Infrequent Use Doesn’t Mean Poor App Design

Glenn Gruber | October 9, 2017 | Mobile Strategy

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of lousy apps out there; apps that should be (and are) abandoned by users. But recently I noticed the common misinterpretation of a Localytics Benchmark—a misconception I’d like to correct. Because contrary to popular opinion, infrequent use doesn’t mean poor app design, necessarily. And in case you’re not familiar, Localytics benchmark reports analyze usage data from 37,000 apps and provide info around retention and churn.

According to our data, 37% of users are still using apps one month after they downloaded it, meaning 63% of users have churned and are no longer using the app one month after they downloaded it.

— Localytics Overall App Benchmarks H1 2017

Further statistics indicate a small subset of apps enjoys the majority of user engagement. The inference many make from this is that poor design is the cause of low engagement. This seems plausible on its face since most of these surveys are created by companies who make products to increase app engagement and revenue.

But low engagement doesn’t necessarily equal bad design. One flaw of these types of benchmarks is they treat all apps as equal—assuming each app offers the same utility to users. Therefore, the best-designed apps win. But that’s not the case. Facebook is used daily because it offers timely information users don’t want to miss.

On the other hand, many apps don’t get used as often simply because there is no reason to. For example, the non-business traveler may use a favorite hotel or airline app just a couple of times a year—not because these apps aren’t designed well, but because there is simply no occasion to use them. On a personal note, I only use CBS Sportline Fantasy during basketball season—to run my fantasy hoops team. This has nothing to do with the fact the UI sucks (though it does).

So to know whether engagement is good or bad it’s important to understand what role the app plays in your user’s day to day life. Absolute numbers are absolutely meaningless.

Low Enterprise Engagement Means Bad Prioritization,
Not Bad Apps

Enterprise adoption and engagement varies from that of consumer apps. And applying the same stats to the enterprise is even more misleading. If anything, low adoption tells me the problem is poor prioritization, not poor design. In other words, are we building the right apps? Did we start with an app that offered great utility to the employee in completing their daily tasks or did we build an app that would only be used episodically?

Time and again our Enterprise Mobile Roadmap Kickstart workshops reveal the client has been choosing apps to build based on the FIFO method, rather than by objectively determining which app would offer the most benefit for the company.

Even a poorly designed app will be used every day if its functionality enables users to carry out their daily work tasks. This is proven out by an ArcTouch survey that illustrates how enterprise users “like” (appreciate) apps they feel offer them utility and/or save time.

  • 85% of enterprise mobile app users think their most-used app saves them time.
  • 83% think their most-used app makes them more productive.
  • 61% give their most-used enterprise mobile app an “A” for usefulness.
  • 85% report they are satisfied overall with the enterprise mobile app they use most.

* Source: ArcTouch 2017. “Functional But Unfriendly: A Study of Enterprise Mobile App User Experience”

This same report also demonstrates how the majority of enterprise apps fail to provide an elegant user experience.

The lesson, then, is this: understanding engagement, usage and behavior is important, but isn’t the best prism for evaluating whether or not we’re building game-changing apps for employees. Spend more time determining the app’s true user value and you’re bound to have better return on your development dollar.

If your organization is struggling to catalog the gamut of app ideas across the organization, and isn’t sure how to objectively rank each app idea by business value and technology constraints to identify and prioritize the best candidates, give us a call. We’d love to talk.

Glenn Gruber

Glenn Gruber is a Sr. Mobile Strategist at Propelics. He leads enterprise mobile strategy engagements to help companies determine the best way to integrate mobile into their business -- both from a consumer-facing perspective, but also how to leverage mobile to empower employees to be more productive and improve service delivery through the intelligent use of mobile devices and contextual intelligence. Glenn has helped a wide range of enterprises on how to leverage mobile within their business including Bank of Montreal, Dubai Airports, Carnival Cruise Line and Merck. He is a leading voice in the travel sector as a contributing Node to Tnooz where he writes about how mobile and other emerging technologies are impacting the travel sector and a frequent speaker at industry events.

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