How Defective Apps Can Kill Your Business

This article is first published on Linkedin

In today’s world, many businesses are changing their modus operands by embracing the internet and going digital. Most of these are accomplished by the use of “apps”. The word app has become very popular, and in 2010 was listed as "Word of the Year" by the American Dialect Society.

An app is a computer software, or a program, most commonly a small, specific one used for mobile devices. The term app originally referred to any mobile or desktop application, but as more app stores have emerged to sell mobile apps to smartphone and tablet users, the term has evolved to refer to small programs that can be downloaded and installed all at once.

The usage of mobile apps has become increasingly significant across mobile devices. In May 2012, comScore reported that during Q1 2012, more mobile subscribers uses apps than browse the web on their devices: 51.1% vs. 49.8% respectively. Researchers found that usage of mobile apps strongly correlates with user context and depends on user's location and time of the day. Mobile apps are playing an ever-increasing role within healthcare and when designed and integrated correctly can yield many benefits.

Market research firm Gartner predicted that 102 billion apps would be downloaded in 2013 (91% of them free), which would generate $26 billion in the US, up 44.4% on 2012's US$18 billion. By Q2 2015, the Google Play and Apple stores alone generated $5 billion. An analyst report estimates that the app economy creates revenues of more than €10 billion per year within the European Union, while over 529,000 jobs have been created in 28 EU states due to the growth of the app market.

Having tested over 400 apps in various app market places, looking for signs of glitches and imperfections, it is amazing what can be found among the millions of apps. Exploring on what they do, the kind of business they operate, their solutions, the change and the efficiency they could bring, it is yet to be found an app that is 100% free from bugs but the better ones are usually from big corporation/major players or “unicorns” such as Google, Uber, Ebay, Facebook and etc.

The following are the common profiles that plagued apps that has the potential to literally kill the business:

Failure on first launch

It is a nightmare for a business that is just building its brand having to encounter this issue. An online model type of business will be very heavily depended on apps actually working right from the get go. Testing of the end product is done what is typically known as a User Acceptance Test (UAT). In most cases UAT is done by a selected group of people (usually employees of the company that owns the app) in a closed environment (office space, meeting rooms). Mobile device coverage is limited, scope of test is limited. Within these context, some bugs may be found and fixed, later on app works like a charm and ready for launch.

Post launch, with the marketing efforts made, the app is presented to real users, variations of devices, real networks and an array of usage patterns. We will see that the app works for some users but breaks for others, in some cases even registration fails causing inability to even use the app. Apps that prevent the completion of a task are incredibly frustrating. Some unfortunate users would uninstall and move on but some will use that free-text text box in the comments section of the app store to post comments. Some comments are nice negative feedback while others are vulgar and destructive. These comments are visible to other potential users. Reputation tarnished, fixing at this stage is expensive, loss of user trust.

A survey by Quettra, 77% of mobile users will abandon an app after just three days so spectacular first impression after launch is crucial for user retention.

Critical defect through user/customer feedback

It is estimated that 44 percent of defects are found by the user, 24 percent from direct feedback, and another 20 percent from public user reviews in app stores, a study by Blancco Technology Group (BTG). This type basically adopts the launch, wait and see approach. In the beginning everything went well, high number of downloads, possibly have a lot of positive comments. Overtime, those vulgar comments starts showing up.

Normally users have already engaged with the app at some stages of the service or functionality offered but could not complete it. A payment transaction issue is a classic example. User have browse thru, amazed and love the product/services offered but just can’t make a purchase. Yet again, there's a free text box, they can say what they want for others to see. Having too many of these (even the small glitches), less tech-savvy customers could get the impression that the product is useless. Even when it is not a defect, file size or image type limitation that was design that way, without meaningful notification/message could be seen as a glitch by users.

Disruptive updates towards existing functionalities

It is normal to have updates installed for expansion of functionalities or for bug fixes. What's harmful is when the updates (new codes) disrupts the existing functionality. It has been found that most updates are not well tested, regarded as too small to put effort and time into testing. The consequences to this is users churning out.

All the three profiles above share similar pattern of sitting on the app store for a significant duration of time with no positive user acquisition. Some may believe that a fix will be made and all is fine. Yes, if it is fixed fast enough but it will not undo the damage on reputation and losses in user’s trust.

So that's it, if your business depends highly on your digital media platform for customer acquisition, be aware of these 3 apps profile. Some pondering points:

● Mobile applications have penetrated deep into our lives that most of users especially non-IT geeks and less techy individuals forget that it's a software, making the market less forgiving unless you’re a unicorn.

● Testing mobile application during the development phase is a must and remains an important activity towards creating an outstanding app, but in the mobile app universe it is not enough.

Faizal Fazlil Ilahi
Author: Faizal Fazlil IlahiWebsite:
Co-Founder of Bugs Detective. An avid software tester with love for quality. Keen eye on functionality with experience in all spectrum of software testing life cycle.

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