In the third part of this series I discussed preparing to launch a mobile application with load testing and beta testing and highlighted the differences between the iOS and Android ecosystems. In this post I will dive into monitoring your production mobile application.
Production consideration: Crash and Error Reporting
Crash and error reporting is a requirement not only for the development of your application, but also for testing and production. There are quite a few crash-reporting tools available including AppDynamics, Crashlytics, Crittercism, NewRelic, BugSense, HockeyApp, InstaBug, and TestFlight. All of these tools have are capable of reporting fatal errors in your application to help developers track down the root cause of bugs. The problem with crash and error reporting is that it only tracks issues after they have affected users. Both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store provide basic crash reporting metrics.
The harsh reality is that mobile applications have a fickle audience that is heavily reliant on curated app stores and reviews. Reviews can make or break a mobile application, as can being featured in an app store. A common best practice is to allow in-app feedback to preempt negative reviews by engaging the user early on. There are a variety of services that make it easy to provide in-app feedback like Apptentive, Appboy, and Helpshift.
This is why being proactive with quality assurance and production monitoring has a significant impact on the success of an application. Not only must the application work as designed, but also the experience must be polished. The expectation in the mobile community is significantly higher than on the web.
Production consideration: Analytics & Instrumentation
Smart executives are data driven and mobile applications can be a plethora of business intelligence. When it comes to instrumentation the earlier you instrument and more metrics you track, the better informed you will be. Analytics and instrumentation are crucial for making informed and smart decisions about your business.
Who is your audience? What platforms and devices do they use? What user flows are the most common? Why do users abandon? Where are users located? What is the performance of your application?
Tracking important demographics of your audience like operating systems, devices, carriers, application versions, and geography of users is key. These metrics allow you to target your limited resources to where they are needed most. There are quite a few analytics platforms built for mobile including Google Analytics, Flurry, Amazon Analytics, FlightPath, MixPanel, KissMetrics, Localytics, and Kontagent.
All of these tools will give you better insights into your audience and enable you to make smarter decisions. There are important metrics to track like total # of installations, average session lifetime, engagement and growth, and geography of your users. Once you have basic user demographics you can use MixPanel or KissMetrics to track user activity with custom event tracking. The more instrumentation you add to your application the more metrics and customer intelligence you will have to work with.
Production consideration: Application Performance Monitoring
Application performance management tools enable you to discover the performance of your mobile and server-side applications in production. APM allows you to understand your application topology, third party dependencies, and the performance of your production application on both the client-side and the server-side. Modern application performance management solutions like AppDynamics track crashes and errors, the performance of the mobile application, and correlates performance to your backend platform, while providing rich user demographics and metrics on the end user experience. With modern business reporting tools you can evaluate the health of your application and be proactive when performance starts to deteriorate.
End User Monitoring allows you to understand the application experience from the eyes of your real users. There are quite a few solutions to monitoring the end user experience in the market place. AppDynamics, Crittercism, New Relic, and Compuware allow you in instrument your application and gain visibility into production performance problems.
Business consideration: Real-time business metrics
Once you have launched a successful mobile experience you need to understand how that experience affects your business. If you have a business critical application like the Apple Store Checkout application or the Fedex Package Management application your business is dependent on performance and use of your application. You can gain valuable insight into your business if you track and correlate the right metrics. For example, how does performance affect revenue, or what is the average price for a checkout transaction. Understanding your core business metrics and correlate them to your mobile experience for maximum business impact.
Business consideration: Monetization
Your plan is to retire off this application, so you need to have a monetization strategy. The most common ways to make money from applications are Pay to play (charge a fee for your application), freemium (offer a free and pro upgrade), offer in-app purchases (like levels, tokens, and credit), and traditional advertising. There are many services to enable mobile advertising like Apple’s iAds, Google’s Admob, Amazon’s Mobile Ads, Flurry, inMobi, Millennial Media, and moPub. All of these strategies require precision execution, but some strategies work better for specific types of apps. Experiment with multiple strategies and do what works best for your business.
It is no longer enough just to have a presence on the web. In fact more and more companies are going mobile first. The mobile landscape is constantly evolving and the mobile market is seeing continued growth year over year.
Want to start monitoring your iOS or Android application today? Sign up for our beta program to get the full power of AppDynamics for your mobile apps. Take five minutes to get complete visibility into the performance of your production applications with AppDynamics Pro today.
As always, please feel free to comment if you think I have missed something or if you have a request for content in an upcoming post.