As of early 2022, 67.1% of the world’s population uses a mobile phone. Over the past year, the community of mobile users grew by 95 million individuals – and if you’re reading this article, chances are your organization has contributed to that growth.
The mobile expansion doesn’t make it easier for businesses, though. Cut-throat competition raises users’ expectations and compels brands to strive for more features, greater usability, and finer looks. None of this is enough, however, if the application’s performance is lackluster, because:
- 79% of users retry an app twice at the most if it fails to work the first time (HPE)
- 52% of users claim that a bad mobile experience makes them less likely to engage with a company ever again (Think with Google)
- 71% of all mobile uninstallations are caused by app crashes (AppSamurai)
The statistics don’t lie: unless your mobile app performance is impeccable, users won’t hesitate to move to the competition. Ensuring high responsiveness shouldn’t be a one-off at the app’s launch, but rather a center of your efforts on all business life cycle stages, including growth and maturity.
Therefore, this article will show you how to spot the performance-related red flags before it’s too late and how to improve mobile app performance to deliver a superb user experience. After all, good performance means happy users – and happy users mean more opportunities for further business growth.
Keeping track of performance as the business grows
We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: whether you’re a number person or not, you simply cannot ignore metrics, especially as a C-level at a scale-up company. Not only do they track progress and reflect success, but they also warn about anomalies that, if not taken care of in time, could cause a disaster.
The thing about metrics, though, is that it’s easy to go overboard with their amount and complexity. The more your business grows, the more data you have access to. And yet, metrics are like jokes: if you have to explain them, they’re not that good. To help you out, we’ve prepared a list of business and technical metrics that should enable you to spot the mobile app performance issues before they cost your organization users – and money.
Let’s start with engagement and revenue metrics. Even though they won’t point to specific elements of your application that need improvement, they’ll give you an overview of user satisfaction with your mobile app.
- Downloads & uninstalls
One of the most basic ways to measure the success of a mobile application is to monitor how many times it’s been downloaded. If the number grows, your product is most likely doing fine. However, to be sure of that, set the number of downloads against the number of uninstallations. If the latter spikes unexpectedly or even begins to exceed the number of downloads, the poor performance may be the culprit.
- User growth rate
Downloads are one thing, but the pace at which your user base grows matters as well. Monitoring the influx of users helps you notice the situations when your mobile team has to act promptly and supports drafting a viable long-term strategy for keeping your mobile app performance satisfactory.
- Session length & depth
There’s no denying that users are quick to abandon slow applications. Observing their in-app behavior allows you to identify drop-off points – knowing those, you can check if the low responsiveness is to blame.
According to Hewlett Packard Enterprise quoted above, 31% of users will tell others about their bad experience – and those who’ll hear about crashes and unbearably lengthy loading aren’t likely to ever give your app a try. Therefore, if you come across negative reviews of your mobile app performance, don’t turn a blind eye to them and act before it’s too late.
To get a grasp on the more technical aspects of your mobile app performance, you should also stay up to date with a couple of performance and user experience-oriented metrics. Here are our top picks:
- Load speed
If you ask us, How fast should my app load?, for once, we won’t answer with It depends. When it comes to mobile app performance, the rule of thumb is the faster, the better – otherwise, users get frustrated, leave, and never come back. Here’s what Think with Google has to say about that:
- Mobile device details
With analytics in place, you can learn a lot about your users and mobile devices. From the performance optimization standpoint, we suggest paying special attention to three types of information: device type, screen resolution, and operating system. Bearing them in mind, you’ll be able to fine-tune your performance testing strategy and ensure your mobile app is equally responsive for all sorts of users. Correlating data on the device’s OS with other performance metrics, you’ll also see if any Android or iOS-specific app components require special attention.
- Crash reporting
There are dozens of reasons why mobile apps crash, from poor memory management, through unexpected API changes, to excessive code. Crash analytics will let you know what went wrong, what the cause was, and what the repercussions are. Data-driven troubleshooting will be faster and will allow you to devote the saved time to delivering an even more delightful experience to the users.
- Device performance monitoring
We’re finishing off with yet another triad of technical performance metrics: memory, power, and local storage consumption. The former refers to “the average and maximum memory that the application consumes”. The biggest its value, also due to memory leakages, the higher the chance of the app crashing. Power consumption informs how quickly the application drains the device’s battery, whether it’s because of the CPU, features, or the way the code behind it is written. Finally, local storage is all about how efficiently the application handles refreshing, loading, and cleaning the data, particularly in the offline mode.
How to improve mobile app performance
Now that you’re keeping track of both your product’s and your users’ behavior, we can get down to improving mobile app performance.
Prioritize features & trim excess
As the saying goes, appetite comes with eating. The more your app grows, the higher expectations users have of it, also in terms of features. Unfortunately, mobile devices always have limitations, whether we’re talking about memory, battery, or resolution. You can’t – and shouldn’t – agree to all feature requests at once because it’s bound to impede your mobile app performance.
Instead, embrace the iterative approach. Draft a long-term development roadmap and prioritize features accordingly (e.g., using MoSCoW technique presented below), focusing on the core ones first and implementing the nice-to-haves second.
