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7 common mobile mistakes that drive users crazy

EducationAs more and more businesses venture into the mobile app world, there’s bound to be some growing pains. That happens with every new trend. Do you remember how bad websites looked when the internet was gaining popularity? Yikes!

Mobile applications provide an amazing opportunity for business, but also represent uncharted waters. How do you build mobile apps that help your business? How can you avoid the mistakes that alienate your users? If your business is building, or considering mobile apps, I’d like to help you avoid these mistakes.

Now, before I elaborate on the most common mobile mistakes, I’d like to quickly clarify the term “mobile app.” Many associate that term with native apps, when in reality, mobile apps can refer to any of three different app types: Native apps, hybrid apps, or mobile web apps (Here’s a table that explains the differences). When I say “mobile app”, I’m referring to mobile apps in general, not simply native apps.

Okay, let’s get into it. If you’re building mobile apps, here’s a list of the most common mistakes that will drive your users absolutely crazy. Am I missing anything? If so, please share in the comments.

1. Cramming too much information into the app

Many businesses create mobile apps that are nothing more than mobile versions of their current apps/sites. There’s nothing wrong with this approach…unless they try to cram all of a desktop version’s information into the mobile version.

“Since an app has less real estate than a website, businesses should avoid including too many actions on each page of the app,” says Bryan Leeds, Co-founder of xSync. “Users get confused by an app with many calls to action, and when users get confused, they abandon the app. Businesses should limit what an app does according to their most important goals and not treat it like a mini website.”

2. Designing apps for the latest & greatest devices

Over time, many smartphones seemingly become slower. Why is that? While many factors contribute to this problem, here’s one big reason: Application developers design apps for the latest and greatest hardware. Unfortunately, users with slightly-dated hardware receive a slow and laggy experience.

“The biggest mistake mobile software developers do today is not to care about people with different internet plans and hardware on their smartphones,” says Tomasz Smykowski, CEO of Websoul. “It is similar to years 2002-2010 when the game industry didn’t care about people who bought a brand new computer 6 months ago. It was too slow for the brand new game. The same goes here. Mobile developers can have the latest devices, but people don’t.”

3. Rushing through the testing phase

Rushing a mobile app through the testing phase is perhaps the best way to annoy users. An app that’s not properly tested on all necessary devices will likely contain bugs and errors which ultimately alienate the users.

“The biggest mistake that businesses can make with their mobile apps is being impatient,” says Brian Geisel, CEO of Geisel Software. “Releasing an app before it has been polished and thoroughly tested is the best way to make sure your app never takes off. Businesses are always in a hurry, but here a little patience goes a long way.”

4. Delivering a complex UI

Yes, I know that “complex UI” is vague term. What separates a complex user interface from a simple user interface? Here’s a good rule of thumb for mobile apps: If you have to teach users how to use it, the app is too complex. Sure, your app may be the best thing since sliced bread, but if users find it confusing, they won’t use it.

“App developers forget that it’s all about the consumer,” says Clayton Cohn, President of Marketaction, Inc. “The developers get too close to the project and think they have the Holy Grail of apps but often times they are not palatable to consumers. For example, there are great apps that are just too intricate for the average person to utilize efficiently. Sure, a programmer or techie could make great use of it, but the average smartphone user would probably consider it more of a burden to learn the layout of the app and that it wouldn’t be worth the time to use it.”

5. Asking for too much user information

Sometime last year, Microsoft released an automation app called “on{X}.” It sounded like a great app…only there was one catch: To use the app, users had to log in with their facebook account. This hurt both user adoption and ratings, as many users balked at the facebook requirement.

“Users need to trust your app before they hand over their personal information,” says Adam Williams, Founder of Pangaea Learning. “Instead of prompting them for their email address or access to their Facebook account when opening your app for the first time, at least present them with a nice tutorial of what features they’ll get after registering.”

6. Creating unnecessary native apps

Some businesses create native apps because they’re so popular with consumers. This is a mistake. After all, native apps represent the most significant investment of both time and money out of the three mobile app approaches. Ask yourself, “Does this need to be native?” or “Will a mobile web app or a mobile web site address our goals?”

“When companies build an app, they should look at it from a user standpoint,” says James Dravitz, Chief Strategy Officer at Myriad Devices, LLC. “Apps that simply display information are generally not going to be used. Websites can handle that. Is the app going to push user interaction? Will it take advantage of location services, GPS, maps, or push notifications? Those are the use cases that make more sense in an application environment. A company looking to be “hip” and “new” simply by putting out an app without thinking it through will do more harm than good.”

7. Delivering a non-mobile optimized app

Some companies think they can carry their desktop or web app development expertise over into the mobile world. Be careful: Building for a touch-based interface on a small screen is far different than building apps for a mouse-based interface on a large screen. Don’t make the mistake of porting your desktop UIs over to your mobile apps.

“The biggest mistake a development company can make is to build a desktop application on a touch screen,” explains Dravitz. “Instead, they should look at it from a completely different direction. Design is the new key to app usage. More often than not, a user will get frustrated because an app is poorly designed. Does the interface make sense for the app’s function? Is it clean and nice to look at? Is it intuitive to use at a basic and advanced level? These are all necessities to a good user experience.”

Wrap up

Mobile apps represent a new and exciting opportunity for businesses. However, mobile app development presents a new set of hurdles that catch many businesses off guard. If your company is building, or even considering mobile apps, pay close attention to the points listed above. Avoiding these mistakes will put you on the right path to mobile success.