Fixing Your Mobile App Abandonment Issue

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Fixing Your Mobile App Abandonment Issue

This article explains how DevOps teams can respond by delivering apps that beat the average and effectively retain users.

· Web Dev Zone ·
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When it comes to mobile software applications, writing mobile apps is the easy part.

But designing and deploying applications that consumers actually use on a regular basis is difficult. That is because mobile software retention rates are notoriously low. Nearly one quarter of mobile applications are used only one time after they are downloaded on a consumer’s device. After three months, 80 percent of the apps that users install have been deleted completely.

These low retention rates mean that app abandonment remains a serious challenge for mobile software developers. This article explains how DevOps teams can respond by delivering apps that beat the average.

Reasons for Mobile Application Abandonment

Fixing mobile software retention problems requires understanding why it’s so hard to get users to keep coming back to a mobile app. Several factors are at play.

Mobile Software App Competition

The mobile software market is tremendously competitive. Both major mobile platforms (Android and iOS) have well over two million mobile apps available for users. Several hundred new apps debut every single day.

This means that consumers have a huge amount of choice when it comes to mobile apps. Unlike, say, the market for word processing software, or even Web browsers, where there are only a handful of real contenders, the typical mobile app has plenty of competitors. If one app fails to meet users’ expectations, they can easily switch to another.

The impact of market competition is amplified by the fact that removing and installing apps is very easy using the app stores that are built into most devices. On mobile devices, finding a new app and deleting one you don’t like involves just a few swipes and taps. Replacing a poorly performing app on your PC, on the other hand, often requires sleuthing through the Internet to find a new app.

Hardware and Software Diversity

In contrast to the desktop software market, the mobile market is characterized by enormous variability in hardware and software profiles. There are more than 24,000 different types of Android devices. Mobile operating systems are available in a number of different versions, and many are customized by vendors. Browser types and versions also vary considerably.

For software developers, this means that creating a mobile app that consumers use consistently requires catering to a wide array of hardware and software environments. If you focus only on one type of platform, or fail to test for a wide variety of environments, your app is likely to experience problems that lead to abandonment.

Consumer Reluctance to Install Apps

Even if your app is better than the competition, getting users to install it in the first place can be difficult. Most users don’t download apps frequently.

This isn’t an app abandonment issue, exactly, but it does speak to how difficult it is to attract mobile application users.

Building Mobile Apps That Users Keep

The ability of DevOps teams to respond to some of these challenges is limited. There is not much you can do about the ease with which mobile app stores enable users to add and remove apps. You can’t change the rate at which new mobile apps hit the market. You can’t force users to install apps more often.

However, there are steps that mobile software delivery teams can take to mitigate or address some of these challenges and keep users coming back to their app. They include the following.

Broad Mobile Test Coverage

Testing software thoroughly on a range of device profiles. Effective mobile testing requires automated tests, usually on a large device cloud that allows you to verify that software works as expected on a variety of devices and configurations.

Given the tremendous diversity of mobile hardware and software profiles, it’s not enough to test an app on a few devices and assume that it will work in the same way on others.

Tracking the User Experience

Building apps that consumers use consistently entails understanding exactly what users are doing while they’re using your app, and which actions they are performing before they close it. App analytics tools that provide page-by-page and swipe-by-swipe visibility into user behavior enable this insight.

Omnichannel Excellence

Sometimes, users run your app not just on mobile devices, but on other types of hardware as well. For this reason, understanding when and why consumers switch from using the desktop to the smartphone (or tablet or wearable) version of your app is important for building an omnichannel experience that makes users want to keep opening your app no matter which device they are on.

It may also mean tailoring the features of different versions of the app to different devices. It doesn’t always make sense to offer the same features within an app on different types of devices, because the functionality of, say, a PC (which typically relies on the keyboard and mouse for input, and may not have a built-in camera) is very different in key respects from that of a smartphone.

CA Technologies has created an eBook, “Beyond Mobile: Building a Successful Omnichannel Strategy” which provides key insights into this topic.

Optimize Performance

More than half of users abandon mobile web applications if pages take longer than three seconds to load. It’s a safe bet that slow-performing native mobile apps suffer from a similar abandonment rate.

Ensuring faster than three-second load times may seem like a high bar to clear for mobile application developers, especially since some factors that affect page load time, like network bandwidth, are beyond their direct control.

Still, striving for optimal mobile app performance is key in ensuring that users enjoy an excellent digital experience. This is another reason why thorough application testing under a broad set of configurations is essential for detecting problems that could drive users away.

Prevent “Crashes”

“Crashes” is one of the most common words in 1-star reviews.

Technically speaking, a crash could mean many different things: the application interface stopped responding; the operating system closed it; the process hung; or something else.

From a user’s perspective, however, the technical nuances don’t matter. The user wants a hiccup-free application experience, and it’s the job of programmers and DevOps engineers to provide it.

Ensure Security

Security concerns related to mobile applications are another reason why users may choose not to use a mobile application, especially if it includes functionality such as mobile payments.

Addressing this challenge requires not just building mobile apps that are actually secure, but also ensuring that users perceive them as secure. A sense of security can be reinforced by building an app that performs well and consistently in all respects, since users are likely to assume that an app that performs poorly in one respect may also have security problems.


Some of the challenges associated with mobile app abandonment are beyond developers’ control. However, by focusing on factors that mobile software delivery teams can address, like application performance and user experience monitoring, developers can give their mobile apps a strong leg up in a fiercely competitive market.

For more tips on building the best mobile app, see the free whitepaper “The Science behind Five-Star Mobile Applications.”

apps, mobile application, software performance, web dev

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