You’re Doing It Wrong: The Top 4 Reasons Why Apps Fail

Mobile apps continue to flood the market. According to Statista, as of July 2015, there were:

  • 1.6 million apps available for download in Google Play
  • 1.5 million apps available for download in Apple App Store
  • Just under 1 million apps available in Amazon Appstore, Windows Phone Store, and BlackBerry World

With so much choice, users aren’t likely to give any app a second chance, and many people don’t. In fact, almost 35% of mobile app engagements last less than a minute, suggesting users don’t take long to make judgments. As a result, it’s increasingly difficult to develop and release a mobile app — for any platform — that performs well in today’s market.

Benchmarking Success

The definition of success differs depending on the nature of your app and your business goals. Typically, KPIs for measuring success are reflected in the following:

  • Quantity — The number of downloads, percentage of target customers, usage statistics, or other quantitative metrics.
  • Revenue Goals — If your app is set to monetize, success may be defined as a revenue figure, which may be driven from paid downloads or via in-app purchases.

Regardless of how success is measured, most apps that are released will fall well short of their goals. Here’s why.

4 Common Reasons Why Apps Fail

While competition in the app market is high, failure isn’t always a result of bad luck. In most cases, there are other contributing factors. Here are four of the most common reasons that apps fail that can’t be chalked up simply to high competition.

1. Poorly Researched Market/Audience

Great ideas in theory often don’t make great apps in practice. The decision to launch a project should be research driven. Is there a market for the type of app you want to develop? Are you solving a certain problem? What’s the competition like? Realistically, would people want to use your app? Are you making someone’s life easier? Providing a unique experience? Is the idea defined well enough to be executed?

Another area that is often poorly researched is the potential audience. Everyone from toddlers to seniors use mobile apps. Understanding your audience, and more importantly how your audience consumes apps, is very important.

If you decide to build an app without doing the research, defining the audience, and strategizing use cases and features that will appeal to that audience, you may find that you build a product you think people will want, when in reality they don’t.

2. Ignoring Platforms

Android and iOS (as well as other platforms) have very intuitive interface guidelines. They operate in different ways, using different gestures and common buttons or prompts placed in different areas.

For example, Android users are accustomed to a back button that is built into the hardware. Apple devices don’t have this. Failing to account for platform-specific nuances like this can severely affect user experience.

When developing for multiple platforms, it’s important to build with platform differences in mind. Apps that don’t do this correctly will result in frustrated end users, and given that the average user will decide in less than a minute whether or not your app is worth using, a little frustration can mean a whole lot of failure.

3. Poor User Experience

There are a lot of components involved in building an app that offers a great user experience, but at the basest level your app needs to be intuitive. If a user struggles to perform basic functions on your app and can’t figure out core functionalities easily, the result is very poor usability. Some other examples of poor user experience include:

  • app performance issues (slow or lagging)
  • long load times
  • long registration processes
  • features that are difficult to access

One thing to pay particular attention to is platform-specific UI/UX best practices. As mentioned above, ignoring these is a costly mistake as each platform has elements that are unique and that their users are accustomed to. For example, minimum sizing for tappable controls or specific swipe gestures will differ from platform to platform, with users expecting results from the actions to be familiar and consistent with other platform applications.

Resources: iOS Human Interface Guidelines Android Design Principles

4. Improper Testing

Testing seems pretty obvious, but it’s estimated that 44 percent of defects are found by the user, 24 percent from direct feedback, and another 20 percent from public user reviews in app stores.

While it’s rare that an app will be without minor bugs upon launch, making sure you test properly before shipping can ensure there are no major issues. If an app isn’t tested properly, it’s bound to be rife with bugs that impact user experience and is prone to crash. A single crash is more than enough to stop users from ever using it again. In fact, some of the most common negative reviews on app stores are related to apps crashing. And the more negative reviews you have, the more likely your app is to fail.

App testing must be done thoroughly, with a documented process in place, in order to ensure that your application is as market-ready as possible. It’s unlikely you’ll get a second chance if you fail to entice users the first time around.


Obviously, the performance of an app depends on many factors that can range from competition to marketing budgets to sheer luck. But beyond these factors, poor research and poor execution are common reasons why apps fail when launched. Focusing efforts on market and audience research, following platform-specific best practices, and thorough quality assurance testing can be the difference between failure and success.

Tags: Mobile Development, QA

Originally published at on August 6, 2015.

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