The Essential Dos & Don’ts of App Startups

This post is by Appsee, a mobile app analytics platform which is the newest perk for startups in SOSV’s portfolio—providing 20% off the first year of service. To welcome Appsee on board, SOSV asked some questions (below) that would be helpful for founders of app startups to know. SOSV founders can redeem perks in the portal, amounting up to $600K per company.

In our recent Q&A series, we got to pick the brain of Hannah Levenson, The Head of Inbound at Appsee Mobile App Analytics. Hannah eats, sleeps, and breathes mobile apps. When she’s not dissecting onboarding flows or obsessing over microinteraction design, Hannah and her team of passionate growth specialists are busy creating resources for today’s versatile mobile app professional. Check out what Hannah had to say when it comes to essential app startup “dos and don’ts”, approaching mobile app analytics with confidence, and ensuring that your app idea does not become “meh”.

Which analytics are most important to mobile app startups?

When it comes to the topic of mobile app analytics, you’ve probably heard the term “data-driven”. In the startup world this term can be your best friend or your worst enemy. In an effort to embrace a data-driven mentality (alongside all the other responsibilities of a mobile app startup), mobile teams have been known to fall into some common analytics traps. Typically, they track the wrong things in their analytics, track everything possible, fail to incorporate a structured workflow/analysis process, and/or experience analysis paralysis.

When too much data leads to more confusion. Image source: Appsee

How do you avoid these traps? First, I would recommend that you choose an analytics platform(s) that is super out of the box in terms of setup and tagging. The quicker you can start tracking and gleaning insights, the better. When a tool involves too much initial grunt work, it negatively impacts your onboarding experience. Think about it: You’re just like a mobile app user — so why should you stick with a tool if the value and ease of use isn’t clear from the get go?

Second, I would recommend utilizing a tool that can supply you with both quantitative and qualitative insights. All the data in the world won’t lead to business growth if you can’t mine it successfully for insights. Qualitative analytics tools, like session replay and touch heatmaps, bring insights to the surface more quickly, so that you can spend more time taking action.

What’s an example of user behavior that has surprised a new mobile app startup?

Users often times misinterpret UI graphics/nonreactive screen components for navigation/reactive elements. This can happen for many reasons. For example, maybe a user has become accustomed to navigating through apps in a certain way because he or she heavily uses other apps in the same category that employ a different navigation design. It could also happen because the actual placement or design of the graphic is misleading. At the end of the day, if a user is swiping or tapping and not getting a reaction from your app, this is an issue. This means that their needs are not being fully met by your app. This can add friction to their user experience, and worse, cause them to abandon a critical funnel or even your app.

Recently, we saw an interesting case of this “unresponsive gesture” at Appsee. The UX team at a retail app noticed that a large number of users were viewing a single product and then quitting the app. When exploring further with Appsee’s heatmap technology, they saw that at least 22% of gestures on individual product screens were unresponsive “zoom in” gestures. Users were clearly trying to zoom in on a specific product image, yet were unable to — and as a result, ending their session. Thanks to this actionable insight, the team added a zoom in capability for all product images. After this adjustment they saw a notable increase in session length, and a higher CR from “Product” screen to “My Cart” screen, and from “My Cart” to “Purchase Complete”.

Example of an icon that appears to be a navigation element. Image Source: Appsee

Where are some of the common places that users will drop off during the conversion process?

The Login screen! If done right, it can positively impact user conversion, retention, and engagement. If done poorly, it can have the complete opposite effect. Unfortunately, the latter occurs more frequently. The first time users encounter a login screen is towards the beginning of their first session in an app. This is a highly sensitive session in which the slightest frustration or performance issue can trigger a user to abandon an app. To make things even tougher, today’s complicated app user doesn’t trust you, lacks patience, and is quick to give up on any form or input field that requires too much “work” on their part. Below I’ve bulleted some best practices when it comes to the UX of your Login screen:

  • Simplify sign-up forms with only the utmost necessary questions and respect your users’ time! Users downloaded your app to understand what it can do for them, not what they can do for you.
  • Allow login via external accounts (Facebook, Email, Gmail, Twitter). Plus a pro tip: do not assume that users will prefer a social account over an email login — A/B test!
Image Source: UXarchive
  • Facilitate password resetting. Users WILL forget their passwords, the question here is whether or not the process is seamless? Are you making them jump through hoops in order to set a new password?
  • Opt for email login instead of username creation. Emails are easier to remember and more secure.
  • Think twice on whether you want to utilize a “Login Wall” and require that first time users create an account before they can explore your app. With a banking app, required login makes total sense. With a retail or food and beverage app, I would recommend allowing users to enter as a guest and browse what your app has to offer before prompting a login.

