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User Retention and User Experience: Working Hand In Hand

Ran Avrahamy Dec 01, 2014

Coming up with that golden idea for an app is no easy task. With so many apps available today, inventing something useful that does not already exist is a challenge, to be sure. But conceiving of the app seems like a cakewalk compared to actually developing the app. So much goes into it, from finding the right team to do the work to the technical aspects to the design to the function… It is a challenging process that generally requires a lot of time, money, and effort. But that all melts away when you realize how much work will have to go into marketing your app and excelling at user acquisition. You could have a million-dollar app but it is worth nothing if no one knows about it and downloads it.

There is a clear chain of creativity and necessity when it comes to an app. Conception, development and user acquisition are all absolute necessities and without these three steps there is nothing else. It may seem like the work is done once users have downloaded your app, but acquiring users is only half the battle – keeping them is the other half. If thousands – even millions – of people download your app but neglect it shortly thereafter, it is rendered useless. Without regular user engagement, your app will wither away.

It is a depressing thought, no doubt, but know the situation is not hopeless. User retention is an alive-and-kicking art form and the secret to keeping users coming back to your app is two simple words: user experience (UX). Believe it or not, UX could be the make-or-break when it comes to the success of your app and the retention of its users. Delivering a great mobile UX is the exact sort of thing that will keep your users coming back and will result in an increased user retention rate, as well as increased conversions and in-app monetization.


Problematic UX – Determining the Causes

What kind of UX problems might users encounter that lead to app abandonment and a decrease in your user retention rate?
A few common and easy-to-fix problems include:

  • Crashes – When a technical matter causes the app to crash. Users who experience crashes likely will not return to use your app. In fact, in a study by Compuware only 16% of app users said they would return to an app if it crashed more than twice.
  • Checkout Process (For M-commerce Apps)
    • If there are too many steps to make the actual purchase, a user can lose patience and interest.
    • Payment should be a quick and easy step, so if there are not enough payment options and there is difficulty in making a purchase a user will walk away from the shopping cart.
  • Device Differences – Often apps will vary in appearance, depending on the device and operating systems. If an app is not designed for multiple devices, its appearance can be altered and confusing.
  • Confusing User Interface (UI) – UI contributes to mobile UX. If the UI is not user friendly, clear, and easy to navigate, it creates a negative user experience. For example:
    • When an image on the app appears to require an action but does not, it leaves users clicking on something that does nothing, frustrated them.
    • Calls-To-Action (CTA) exist on the screen but are not noticeable, leaving users unsure of how to advance.
  • Onboarding – When a new user downloads your app and opens it for the first time, have some sort of onboarding process in place. Do not assume a user knows what to do; instead, include introductory screens in your app. Make the directions on how to use your app clear with in-line tips or brief interactive tutorials.


Measuring User Retention and Mobile UX

User retention is key after releasing an app and the reason to pay so much attention to mobile UX. User retention can be determined by how many times a user returns to your app after their initial visit in a particular timeframe. Cohort analysis, a popular feature in mobile analytics, provides you with a percentage of returning users.

It may seem like a daunting task to determine where exactly your users run into UX issues, but there are ways of isolating the problematic points. Standard mobile analytics tools may present you with key metrics numbers, such as the number of active users or the bounce rate. These standard metrics will let you know that you have a retention problem, but in order to fix the problem, you need to understand your users’ experience with your app. Visual app analytics tools, such as Appsee, focus on how users interact with your app. Using touch heatmaps that track every pinch, tap, and swipe as well as user recordings that capture actual user sessions will allow you to dive into the user experience and behavior and understand your users in depth.

Using visual mobile analytics will enable you to improve your user retention rate by diving into the user experience and identifying exactly what requires refinement, eliminating the guesswork that occurs from just looking at the numbers.
Tracking is an ongoing process in which you monitor and analyze how users interact with your app, starting at the onboarding process and continuing as they become active users, allowing you to optimize, launch and repeat accordingly.
The UX improvements will lead to a positive experience for your users and give them every reason to keep coming back and improving your user retention exponentially.


About the author:

Robin Schwartz is the Community Manager at Appsee App Analytics. She has been working in Hi Tech for over 9 years and loves working in the Mobile space. She can be reached on LinkedIn and invites you to follow along as she posts for her company’s blog on everything mobile.