Top 10 App Quality Monsters: Part 2

This is the second part, of a 2-part series. To read part one, click here

Reviews Monster: Apps mean app reviews. This monster is either your buddy, or a vicious enemy. Of course you and your friends post reviews for your app like “Best monkey jumping game ever!” 5-stars, but those are soon drown out by the real user reviews. Often the most up voted reviews are talking about how it crashes on launch on a particular device, or how it is missing important features that users expected to find. When users click on your $1.48 Facebook ad, get to your download page, and then see all these negative reviews and a less than perfect star rating, they might be less than excited to download your app and launch it. More importantly these days, that star rating also sits right next to your app’s icon, which is often your brand’s logo. The marketing team and CEO don’t much like the app team that gets a 2-star rating next to their logo for billions to see.

Reviews can be an awesome resource. These review monsters are strong and complex. If you listen to them, you can quickly learn what users dislike, or what they wish your app did, and you can quickly fix it. In the days of web or desktop applications, you often had no idea why folks weren’t using your app, or what features they wished for. A strange things happens when your app reaches 4.7 stars too—-you get too scared to launch a new version for fear of a ratings drop. This fear also means that you don’t keep your app fresh and matching the latest OS look and feel, and you get dinged in star ratings eventually anyway. The review monster is a harsh reality of app stores.

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Figure 1: Here is a peek at the most common quality issues reported in reviews. Note: “Satisfaction” is just about how happy they are, or aren’t, with your app. Think about what user might say about your app.

Metrics Monster: The metrics monster is actually your friend—as long as you two are talking. There are so many easy-to-add and easy-to-view ways to track your apps. Collect and report on all crashes, check. Track your revenue and download counts, even versus other apps, check. See where your users are in the world right now, check. Collect feedback from users from within the app, check. See how many users keep your app after 30 days, check. Performance of all your web requests, and your server reliability, check. If you aren’t tracking all these things, and leveraging the data they generate your competitors are and will eat your lunch. If you aren’t talking with the metrics monster, he’s helping your competitors get better, faster.

Competition Monster: Desktop applications had competition—but the users had to find a CD-ROM, or wait for a 25 minute download, and often had to buy it to try it. A web site’s competition lives just behind the blue links in a Google search result. Closer than on the desktop, but the competition monsters is still a few clicks away without pictures. Todays app stores go out of their way to show interested users the competition, with pictures, at the very point users are deciding whether to download your app. The app world is very competitive. There are millions of other apps. Literally millions. And, the rich get richer. If you have a good, but not great app, its unlikely you will be discovered or users will keep you around when the next similar, but prettier app comes by. You have to be brave and honest with your apps quality—compare yourself with the best. Which flappy bird app clone is yours?

Security and Privacy Monster: With desktop applications, it was widely understood that about any app can read or write any data it likes to your machine; dangerous, but expected. Web sites usually posed the threat of leaking the information that you put into them—one website at a time. Mobile apps are a bit scarier because the devices they live on your device and can easily be left on an airplane, or fall out of your pocket at the casino. Your whole digital life is in there. Apps all live next to each other on these devices. The device even has all your friends’ phone numbers, and email addresses. The mobile OS’s do a pretty good job to save people from themselves via sandboxing. But, its also easier than ever to build an app that does something dorky like log clear text passwords to system, or put private information in a folder where all the other apps can discover it. Some apps are even used to get access to doors in the physical world. An app that asked for more permissions than it obviously needs will get slammed. Privacy and Security for apps is important, but it’s also half perception and have reality—you need to think of both.

UI/UX Monster: Desktop apps, had a mouse and and big keyboard. Web sites, well, we’ve always had lower expectations of web pages, and as you move around the web there are many other sites that look less awesome as yours. The mobile app world is the worst of all worlds; clumsy thumbs, tiny screens, and most apps try hard to look shiny, and do cool things when users do stuff like pinch, swipe, double tap, and more. App users in general expect a seamless experience as they move between the OS and your app, and other apps. You can’t get away with being too ‘odd’, out of date, or having a confusing or feature-rich interface. App users expect less functionality and far better UX. UX is often the differentiator in very competitive, commodity, parts of the app store. Have an awesome UX.

Agile Team Monster: This monster is you and your team. The exact type of monster depends on your company and how ‘app-focused’ you are. The rapid shift to app development, and it’s importance in organizations has had some interesting effects on companies, and app quality.
•You might find yourself in an app startup—where the company lives or dies based on your apps quality. This usually leads to great apps as the entire business is focused, but very dangerous if you ignore the quality monsters.
•Or, you might find yourself on a interns, new hires, or “just another client team”, starting to build a mobile client for the companies web site. This usually leads to useful, but just OK apps as the team isn’t as focused app, or mobile-first. Here, you are in an awesome position if you deliver a great app—you can ride the explosion in mobile and quickly become the most important face of your company in this new app-focused world.
•You could also find yourself in a company that only sees the app as an extension of your companies brand and marketing, and the app development or testing might be entirely done by a vendor. In this case, its very important to verify the quality of the app vendor’s work, as they aren’t always as aligned or aware of your companies goals. Quality reflects on the brand—its the sole purpose of the app.

The world is going to apps, and particularly mobile apps, understand your team’s weaknesses and strengths related to app quality.

The app world is a more dangerous world for quality. Apps crash on us all the time. Apps can be annoying and great apps can make our lives amazingly more efficient, informed, and even fun. Please watch out for the top 10 quality monsters so your app rocks when I download it.

Check out more details on these and other tips for Agile app teams in the new book: @

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