Customer Experience

‘So your mobile app is crap’ - Six successful strategies to get your mobile app back on track and improve the UX

Women checking fitness app together

Apps. Every organisation has got one or more. And all their customers are encouraged to download and engage with each and every one. While this sounds ideal, the reality is somewhat trickier. Open your phone now and there’s a good chance you have screen upon screen of apps that you never use regularly, if at all.

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According to 2021’s App Attention Index, 57% of people say brands have one shot to impress them and that if their digital service does not perform, they won’t use them again.

So what’s the answer? How can you make sure your app isn’t destined for the digital graveyard?

Whether you’re embarking upon a new app build, or the latest round of updates to an existing app, here are a few simple and quick strategies we’ve seen successfully utilised by our clients.

1. Find out what your customers actually want, by looking into what they say about your app

Sounds obvious, but getting the word on the street from those who use your app - your customers - can reveal more than any internal workshop or meeting.

Whatever your intentions, your end users are the ones who (hopefully) will welcome the right kind of improvements, so they can use it the way they want.

young woman holding smartphone at a cafe Look into what your customers say and find out what they actually want.
  • Gain a better understanding of your users’ needs through user research and then centre the app interactions around these, rather than relying upon stakeholder feedback. 

  • Action several rounds of usability testing or even a quick in app survey.

  • Centre app interactions around your user’s needs, rather than your company’s internal structure. 

  • Put your energy into improving journeys and those moments that matter, especially the user needs at those moments.

  • Always question your assumptions.

2. App Store is where it’s at. Meet your most powerful feedback tool

Your customers expect your app to work. Your mission is to meet, and potentially exceed this benchmark.

And yes, we understand that not everyone has the time or budget to initiate thorough user research. However, even if you don’t have time for full-on research, the least you can do is look at the app store ratings and reviews.

Both iOS App Store and Android Play Store showcase app ratings with and without reviews.

These reviews will help you understand (and prioritise) the most common customer pain points. Studying ratings with reviews will give you a more insightful perspective. Remember, these are people who care enough to spend time giving you feedback.

Reviews will also highlight if your app is specifically to blame, or if it’s a wider service issue. In our experience, most negative comments relate to the physical customer service supporting the digital products and services.

Quick wins

  • Review and recognise patterns in the reviews to highlight the biggest pains your current users have.
     
  • If most of the reviews talk about your app being slow or crashing, focus on improving app performance, then find and fix those visual and functional bugs.
     
  • If the problems are wider than just the app, then your task is to improve the service where it’s currently doing the most damage.
     
  • Make sure your confirmation emails and password reset emails are as fast and effective as possible. This can go a long way to improve the UX.

3. Bake in longevity and broaden app appeal

You’ve taken onboard the customer feedback, but don’t overlook the importance of accessibility. Now it’s time to get your app fighting fit, by making your app as universal, usable and accessible as possible. 

Making sure your app successfully caters to a broad set of users sounds like a no-brainer, but many businesses are still failing to build in the basics.

senior man using smart phone app Don't overlook the importance of accessibility. Make your app usable and accessible as possible.

Quick wins

  • Make sure your screen designs are clear, with simple consistent navigation.
     
  • Build in font resizing options, and check your buttons, links and images are all correctly labelled with the right textual labels and alt tags.
     
  • Check if your app works with a high contrast ratio. Even users with excellent eyesight can struggle to read screens in direct sunlight.
     
  • Design for colour blindness and dyslexia, and support your users with in-app video and audio guides. Also, make sure you offer captions where necessary.
     
  • And don’t forget to test, test, test.

4. Improve data collection

By now, you’ve listened to, and hopefully learned from your customers about their app experiences; the good, bad and embarrassingly ugly, and committed to improve your mobile UX.

While you’re at it, it’s also a perfect opportunity to keep ahead of any future problems. Which means getting the right kind of data, without annoying customers, existing and new.

In essence, try to only request and store the data you need, and articulate the benefits to your customers. Highlight that your data policy is all about improving and personalising their app experience.

Quick wins:

  • Be brutal in cutting down what information you need from your customers. When collecting data or permissions during any onboarding, clearly state what’s in it for users at the point you ask.

This will help streamline the user experience and reduce your GDPR overhead.

  • Make use of captured data to offer faster, tailored experiences by remembering and utilising the data along the journey, or during their next app interaction. For example, give users the ability to save their progress, or do so automatically, so users can return to complete lengthier journeys.
     
  • Consider the methods of data capture available on mobile to make user’s lives easier – perhaps scan documents with the camera, use QR codes, harness autofill data, but remember to offer alternatives. Be aware that mobile users could potentially fill in data capture fields in a variety of different situations when using your app.

5. Make content matter

Content. It’s a ‘one size fits all’ term for what your customers experience when using your app. And it’s always worth refreshing, or refining.

Take the time to figure out not only how your app functions, but also get clarity on what and why your customers are there in the first place. Like your help guides or FAQs. Are they up to date, or still relevant?

Quick wins

  • Simplify the app's information architecture and declutter content, and ensure the app is simple and quick to navigate through.
     
  • Use simple language, imagery and step-by-step guides to describe app services, thereby creating a better in-app customer support environment. The easier your services and tasks are to understand, the faster your users can achieve them.
     
  • Make menu terminology consistent and try to avoid duplication wherever possible across the app.
     
  • Explain service options and pricing in advance and in a clear and easy to understand way.

6. Surprise and delight

While there’s no silver bullet for guaranteed success, keeping your customers front and centre is always vital.

Don’t assume they want your app, or any other apps. Take the time to convince them. Showcase the problems the app solves, or the value it adds. Make it clear to customers why they should download your app.

Keep them engaged, with regular fresh content, or improved updated features, ideally informed by their feedback. Behaviours and requirements change over time, and you need to keep ahead of them.

Quick wins:

  • Keep an eye out for memorable app features that you’ve encountered. What made them stand out?
     
  • Is there any scope to automate some of the regular tasks your users must perform to save them precious time?
     
  • Or could you help join the dots by harnessing other relevant data, thereby reassuring and inspiring your customers?
     
  • Gamification, when used sparingly, can be a great way to freshen up app interactions. Just make sure it’s not irritating or a barrier to task progress.

What's next?

At Zühlke, we’re well-versed in helping people do more with less, by using simple and quick strategies to improve mobile app UX and satisfaction.

But if you are struggling with poor app ratings, maybe now is the time to step back and let Zühlke look at your challenge from a different perspective. With the right insights, we can help you prioritise your product roadmap and make sure your digital investments bring value to your customers.

Drop us a line if you need help conducting user research or need to deliver valuable app improvements.

Tijana Tasich, Experience Design Consulting Director at Zühlke

Tijana Tasich

Experience Design Consulting Director

Tijana is the Consulting Director at Zuehlke UK, specialising in customer experience strategy, research and design. She is the capability Lead for Product and Service Design in ZUK. In her long career, she has led the strategy, design and delivery of human-centric experiences, products and services for clients across various industries. She is passionate about improving customer experiences by challenging clients' assumptions and bringing the voice of the customer to the foreground of their decision-making.

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