Once you sort out business priorities, it’s a good idea to consult them with the mobile team. Why? Imagine the developers telling you that implementing a given feature hastily would harm the app’s performance in the long run because it would make many more calls to the backend when the app launches or because its components are very complex. However, they don’t reject your vision at all. Instead, they propose postponing the implementation of the aforementioned feature until they research the available solutions and come up with the one that’s optimal from the performance perspective.
At the end of the day, users don’t care about the abundance of features if they bog down the app. If that’s the case, doesn’t a tech-oriented sanity check that prevents performance issues from happening sound promising?
Put quality first
This tip is self-evident, but we can’t stress it enough: when growing your mobile application with flawless performance in mind, ensure the project team follows the best coding practices. These include writing clean code, checking for errors and vulnerabilities in the source code with regular code reviews and static code analysis, and test automation. In regard to mobile app performance optimization, the ability to adopt a forward-looking mindset, which will translate into building a mobile architecture that facilitates sustainability and scalability is also vital.
It all may sound overwhelmingly technical. Don’t worry, though – even if you don’t code yourself, you can put emphasis on the developers following best programming practices when composing the project team.
Optimize images and videos
Visuals are an indispensable part of any mobile application. Understandably, they need to be of high quality – but if you’re on the quest of improving mobile app performance, compressing, resizing, and caching will be your go-to strategies for handling them.
Whether we’re considering the latest iPhone or a two-year-old Samsung, mobile screens are on the smaller side. Even if the user decides to view a 4K visual in full-screen mode, they won’t be able to notice all the details they would observe on a large computer monitor or TV. If a compressed image or video in a smaller resolution will look just as good, it’s only reasonable to decrease its size in exchange for boosting performance. The same is true of a file format: if there’s no transparent background in the picture, why not go for a lighter JPEG instead of a PNG?
While compression and resizing have to do with how big a visual is (in bits and bytes), caching is all about how it’s fetched. It involves downloading files to the device’s memory, which means that an image or a video doesn’t have to be loaded from the network every time it’s about to be viewed. The result is faster loading time and improved performance in both normal network availability and in the event of a slow internet connection. Not to mention that caching enables interaction with the mobile app’s content in the offline mode, about which you can learn more by watching this video:
Either way, caching comes with most libraries used in mobile app development – and if your tech team is writing custom solutions, just remember to draw their attention to this functionality.
Load first things first
Loading all content at once and doing so swiftly; sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? It is a dream… that, unfortunately, won’t come true for most mobile applications. Loading massive amounts of data at the launch is a recipe for all sorts of disasters, from performance hiccups to crashes. To deal with this issue, identify chunks of data that the user has to see at the launch, implement preloading mechanisms for the secondary content, and leave the rest for later. Loading data in the background based on what you anticipate the user will do should significantly boost user experience and the performance of a mobile app.
To help you visualize the benefits of preloading, let’s look at Twitter. Neither the iOS nor Android app refreshes the users’ timeline automatically. Instead, the information about new tweets appears in the popup with the tweeting accounts’ avatars. Once the user taps the notification, the freshest tweets instantly show on the screen. The process is smooth and almost unnoticeable, thanks to preloading in the background.
Don’t leave users in the dark
No matter how serious you are about improving your mobile app performance, every once in a while you’ll run into what seems like a brick wall. The good news is, you can make the performance dead-end cozier for the users by implementing loading states. Although they don’t improve the actual performance of the app, loading states like skeleton views, progress HUDs, and spinners influence the user’s perception of how long it takes to display the content.
Imagine yourself opening a mobile app and staring at a blank screen. When will you get frustrated? We bet two seconds are more than enough. How about being shown a simple yet cute animation in the meantime? It catches your attention, and before you know it, the app has loaded.
Beware of packing your mobile application with too complex or too long loading states, though. The former may turn out a heavy burden on performance rather than help, whereas the latter may annoy the users. An example of this is can a welcome screen with your organization’s logo – if it’s displayed for a couple of seconds, it may give the users the feeling of the app being simply too slow for their taste, even if the goal was to make them aware of the brand. As always, striking balance is key.
Take care of the app’s guts
We’ve got you covered with the frontend and design. Let’s not forget, though, that mobile app performance depends also on how you handle the backend. We’ve got two handy tips here.
Firstly, if your application can benefit from an offline mode, make it a part of the development roadmap. This way, it’ll make fewer calls to the backend and thus relieve the API. Don’t go over the top, though. For offline mode to work, you don’t always need heavy frameworks or SQL databases. Adjust the tech stack to the type of data you want to store and the requirements of your application.
Secondly, accelerate APIs with CDNs. APIs enable your mobile app to communicate with other applications and display the received third-party data. Using a CDN will accelerate API communication by reducing the latency for network requests – as you may expect, this will enhance the performance of your mobile application.
Keep up performance testing
Once you’ve made every effort to improve mobile app performance, keep monitoring it. As your app continues to grow, it will be put under increasing load volumes, which may take a toll on its responsiveness. Performance testing will come in handy – and if you’re interested in the types of tests you can run, check out the following infographics:
Performance optimization shouldn’t be an afterthought
Neither should it be overlooked after the product launch when your mobile application grows and evolves. The tips we gave you in this article are a good start for ensuring that when performance hiccups occur, you’ll know in which direction your tech team should be heading.