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10 Important Usability Issues in Mobile Apps

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.

Source: lesmills.com

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?

Different platforms and OS

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. 

Source: maxsnitser.com

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.

Source: maxsnitser.com

Landscape Mode bypass

Phone can operate in two orientations – portrait, which is described as used by one hand and on the go and landscape mode, described as used while stagnant and with both hands. 

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.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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.

Source: sitepoint.com

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. 

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.  

Source: smashingmagazine.com

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. 

Source: www.oreilly.com

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. 

Source: dribble.com

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.

Source: Appiterate Survey

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.

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.

Source: maxsnitser.com

FINAL THOUGHT

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.

How to Improve UX for Your Mobile App

An old Google study revealed at the time that an average mobile user has around 36 installed apps but regularly uses only 9 of them on a daily basis.

A great UX design can leave a long lasting impression and that’s what makes a difference between the apps the users keep or the ones they delete.

How to make a great UX design?

UX design is a dynamic process – to offer your users the best experience possible, listen to their feedback on what they like or dislike about your product – it will help you to continue to iterate with each released version of your app. 

You should always follow a user-centric design so that the app grows to fit the needs of the user as

everything revolves around the END USER

Firstly, always do a short research – explore similar mobile apps and their features but don’t be a copycat as what works for one mobile app might not work for the other. 

Instead, learn from your competition and analyze why certain trends work and why others don’t. Combine your research with your own brand to serve your business and your users’ needs –  repeat, customize and learn from the research as it will make your UX stronger in the long run.

The most common way of validating your product is testing it with your target audience. Develop a minimum viable product (MVP) first to figure out if your idea’s well-accepted by its core users. 

In case you wonder how much will it cost to develop a mobile app, you can check some online calculators which can help you to get some rough estimation.

What are the best ways to improve UX for your mobile app?

Proper features and speed 

Google/SOASTA research states that if a page takes more than 5 seconds to load, the probability of bounce increases 90%! It’s a wide known fact today that many mobile users abandon an app after a single use just because it doesn’t deliver the user experience they expected.

There are many ways to speed up your mobile page such as optimizing images, reducing plugins etc. so check them for making your page load as quick as possible.

The functionality of the app must help users to complete tasks and it’s the first motivation for downloading your app. Prioritize core features crucial for completing the tasks and offer only relevant features that will encourage even more users to ‘taste’ your mobile app.

Efficient onboarding and usability 

When users try your mobile app and come across troubles within the first few screens, they’ll discard the app without thinking.

Onboarding shows the value of your app to users by demonstrating how to do what they want quickly and efficiently. Delivering a good onboarding experience is the cornerstone for attracting and retaining the users. We already know that user retention drops within the first few weeks but if you include efficient onboarding, you may witness an increase of 50% in app user retention. Not only it lowers the abandonment rates but can also help boost long-term success metrics like user retention and user lifetime value

Reduce the number of steps within account creation/sign up etc. and include multiple registration options (Facebook, Google, Twitter etc.) as users value simplicity. 

You can show your users which icons can be tapped or swiped, consider the size of buttons and links and make it easy for users to tap them – just remain consistent with gestures within your app so to optimize usability and put enough space between the buttons to prevent any selection errors. 

Source: mobileapplicationdevelopment.com

Minimal User Input

Try to reduce search effort for your users with some search strategies like barcode scan or keyword search. It guides the users directly to what they’re looking for and the simplicity of the process can significantly increase conversion rates. User input (entering credit card number, registration data, checkout information etc.) should be minimal as users can get frustrated with the smaller screen.

To avoid high abandon rates, make sure to limit the number of fields required and include only the necessary information. You may also add autocomplete, shortcuts, spell check and prediction text assistance to build better user experience. 

Source: appjetty.com

Gesturization Tune 

Gesturization involves actions that users make while interacting with your app like swiping, tapping, scrolling or pinching. Knowing your users’ behaviour is crucial for gesturization as it helps to understand the actions they’re familiar with.

Gestures enable users to engage with the technology through the sense of touch and some popular gestures are: tap, double-tap, swipe, drag, pinch and press. Good thinking is to keep swipe gestures out of hard-reach areas, to provide enough tapping space etc., as these gestures are just a cherry on the top of UX cake for smartphone users. 

Source: www.smashingmagazine.com

Clean and tactical UI design

Your design should be glanceable – it means that your visual design conveys the message easily and quickly, at a glance. Maintain the visual consistency with the color palette, typography and other elements; create a seamless visual flow from first to other elements and facilitate for the users to complete their goals with ease. 

Remember, be consistent with UI design and just keep it simple – less actions, darker colours, shorter navigation and limited background services. 

Keep the unwanted features away from the users as it can slow them down from achieving the goal thus leading them to abandoning the app. 
A minimalistic approach to your mobile app design is always the best choice

THE MORE MINIMAL, THE BETTER.

Security and trust 

A thing that can be annoying is when a user downloads the app and instantly gets overrun with permissions to be accepted prior to using the app itself. Make sure to provide transparent permission policies and allow your users to control how their personal information is shared within a mobile app. 

If you clearly outline your business policies and practices, your users will be more secure when accepting permissions. You can include links to your privacy regulations or display trusted badges of security, especially if your users trust your app for their personal and financial information.

Source: www.wired.com

Clear CTA

When defining action buttons for your mobile app, you must define your action clearly.

An action button should be easily visible and approachable so create bigger buttons and place them at a fair distance to allow easier app navigation.

Sometimes, just plain wording does a trick, e.g. to put ‘request a cab’ button instead ‘submit an order’ as it will explain the purpose better.

Personalized UX 

Personalization provides a unique UX. Personalize whenever possible because if you align user experience with users’ preferences, they’re more likely to continue using your mobile app.

To remind, make sure to display only relevant content as irrelevant content or too many push notifications will create a counter effect. You can use location data to suggest specific retail or e commerce deals to certain users, or you can include user’s name in messaging – all these are effective ways to personalize.

Support 

Users usually need assistance so provide them with multiple ways for customer support like self-serve FAQs, live support, click to call buttons or live chats. As per a survey, customers today prefer a self service rather than contacting a support agent, so it is a wise move to offer them such feature.

It will help users to reach their goal quickly and in return, you will get a happy customer hence increase your user retention. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The above tips show that your app must be intuitive for users along with visually pleasing design and reliable without draining the battery. UX design itself should be subtle, natural and decluttered – the users must feel the obvious navigation flow. 

It MUST fulfill the users’ needs and MUST NOT be faulty. 

The key to failure is trying to please everyone so don’t make your mobile app for anyone – do the research for your target audience and find your unique value proposition (UVP) as it’ll help you to build a loyal user base. 


Effective UX is a foundation of a mobile app - every brand needs to provide a positive experience with their digital content to their customers, users and clients.