Check out some of my favorite Login screen designs here.

What’s a good way to test whether or not users will like a new feature on an app?

There’s a few ways you can do this. First, nothing beats talking to your users. Talking to your users is essential for understanding the validity of your product and its features. The majority of app owners start building an app along with features and functionalities based on a feeling that it’s what their users want. Oftentimes that feeling comes from a personal experience of their own. As I mentioned in a recent post on The Next Web, “Most apps fail because entrepreneurs do not validate their product with enough actual users. If you have an idea, go out and validate it, but validate it the right way.” This piece of advice also applies to new features within your working app. You should look at each new feature as a mini product that requires the same user research and validation. I would recommend allocating some substantial time for building bulletproof user interview questions. These user interview questions should be open ended, avoid leading the user, and ultimately enable you to extract attitudes and feelings towards your feature(s). Avoid “why” questions and aim to structure questions based on “how” their experience was.

Image source: Pexels

Another great way to assess whether or not users will like a new feature of your app is to utilize a mobile A/B testing tool with feature flags. Basically this tool, also known as a feature toggle, allows you to enable or disable a feature. On a micro level, robust feature flag tools allow you to easily target specific user segments, safely test features in production, and release a feature to a larger audience without having to go through the app store. I know that our industry friends Apptimize and Taplytics offer this capability.

Last but not least, if you want to assess how users interact with your new feature, remotely, in a real-time natural setting, I would recommend employing user session replay. Session replay does exactly what it sounds like: It replays a user’s session within your app along with a timeline of the events and screens visited. This tool enables you to proactively assess individual user sessions and obtain an exact visualization of the user’s experience with your feature. How did they utilize your new feature? How did it fit into their larger journey? How did they discover the feature? Session replay can provide you with answers to all of these essential feature release questions.

Example of session replay with Appsee

What’s one of the most interesting scenarios you’ve seen at Appsee, where a company has used your platform to quickly identify a major problem and then solve it?

One of our clients, leading language learning app busuu, utilized Appsee’s mobile app analytics for an interesting localization use case. With over ten million downloads and a presence across Europe, Asia, and South and North America, busuu has a very diverse user base to say the least. With this diversity comes a range of expectations and standards regarding one’s mobile user experience.

Image Source: Google Play

By utilizing Appsee’s qualitative analytics tools, busuu was able to quickly identify that their Chinese user base was struggling with their login screen. They noticed that time spent on the screen was much longer compared to other users and that there were multiple, failed attempts to complete the email section of the sign-up form. The busuu team were also able to pinpoint confused gesture behavior on this section of the form. With this actionable data (coupled with user research), they swiftly implemented a new option for user sign up instead of email. Specifically, the busuu team replaced an email request with a phone number request (a detail Chinese users are more accustomed to providing). After making this adjustment they saw a boosted user registration rate of 15 percent. As they continue to expand their language and demographic serving, Appsee acts as busuu’s key analytics platform for insights on user experience and user behavior.

What are some tips and tricks for retaining users?

The best tip that I can offer to you is to embrace a specific mentality; a mentality so powerful that it will trickle down to the rest of your team and ultimately every aspect of your mobile app.

“There is no such thing as a final product.”

Releasing a mobile app product is just the beginning of the beautiful yet challenging journey of continuous improvement. You always have room for improvement, always. If you think your product is “done” and that you can wash your hands of optimization (especially when it comes to retention), well then your product will really be done — done for.

By embracing this mentality, you can become a more proactive mobile team as a whole. Vanity metrics like DAU and average time spent in app are just the tip of the iceberg. They can make your app seem “good”, but dig below the surface and you are likely to find opportunities to improve. Seek quality user feedback. Monitor for small crash issues before they impact your overall crash rate. Gather actionable data on your UX. Continually assess your competition. This is digging below the surface, and this is what leads to better user retention.

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