Seven Common Errors Around Creating Mobile User Experiences
Go through any of the top selling apps lists and you will see that those apps have at least a decent user experience. Having a great UI does not guarantee success, but a poor User Interface (UI) may doom an app.
When AT&T still had an application store and was actively recruiting applications for enterprise resale, we used to run Fast Pitch events. At those events, developers would have a few minutes to pitch their idea and we would pick a winner. Not only did they get cash prize, but many apps received distribution support.
The difference between winning and losing the Fast Pitch often came down to the UI. A fantastic idea and great technology might get the application into the finals, but the winner was often the one that had the cleanest, most intuitive UI. We often pointed out many of the UI issues for poor applications so that the developers could improve them. Likewise, when I look at some new apps out in the market now they often make some common errors and I can tell the app is doomed.
Here is a list of seven of these common errors:
1) Confusing and cluttered interface: One interesting data point we had from the application store was the large number of users who asked for application refund almost immediately after downloading. This was with a lot of freemium apps— quite often, the UI was so confusing or cluttered that first time customers wouldn’t understand terms upfront and then ask for refund right away after the purchase.
2) Skimp on testing: Time to market is always critical, but users sense when apps are incomplete. Nothing turns you off quicker on an application than when you find an error as soon as you start using it. Do not just use family and friends for testing—this select group may not be critical enough or may get used to unique UI. Usability evaluations in particular are critical—then there are firms like Mob4Hire or uTest that can help.
3) Inefficient navigation: Speed is important to users. Complex navigation and too many choices can reduce speed. For complicated apps, there can be tradeoffs between putting more items in the navigation menus vs. how many clicks the user needs to take. A/B testing could help and also consider adding accessibility features like speech.
4) Complex features and functionality: Technical people and developers tend to be more comfortable with technology. You have to think about who is using your app and strive to limit functionality to what the user requires. One item that has been bothering me lately is apps that have complicated setups or training before getting to the app that loads every time. Now, often you can skip it, but it still takes time to load. It is important to provide your users adequate training, but you need to make sure you do not go overboard.
5) Poor end to end experience: Although the initial home screen and first actions are so vital to the user’s initial impression, it is also important to make sure that the experience is uniform through the app. I think at times I have seen some non-uniform experiences as a result of devs rushing the app (probably with plans to fix later). The challenge is that you do not want users to just like the app, it is important that they enjoy it enough to recommend it to others. Social sharing is key to success—but users will often only take that next step when they really feel satisfied over some period of time. Additionally, make sure there is effective error recovery.
6) Forget/fail to understand your target users: This can seem obvious, but all users are not the same. You should know the target demographic and then spend time focusing on their unique needs and interests.
7) Ignore how users access your app: Although fragmentation is not a great concern (that is, apps can often work on mobile phones and tablets), it is still important to spend time creating application versions targeted to particular device types. For example, for the mobile version try to avoid scrolling. Also, think about optimizing for screen sizes.
Comment below if you have any other points on creating an effective UI and how to keep an app out of doomed status.