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5 Essentials Your Mobile App Experience Might Be Missing in 2021

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By Jmé Dewaal,
Nora Hoagg

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The mobile app world moves fast. When business operations and bottom lines are deeply intertwined with mobile apps, it can be especially difficult to keep up with frequently updated platform guidelines and constantly changing table stakes. Understanding the unique expectations users have for mobile experience can tip the scales from good to great, ensuring users don’t abandon your app. Interactions should adapt seamlessly to user preferences while complementing their larger tech environment. Features like dark mode for instance, are no longer nice-to-haves — they are indispensable. 

Research shows that after mobile users download an application, 80% of them churn within three months. What updates can you make to your mobile user experience to keep your business from falling victim to this statistic? Especially if your app is integral to running your business, it’s crucial to deliver on your users’ core expectations — like the event attendee app Nerdery helped Google Cloud develop for their annual Next conference. Fortunately, mobile users have the same expectations across apps, so more reason to ensure your mobile apps cover the must-haves.

5 Mobile App Experience Table Stakes 

Let’s consider some key system functionalities and look at changing user expectations, so we can lay the foundation for the continuous improvement needed to create dynamic mobile experiences.

01. Adapt to your users’ settings. Let the system do the heavy lifting to make your app feel familiar to your users (and make less work for you).

  • Support dark mode and dark theme. If not, your app experience will feel incongruous, jarring and disruptive as many users have opted in to this mode in their device-level settings. A recent informal convenience sample survey about dark mode use found that nearly 83% of those responding use their operating system dark mode. You may find the majority of your users prefer to use dark mode.
  • Use built-in text styles based on the system fonts to easily support features like Apple’s Dynamic Type. More than just automatically adjusting the size of your type based on users’ settings, Dynamic Type actually optimizes and enhances readability by adjusting leading (line spacing) and tracking (letter spacing). Don’t make users pull out their reading glasses to consume your content.
  • Support accessibility, internationalization and localization features. For instance, users should not get stuck trying to enter their phone number because your app does not support their country code or phone number format. At a minimum, make sure your app is usable to all.

02. Play nicely with others. Consider thoughtful system integrations, so your app is connected to the larger digital ecosystem with which your users are familiar.

  • