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5 Most Overlooked Usability Issues in Mobile Apps

Mobile App Usability: 5 Most Overlooked Mobile App Usability Issues

Today, all our activities are governed by mobile phones, right from our morning ritual of turning off the alarm, to searching for places, people, information, managing finances, and healthcare, staying in touch with friends or just getting work done. The smartphone is now a vital part of our lives – a trend that is inspiring, or rather, compelling companies to launch interactive, engaging mobile apps for their product or service.

However, in the haste to get the app out in the market, many crucial details are overlooked. In our various mobile app studies, we’ve realized that more often than not, product managers assume what their users want and take design decisions on their behalf, without prior user research or gaining user insights. When this happens, it becomes difficult to fix usability challenges since the product/service is already completed.

Worse, many of our mobile app studies have led us to the conclusion that an app is not the right solution at all. Based on our experiences, we’ve circled out 5 commonly overlooked usability issues – if you’re developing an app, make sure you avoid these.

1. Lack of User Insights and Feedback: Failing to understand the users and usage of the product often lead to the biggest disaster of all – creating products that users cannot incorporate into their lives. Users have simple needs that many apps often forget to address. For example, to share movie tickets or money transfer details with others, users currently are obliged to take a screenshot. Instead, there can be easier, more delightful solutions in mobile apps.

We have worked with many startups and there have been times that after initial research we learned that a mobile app is not the solution. A quick initial research is enough to show us that an app is not even required. Don’t rush into building the mobile app, do your research first and then begin the process.

mobile app usability issues2. Not Understanding the Context of Use:  It’s important to understand where and how the app is going to be used. Take the example of an app used by commuters during their long underground metro journey with no connectivity as well as in a well-connected, high-speed internet zone. The app should be able to cater to the two extreme contexts of mobile data usage and the mobile devices of these potential users to deliver a relevant experience.

3. Frustrating Onboarding Experiences: Often mobile apps have a poor onboarding experiences; from a very fast-forwarded demo or tutorial to series of screens loaded with text which the user skips immediately. However, if the user wishes to retrieve the skipped information, there is no way to go back, leading to a frustrating experience.

app usability issues4. Unable to Provide Security, Trust and Timely Help: E-commerce apps usually require confidential information, such as personal or banking details, to make purchases. At such times, the app should instill a sense of safety and security amongst users, especially in countries where instances of fraudulent transactions and security compromises are on the higher side. Options like cash on delivery should be considered too, keeping in mind the user group and their relationship with technology. Moreover, unlike websites, many apps don’t offer real-time assistance when a user is lost or is unable to complete a particular task.

5. Lacking Affordance Design for User Inputs: Affordance provides the right clues that enable users to perform the proper actions to complete a task. The principles of affordance that are applied on a website will most probably not work as they are for a mobile app. This is because, in mobile apps, a user is often confused between static and interactive elements, different screen-size or mode of input from a finger tap to using a pointer to list a few. Which means various elements including the text, the textbox, and action buttons need to be clearly differentiated.

The design should be such that it efficiently provides clues to the user about when to type, when to tap and when to browse the text. Often, the design is only equated to beautiful fonts and aesthetics; and fails to tell users how to interact with various elements in the mobile app.

Today, most businesses assume that the users will intuitively understand their app and use it correctly, or learn to use it as they interact with it. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. It is the product owner’s primary responsibility to understand how users will engage with the app and what will be the context of use. This can be done, for instance, through initial user studies, an iterative design process and by feeding user insights into the design at every step of the process.

Don’t overlook mobile app usability issues and create a list of good usability practices for your app. Such practices will provide users an easy-to-use, delightful experience that increases product/service stickiness. 

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Anjeli Singh

Anjeli is passionate and experienced UX Research Innovator and has worked with companies in North America and India including Google, Kodak, and Symantec. She has been a user evangelist and supporting various Startups to Enterprises to focus on their user and make their companies user-centric. Currently, she is running UX Research Agency called HUREO.