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Mobile App Monitoring Best Practices | @DevOpsSummit #APM #Monitoring
An app could be technically operating, but that doesn’t mean it’s operating in a way that’s satisfactory to a user
Feb. 22, 2017 04:15 PM
Mobile App Monitoring Best Practices
By Anupam Jindal
For many companies, and up until about just five years ago, the only metrics for how well a mobile app performed were network call errors and whether it crashed or not.
But those times are long behind us, as there’s nothing simple about today’s mobile apps. Issues are harder to find and fix than ever. Your app developers and quality engineers do testing before releasing the app to an app store. They go through all the common paths to find any issues or errors. But even with all this searching, it can still be difficult to find the source of an issue.
Technical complexity isn’t the only thing that’s exploded over the last five years — user expectations have become more complex as well. Mobile app crashes and network issues aren’t the only things that could result in what could be classified as a bad user experience.
An app could be technically operating, but that doesn’t mean it’s operating in a way that’s satisfactory to a user. Expectations have grown exponentially — primarily because the bar has been set so high. Users compare every app experience to some of the top players in the app store, like Facebook, Gmail, or Instagram, amongst others.
These extreme expectations go hand in hand with mobile apps because a good chunk of their business comes from organic user growth. About 30-50% of a mobile app’s users find the app by fiddling around in app stores like Google Play and Apple iTunes, or through advertisements. Unlike websites, mobile apps must be downloaded from app stores, and the app rating is displayed right at the top. This means that your business will lose out in mobile customer acquisition if you don’t have good ratings, regardless of how good your marketing strategy is. And obviously, good ratings come from satisfying user expectations.
To drill down a bit, here’s what a user is expecting from your mobile app, in addition to it being stable and error free.
- Highly responsive: Your app should load screens with content in less than 200 milliseconds, otherwise the application can be perceived as slow. Obviously, this number varies according to the geographical location of the user.
- Simplest experience to achieve a goal: Mobile apps should be built to achieve a goal in the simplest way possible because mobile devices have limited screen real estate and often suffer from limited attention span from users.
- Quick response to customer issues: Companies exchange hundreds of emails and spend multiple days to determine the source of an issue. For each customer, his or her issue is the most urgent one at that moment and should be addressed immediately.
During AppSphere 2016, I presented the following six best practices for mobile app monitoring with the goal of better meeting user expectations.
- Can you tell the health of your application in a second? You need to have a holistic view of your KPIs (key performance indicators). These KPIs must include crash rate, error rate, latencies, and a business metric (this could vary for different businesses, e.g., revenue, engagement, conversion, etc). The KPI view should be installed in every visible area of your mobile team section. Everybody should know the health of the application at any given minute.
- Whose problem is it anyway? Always know a quick way to tell what’s causing the issue and what tools you should have to help you. If you’re consulting multiple teams to see if they know the root cause of the issue, then you’ve already lost your customer’s trust. Your users and customers see you as one company and not as multiple teams or processes. You should have ways to point out the exact line of code that’s causing the issue.
- Are you asking your customers too many questions? Empower the customer voice with technical context. When users or customers have a bad experience with your app and they reach out to you for help, the last thing you want to do is to ask them what flow they went through, the buttons they clicked, or the type of phone they used. You should have tools to tell you the exact flow a user went through and how your code behaved through this flow.
- Who’s using your app, and how are they different? Understand your customer environment. You should know the geographies your application is used in and consumer preferences in different regions.
- Can you reproduce issues with certainty? This is the funniest one. Often a manager would go to his or her engineer and ask to fix an issue, and the developer would come back to say, “I can’t reproduce this issue.” So, the problem just happens for limited users only and isn’t important? Well, you aren’t going to meet customer expectations with that excuse. You should have a way to tell exactly the way a user got to that problem, so you can follow the steps and reproduce and address the issue.
- “Are you creating apps for the fun of it?” You aren’t, so you should have a way to correlate business and application performance. When your application is down on conversion or customer retention, you should know if that was driven by application performance or the business value.
These best practices should lead you to view your application through the right lens and help you keep up with user expectations.
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