Top reasons for Mobile App Failures and how to avoid them through Proactive Testing

Payoda Technology Inc
10 min readJun 5, 2020

Smartphones are the most popular device on planet earth with over 3.5 billion people using it as of 2019. It is estimated that users invest around 70% of their media time on their smartphones. In spite of having access to more than a million apps, an average mobile user uses 9 apps per day and 30 apps per month. Looking at the statistics, it might seem that it is market-ready to reap rich benefits. Yes, it is but look at another statistic.

According to the global research and advisory firm Gartner, Inc., it is estimated that only 0.01% of the total apps on the market were financially successful as of 2018. So what do the techie and business people fail to do or do it wrong that makes their mobile apps fail?

Here are some of the strongest and most prevalent mistakes that we found in our experience:

  1. Provide solutions to real-world problems:

When you begin to conceptualize an idea for a mobile app, if your sole motive is money, then you are on the wrong track. Try to implement the old saying — Do your work to the best of your abilities and do not worry about the returns. Think about how your app would solve a real-time problem and how it would make your customer’s lives easier. Chances are that there is already an available solution in the market. Analyze the existing competition, their mistakes, their positives, and go that extra mile to incorporate that X-factor that would make your app unique and would compel users to switch to your app. If your idea is truly unique, then your real problem exists in execution, which we would deal with in the sections below.

How can QA pitch in?

Testers are all-rounders and if they aren’t you better make sure they are. They have the experience of empathizing with the end customer more than any other role in the software industry. It is their job to do so. Picking their brains and using their expertise in getting to know the pitfalls of a certain concept before jumping into development will save you a lot of trouble. The creator of the idea would always consider it perfect. But the tester would approach it objectively and provide constructive criticism that would provide a better insight on how the concept can be tuned to suit the needs of the users. Testers can correlate the concept with other apps they have already tested and identified those areas they had classified as good to have features. Incorporating those features or making that non-existent feature your core concept might just be the trick that reels in your customers.

2. Failing to understand your Target Audience:

The inability or the lack of effort to understand the target audience of your mobile app will cause you to fail. Do due diligence on the age groups of your core end-users, their preferences, and the usability features of the other apps they frequently use. Provide easy to use features and never make your apps cluttered or complex. Think of the reason why Apple’s apps are almost always a hit. It is because of their simplicity and ease of usage. Stats tell that mobile apps tend to lose almost 77% of their Daily Active User subscriptions in the first week. The first impression is not just the best impression but it might well be the only impression you create on your users if your app doesn’t live up to their expectations. The competition is cut-throat. Your users have no reason to remain loyal if you do not provide your software to their liking. They can always find another app providing the same features with better usability.

How can QA pitch in?

Testers need to be aware of the most popular competing apps in order to be able to suggest features and improvements that make your app the best in class. Defining your target audience can be done in coordination with strategy teams, experts of the field, product owners and yes, the testers; thorough usability tests and documentation need to be done. The key is to never underestimate even a tiny bug or glitch as it may cost you a customer who might well be the influencer among tens of hundreds of other customers. Remember that your users are your actual profit and hence never to disregard their feelings or comfort levels when it comes to using the app.

3. Backend support is Fragile

For apps that generate a lot of traffic, namely, e-commerce and booking apps, robust backend support is like the spinal cord. A scalable backend service is the most suited for modern times. If your app gets more than expected traction, you need to be ready for it. Cloud services provide the most reliable form of support and storage and mobile apps need to embrace it. If your app fails when it absolutely shouldn’t like an e-commerce app on a Black Friday or a booking app during holidays, then it means customers lose trust and would think twice before opting for your service.

How can QA pitch in?

Testers need to ensure that for a particular functionality the APIs are load-tested, stress-tested, and soak tested, with none of them failing with peak load conditions and response times are within acceptable limits. It is always a good practice to minimize the number of API calls for a particular functionality as too many of them could cause a lag in-app response. Testers must make sure that during peak load, the app doesn’t take long to fetch and render the data on the screen. Also, device-oriented features such as memory and battery consumption and start-up time need to be validated. The performance of the data rendering needs to checked across different devices with varying specifications.

4. Not lending ears to customer feedback:

Your app may not be perfect the first time you release it to the world. Users and especially those who paid money and want to use your app for long will have improvement comments and features that they would like to see included in further releases. Not recognizing the importance of user feedback might lead to a quick downfall. Pay attention to issues they spot, fix them, and provide quickly updated releases in order to the main patronage and attract further customers.

How can QA pitch in?

Quality assurance teams can liaise with clients who are in direct touch with the end-users or if the app is an in house product, then, along with the Business Analyst and Customer success teams, the QA experts can validate the nature of the customer suggestions, make sure that they are valid and not already in the backlog and then record the same in the test management tool to ensure that they will be looked into.

5. Functioning across Devices, Platforms, and Networks is unreliable:

If you release an iOS or Android app, make sure that it works fine in all the OS versions in which it is allowed to be downloaded and installed. Make sure your app is dependable and works seamlessly on a range of devices from different manufacturers with varying processors and RAM capabilities. You never know the device on which the customer might use your app. It might be a low end or a high-end device, so it is best advised to correlate target audience groups with the device market share and work on hardcore statistics rather than assumptions that will leave you hurting in the long run.

