We live in a world dominated by smartphones and discovering ways to interact and engage with customers has become a vital point. Although UI is a crucial part of user experience, it is the usability that should always be a priority.
If your mobile app is difficult to use, no matter its modern and appealing design, the overall perception will be negative.
And let’s get real – a mobile app’s success depends only on one thing: how the users perceive it.
Firstly, don’t confuse UX with usability.
Usability is an aspect of UX that covers an overall relationship between the user and the product. Mobile app usability relates to efficiency and simplicity of achieving the goals within the app.
In my last article I wrote that a successful mobile app must be intuitive, meaning it should take very little time for a user to become familiar with the interface. So the shorter the time a user needs to get to know the interface, the more usable it is.
Mobile app usability promotes learnability – you should make your app as simple to use as possible. Even if users encounter problems, a solution should be easily findable. You should use onboarding to guide the users through your app as it improves usability.
The same usability contributes directly to how the users feel about your app and helps convert them to loyal and long-term customers.
What are the usability issues that you should pay attention to?
1. Different platforms, OS and resolution
Android and iOS are two completely different platforms and each sticks to different development. Thus, you cannot copy an iOS app to Android platform and vice versa. For example, Android ‘back’ button differs completely to an iOS one, so you should create an app that follows a natural flow of the platform that the users can interact with intuitively.
The same goes for each operating system (OS) – an app which simulate the look and the feel of the OS is essential – it helps the users to adapt to an app faster and prevents any discrepancies within the UX. Android 8.0 Oreo launched ‘Picture-in-picture’ and allowed their users to do two things at once. If you’re watching Youtube and get an SMS, you can continue watching while replying to the text. That’s an excellent way to go the extra mile for your users which will convert them to your loyal customers.
Another thing you must include is different mobile screen resolution – the same content may look awesome on one device and completely wrong on another just due to the resolution nevertheless that it’s the same OS and the same version.
2. Landscape Mode bypass
When developing a mobile app, people usually discard landscape mode as not being necessary.
If you want to have a good mobile app, you should take into account both portrait and landscape mode for optimal usability and UX, especially if your app contains video content.
3. Too many steps
None of us want to hassle with endless typing or tapping too many times for a single task especially if the steps aren’t as necessary as it seems. Each action an app requires is seen as another obstacle in the way for the users so make sure to examine the action and if there’s an alternative to make it easier for them. The simpler you make it for the users, the longer they will stay with your app.
Examples are: registration with social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google etc. instead of making the users typing in their email address, one-click payment instead of typing in the credit card number and other info etc. The lesson: reduce the number of steps for the users and they will respond back to you with their loyalty.
4. Never-ending scrolling
Prioritizing the most important information adds to the usability effectiveness – it’s inevitable to scroll down in certain cases, but most of the time you should try to reduce it as much as possible.
Users should be able to get the most of the needed information within the limits of the screen. There is also side scrolling which is said to be avoided since it usually hides valuable content.
5. Poor navigation
App developers can create great features but sometimes the same features don’t fit together in an organized way. When users enter your app, they need to understand how to navigate and quickly do what they want: play a game, make a purchase, check their balance etc.
Don’t add bunch of buttons or links that aren’t necessary as it may lead to the user being confused and trying to memorize how to reach a certain place within the app.
If that happens, it is highly unlikely they’ll come back to figure it out – instead, they will just leave and won’t come back.
6. No auto-filled user data
Auto-suggestion is a powerful way to reduce data input and help users to get instant search results. Google support indicate that auto-suggestions should consider: user search terms, trending searches and related searches performed in the past.
Apps which don’t have auto-fill data nowadays are regarded as poor in terms of usability. Typically, auto-suggestions should appear after a certain number of input characters (usually after 3 characters) but the important thing is to leave ‘EDIT’ button visible so that users can modify the suggestion in case it appears as incorrect.
7. Incomplete onboarding
It’s a wide known fact that more than 20% of users abandon the app after only a single use. The best way to instantly show the users a true value of your app is through onboarding.
Onboarding is a process of getting new users to understand and engage with your app enough to keep using it, instead of abandoning it. It’s important to design an interesting onboarding process that encourages users to return to your app again.
There are multiple app onboarding flows that you can use to engage the users. One way is sending single push notifications to new customers within their first week on the app – there are also other like benefit approach, features approach, interactive or combination approach etc.
It’s also a good way to check onboarding examples of the similar apps to get more ideas on how to create your own.
8. Unclear content
When making the content for mobile, don’t copy-paste from the web directly as it won’t be the same. You should adjust the mobile content so not to include too much information displayed on mobile screen.
Pop up content, if done right, can do wonders for a mobile app – it can provide additional info and help users to get instant feedback.
If you want to do it properly, choose the right content for your pop ups and choose the right timing – only when it’s relevant for the user. Adding too much information will result in poor UX and may frustrate the users digging to find specific content.
The best approach is to make it as easy as possible for the users to utilize your content which must be shown in a clear and concise way.
9. Unresponsive gesturization
Nothing annoys more like when you tap a button within an app and nothing happens.
Why is the button there if it doesn’t work?
It may be that an app is really ‘broken’ or just unresponsive at that time, or maybe a user navigates an app in his/her own way logical to them, but the result remains the same – frustration.
Sometimes the app has no navigation as the user feel it should, so the best practice is to include ‘touch heatmaps’ – a qualitative analytics tool which can show where your users interact on a certain screen, where most users tap on each screen, what is being ignored as well as spotting the unresponsive gestures with ease.
Once you pinpoint the weak spots, you can improve the usability.
10. Lack of User Feedback
The most important thing you can do to test your usability is A/B testing – it allows you to test two different layouts or designs e.g you can test the effectiveness of the buttons or how they differ in driving conversions or retention. There are many tools for A/B testing and it’s always better to test rather than assume what the users prefer in an app.
You need to get the feedback outside your company testers and determine the needs and usability obstacles through measures such as surveys. Additionally, you should check eye tracking and click tracking studies which can provide insights into how the users browse and click within the app so to pinpoint the areas of confusion.
As per International Standard ISO 9241-11, usability is the capability of the product to be understood, learned and operated. The usability of the product must consider the three aspects: efficiency, easiness to learn and user satisfaction.
Usability means paying attention to the little things that can make or break the success of your mobile app and making sure that users are able to achieve the specified goal in the particular environment.
All these can help your app to break through in a saturated app market – you should invest more so to ensure you’re heading in the right direction a.k.a. success.