effort

First off, it’s important for teams to have a shared understanding of the business impacts of performance to get everyone on board. If you’re on the technical side, think of how you can relay to decision makers its impact in the exact terms that matter to them. For example, it could be “after decreasing load times by 10%, in-app conversions have increased by 15%.” Or, a lower exit rate could mean more users choose you over a competitor.

The good news is that there are several small things teams can do that can make the world of a difference. In her book, “Designing for Performance,” Lara Callendar Hogan suggests,

“Find the quickest and most impactful wins possible to start to emphasize that improving the user experience doesn’t have to be a large cost to the business.” 

For example, Facebook found that the slightest of tweaks, like shaving 200 bytes off the app’s bandwidth consumption through image resizing made a measurable difference.

Here are some actionable tips:

  • Cache, compress, and resize images to make your app lightweight
  • Have testers use a tool like Apptim to record bugs, capture crashes automatically and quickly obtain key app performance metrics to pass over to developers
  • Use fewer HTTP requests required to fetch the resources for each page in order to simplify things for your app
  • Designers can take into account their aesthetic choices’ impact on performance and find the most optimal ways to use images and layouts
  • Load data as needed so the user doesn’t have to unnecessarily wait longer
  • Create an offline mode to ensure a great experience even without connection
  • Run mobile app performance tests (on the front and back end) as early as possible to detect problems and solve them before they get out of hand
  • When you run user tests, don’t forget to ask what network the user was connected to, how they perceived loading times, and if they noticed any performance issues

How will you know that your app is fast and performant enough?

You’ll know it meets users’  expectations if you never hear anyone mention its performance! 

As a Google engineer put it, performance is like a road. When you drive along a well-paved road, you hardly notice it under your tires. However, once you come across bumps and potholes, you start to notice the road! Performance is often taken for granted, but when there’s a problem, you can almost guarantee there will be a dip in user engagement as a result. 

Remember that mobile app performance is user experience. Just as it’s important to optimize the design that drives user experience, mobile performance is essential for brands that want to win over their users again and again.

Kalei White

Kalei White

Kalei White is a digital marketer from California with a passion for helping engineering teams improve the quality of their digital products and testing practices. Currently she is the Chief Marketing Officer of Abstracta, a leading software testing services company where she focuses on content and lead generation. When she's not working, you can find her exploring new cities, paddle boarding, and enjoying Mexican food.

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