How can QA pitch in?

By performing thorough rounds of functional and compatibility testing on a range of actual devices and on virtual device labs that are available online to ensure the functionality works fine on different combinations of OS versions and devices. Testing with network speeds such as 2G, 3G, and 4G is also important to notice any fluctuations in-app behavior apart from the network-related latency in data rendering.

6. Iterate, Analyze, and Release:

Every mobile app that has been successful has had bugs in its earlier stages. So it is highly important for the product team to not relax once the first release is done. Try to gather data and make better-informed decisions, tinker with the design if needed, and modify your marketing strategy to increase coverage and returns. Try to improve the performance, usability, and correct any functionality issues that were found. Include new and interesting features. Keep up with the current trends in technology and mobile app usability, implement them, and release updates in a scheduled manner to never become outdated. It is a painstaking activity but it has to be done to keep up with the competition and matching customer expectations. Failing to do these might cause your app to become stagnated and be overrun by other apps with a similar concept. The customer base that you attracted to in the initial stages might choose to switch over to other apps providing a wholesome experience.

How can QA pitch in?

By providing high quality, highly defined regression testing, maintenance testing, and change-related tests according to the needs, QA can assure that the standards are maintained in every single release. The testing team should be aware of impact points during the addition of new features, tweaking of existing features, and integrating the app with third-party systems. The focus should be on providing the best quality and user experience. Periodic performance tests should also be performed to ensure that the changes done haven’t adversely affected the performing capabilities of the API and the app front end.

7. Weak or No Marketing:

Hype never hurts. Use all possible avenues to promote your app so that it reaches the most number of people. Effective usage of social media, asking patrons, and the employees of your organization to share it with their list of contacts, asking for and receiving responses regarding improvements in the application is all for the betterment of the app. Take a look at Apple and how carefully they plan and project their prelaunch events. Conduct something on those lines if the budget permits so that your product gains the necessary coverage. Remember that hype never hurts but always ensure that you deliver what you promise.

8. No Monetization Strategy:

You cannot just assume that ideating and building a mobile app, marketing it, finding a regular customer base would fetch you a fortune. A lot of thought needs to be put into how you are going to monetize your mobile app. Premium versions, In-app advertisements, Freemium model, subscription model, in-app stores for merchandise, newsletter promotions to provide information about your other services that customers would be interested in. Think about the strategy that would best suit the concept of your product and implement it. Note that free apps are much more preferred than paid apps. Paid apps, more than 90% of them get a maximum of 500 downloads per day and they also define a hard limit on the revenue per customer. Whereas this does not apply in a freemium model where, if your app is engaging and addictive, users wouldn’t mind spending for it repeatedly. Also, allow the users to try the paid options before you mandate a purchase. Offer certain features for free for patrons. And as your app builds up momentum introduce the monetizing options in full force. And never stop ideating for newer features and monetizing strategies.

9. Security Flaws:

Mobile development should intrinsically consider and include security aspects. It just cannot be retrofitted. The developers need to look into the OWASP rules to avoid common vulnerabilities in mobile apps and implement them while building the code. By doing this, the developers create a secure application in an easier and cheaper manner. Once a secure design is in place, the code needs to be sans any vulnerabilities. Testing using threat modeling and frequent code scanning will help with this. A robust set of security use cases and abuse cases need to be validated for the app to be deemed foolproof. Through monitoring, we can analyze if the third-party libraries or advertising frameworks cause the app to be insecure. A programmer also has to think of how to protect the data that is stored in the app when an attacker gets his hands on the device. It is vital to encrypt the data stored in the device in order to achieve this. Key areas such as connection to the server and the storing of authentication credentials must be encrypted. Reduce the third party library usage in your app as reviewing their code is effort-intensive and if not done, always carries the risk of a security hole. Do not opt for broad frameworks. Use only what is necessary to achieve the capabilities in your app, thereby lessening the surface area prone to attack. And finally, try to obfuscate the code. Turning the code into gibberish would make your app a whole lot safer to be trojanized as the reverse engineering of your code would be that much more difficult.

10. Ignoring Existing Competition:

Try to be the best, but never be too confident that you are the best by shunning your eyes away from your competition. Always have an eye on them. Try to understand their methods, their features, try to better it by thinking differently. There is no use if you provide the same feature with the same presentation. Statistics from a survey conducted by Arctic Startup say that 19% of the total mobile app failures happen due to neglecting competition.

11. Never Undermine the Importance of QA:

According to a 2015 study, 80% of mobile app users try to use a problematic app three or fewer times before uninstalling it. There is concrete proof that any mobile app will not succeed without a well-structured and thorough quality assurance process. Ensuring the standard of your app from all possible angles is a fundamental necessity for its success.

Author: Mohan Bharathi S & Jeya Kirushna
Stream: QA



Payoda Technology Inc

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