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How to build enterprise mobile apps that users hate

EducationSummary: Many companies rush into mobile apps, completely unaware of the risks and challenges that come with the territory. The result: They deliver an app that nobody wants to use–completely wasting the time and money invested in the development process. In this article, we identify some of the biggest mistakes businesses make with mobile app development, and explain why they must be avoided.

Over the past year, the growth of enterprise mobile apps has skyrocketed. Identified by one survey as the top CIO priority for 2016, IT leaders have recognized the importance of mobilizing their enterprise applications.

But, there’s just one slight problem. Mobile app development is uncharted territory for most IT departments. As they race to create mobile apps for their customers/employees, many make critical mistakes along the way.

The result: They deliver apps that their users hate. In fact, one study found that nearly 80% of enterprise mobile apps are abandoned after their first use.

Why does this happen? What mistakes lead to this app abandonment?

Today, let’s answer those questions. We’ll identify common mobile app mistakes and explain why they must be avoided. Here are 7 critical mobile app development missteps that will result in an app that your users hate:

1. Ignore user context

photo credit: geralt via pixabay cc
photo credit: geralt via pixabay cc

Before you consider a mobile business application, you must ask a couple of questions: Why do our customers/employees need a mobile app? How will this help them solve a problem they currently face?

Ignore those questions, and nothing else matters. Nobody will use your app.

Yet, this is an issue we see regularly. Businesses approach mobile apps from their own perspective (not the user’s needs). They build mobile apps just to keep up. They deliver apps that their customers/employees don’t need or want. As explained below, ignoring the user’s needs is the surest way to guarantee that nobody uses your app.

“The biggest mistake is not understanding the context,” says Mobile Expert Will Pate. “What job is the user hiring the app to do? Are helping them accomplish that job in a way that is demonstrably better than the current alternatives? If you’re not solving a user’s problem in a clear and immediate way, nothing else you do can save your app because it’s irrelevant to the user.”

2. Focus only on function

Now, your mobile app may meet your user’s needs…and still fail. It may deliver every feature they requested. Yet, the users still hate it.


Delivering a truly useful mobile app goes beyond features. It’s all about the experience. Is the app confusing? Does it try to do too much? Does it require training? If you answer “Yes” to any of those questions, your app will most likely fail. A successful app focuses on both function and experience, and involves the users along the way.

“I worry about code and functionality – but the truth is that the best way to make an awful app is to focus only on quickly delivering “correct” functions, then shipping,” says David Ashe, Developer & Organizer, NYC Bootcampers Anonymous. “Either a User Experience designer or developers familiar with UX must do initial AS WELL AS mid-project UX testing or the app will be a Palm Pilot while someone else delivers an iphone. Merely guessing from the beginning what will make the app useful is nothing compared to several rounds of live user testing.”

3. Try to fit every feature into your app

photo credit: Walter Benson via photopin cc
photo credit: Walter Benson via photopin cc

Yet another common mistake found in many business mobile apps: They try to do too much. The developers try to cram every feature into the app. After all, more features is good…right?

Quite the opposite. With mobile apps, less is more.

Look around at some of the most popular mobile apps. They succeed because they eliminate complexity. They focus on one or two primary goals, and eliminate the rest.

If your enterprise mobile app is going to succeed, you must first identify its goal. What one or two tasks will it help the user accomplish? How easily can they accomplish those tasks?

“The whole philosophy of making enterprise processes on your phone is to simplify, but the biggest trap I see enterprise apps fall into is information overload,” says Sloane Berry, UX designer at BPM Technologies. “When you have long pages that you have to scroll through or if you have to click through several pages to get your information it creates a bad user experience. You want to be able to view your most important items on a dashboard at a glance, and then have the option to dig deeper. The key is keeping apps to as few pages as possible, without being sensory overload.”

