The Forgotten Mobile Optimization Factor

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Back in the early days of the modern smartphone era (in the ancient times of 2007) the business of building a mobile application was pretty simple and straightforward. A developer (or two or three) got together because they had an idea. They wrote the app (usually starting with a relatively simple first iteration of the basic concept–the minimum viable product, or MVP) published it to an app store, maybe did some promotion to friends and family via email, and hoped for the best. Sometimes it resulted in outstanding success, inspiring generations of mobile app developers in a kind of modern version of the original Gold Rush, this time not just in California (though it still may be the epicenter), but all around the world.

In the interim, of course, the smartphone mobile application business has become a BIG (even HUMONGOUS) business, with millions of apps competing in the marketplace and billions of dollars of revenue at stake worldwide. Entire new categories of business have been spawned, and existing industries are being digitally transformed, in many cases becoming “mobile first.”

Along with the tremendous new opportunities, the business of building mobile apps to capitalize on those opportunities amidst brutal competition has become increasingly complicated and sophisticated. Every stage and aspect of the process–conceiving, building, launching, operating, maintaining, and iterating on the mobile application–is subject to analysis, testing, and optimization. In order to have any hope of being successful, you have to have the data, metrics, and logic to drive the prioritization of the conversion optimization of every facet of your mobile application from user acquisition to monetization.

According to an article called “The Tricky Business of Conversion Optimization”, written by a friend, classmate, and founder of a startup mentoring business, this process is described as follows:

“You need to get design elements right. You need to get messaging right. You need to get the site’s navigation flow right. You need to establish brand credibility. You need to be able to do multivariate testing to see what works, what doesn’t. You need to understand the psychology of your buyers to address objections. Blah, blah, blah. Indeed, there’s a plethora of issues to understand, experiment with, and optimize.”

And while I certainly agree with my friend and agree with her premise, the description, as good as it is, also missed a fundamental point that is being ignored over and over again by people in the app business at their own peril and tremendously limiting their possibility of success:


What I’m talking about here is the actual technical performance of the application: how often does it crash (what versions, OSs and versions, networks, carriers, devices)? What are the response times to network requests or errors with traceability to back-end application code producing the response? How is the user’s journey through the application? Where might they have encountered problems with the functionality of the app or dropped out? And what are the root causes contributing to the performance problem? Regardless of where they arise, within the mobile app itself or in the IT app infrastructure, these are some of the critical factors in determining app performance. 

You see this all the time when you go to mobile application focused events. There are endless sessions about app store search optimization (trying to game the app stores to climb the app ranks), social media promotion and advertising for user acquisition, UI/UX design, A/B testing of all sorts, and on and on. Similarly, there are many tools and techniques available to help developers profile their code during development within the IDE they are using.

But there is usually very little, if any focus on understanding the technical performance of the application once it has been released on the app stores and is in “production”. The conversion optimization is left as an exercise considered to be solely the domain of a mobile app developer’s to worry about, rather than being considered by a line of business owner, marketing, sales, and all other stakeholders as an absolutely core part of the strategy, as they are all impacted. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these other factors aren’t important. They absolutely are. But without having performance nailed down, all of these other considerations will pale in comparison. A study done by AppDynamics with researchers from the Institute of Management Studies (IMS), showed that up to 86% of users will delete an app after the first try if the have a poor experience with the performance of the app. Just imagine you’ve spent all that time, money, and effort to acquire a user to have them download and install your app, and all of that is wasted due to a poor performance experience. The consequent hit you’ll take to your brand if the user bothers to give you a poor app store rating and posts a negative review of your application, adds to the risks. 

Some companies truly understand how absolutely critical performance is to achieving their desired business outcomes and the affect that performance can have on the major KPIs of their business and will base huge strategic decisions on it. Facebook, for example, cited performance as the main reason in a technical blog post for abandoning their previous hybrid mobile app strategy or purely native mobile applications, and then also discussed publicly the improvement in KPIs accomplished as a result of the improved performance of the native mobile application strategy.

During a recent Android developer mobile application conference, a mobile performance engineer from a major social media network intimated that they had approximately sixty engineers dedicated to instrumenting the app and back-end systems for mobile performance monitoring. Today, very few enterprises have the resources or technical skills or scale to be able to monitor performance the way that company does, but that doesn’t mean that performance is any less critical to the success of enterprise mobile application initiatives. That gives all the more reason why enterprise mobile application developers should focus on the core competency of the companies’ products and services and rely instead on a dedicated mobile application performance monitoring and intelligence platform such as AppDynamics Mobile Real-User Monitoring

Let us know how we can help you to ensure the performance and conversion optimization of your mobile applications today.

Peter Kacandes

Peter Kacandes

Peter has over 16 years in the tech industry, focusing on mobile applications. He's worked for top tech companies including Actuate, Sony Ericsson, Adobe, and Sun Microsystems.