“It’s important not to have the app do too much. The industry is moving toward more and more simple processes. The most successful consumer apps offer one thing and only require you to press one button. While enterprise apps may need to be more complex, that complexity shouldn’t trickle down to the user. The whole mobile app industry is moving toward one-click gratification and it’s become the most desirable way for people to interact with technology.”

4. Ignore connectivity

What is the biggest advantage of building mobile web apps for your business? You have your data and applications with you wherever you go! You can reach your customers anywhere!

But, what happens if you lose your data connection? After all, what if your salespeople venture into a rural area? What if your field technicians work in a location with spotty coverage? Are your mobile web apps worthless without a data connection? If so, you’ll only frustrate your users.

While improving, mobile networks still don’t offer 100% coverage everywhere. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t factor this into their development–resulting in an app that frustrates users.

“Many applications become useless when out of mobile data coverage,” explains Nic Grange, CTO of Retriever Communications. “This can result in losing data entered and making users having to re-enter it which users obviously hate.”

Quick note: Many think that the need for offline capabilities eliminates mobile web apps. This is a myth. HTML5 brings offline capabilities to web (and mobile web) apps, meaning your mobile web apps can function without a data connection.

5. Ignore perceived speed

photo credit: geralt via pixabay cc
photo credit: geralt via pixabay cc

According to recent research, speed is even more important for mobile apps than it is for typical websites. Users will not tolerate mobile apps that are slow to open or operate.

But, what does application “speed” actually mean? Traditionally, it refers to response time–how quickly the application responds to user requests. But, research has found that lowering the response time isn’t the only way to improve application speed. In fact, “perceived performance” may actually be more important than actual performance.

“While application speed is critical to mobile app usability, we’ve found that it goes a step beyond that,” says Brian Duffey, a Consultant at mrc. “It’s not so much how fast the application is, as much as how fast the application feels to the user. It’s the perceived speed that makes the difference. This can be accomplished by adding touch states to your buttons or using unique loading animations, among other things. In making the application feel fast and responsive, the user believes it is faster.”

6. Deliver too many notifications

Native apps let you deliver push notifications to the user’s device. These notifications alert the user to important news or information.

The problem is, many developers abuse this privilege. They send push notifications for minor events. Why is this such a problem?

First, it annoys the user. They’re already receiving notifications from their other apps. What happens when they start seeing unnecessary notifications from yours? They’ll get frustrated and may even delete your app.

Second, you train the user to ignore your notifications. If most of them aren’t important, they’ll skip over every one…negating the effectiveness of push notifications altogether.

“One way I’ve seen enterprise apps fail is because app makers don’t think about the frequency of the communication,” says Julie Ginches, CMO at Kahuna. “There are some mission-critical apps where push notifications can and should come through the second they’re available (i.e. for a support app or a systems uptime app) but inundating your workers with irrelevant messages is an easy way to get people to ignore or delete the app.”

7. Apply excessive security controls

photo credit: stevepb via pixabay cc
photo credit: stevepb via pixabay cc

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you to create vulnerable applications. However, you must understand the differences between mobile apps and desktop apps, and adjust accordingly.

For instance, what happens if you force users to log out every couple of hours? On a desktop, it’s not a big deal. But, on a mobile device, that’s a major inconvenience. While proper security is essential in mobile app development, you must implement it in such a way that it doesn’t cripple the app’s experience.

“Excess security on mobile devices can render them almost unusable,” says Grange. “Users will either not use the device or they will find ways around it like sticky tapping the password to the device. The security controls need to consider the user experience and reflect the often limited access that users have on a mobile device.”


While this list could certainly go on, the points listed above are just a few of the common mistakes businesses make with their mobile app development. What do you think? Would you add anything to the list? If so, please feel free to share in the comments.

3 thoughts on “How to build enterprise mobile apps that users hate”

  1. I personally think customization is overrated, but I agree with the other two recommendations. Unfortunately, budgets for enterprise applications are often more constrained than they are for consumer apps. As a result, enterprise app developers often turn to cross platform or hybrid solutions. This may improve time to market, but it is generally at the expense of good user experience.

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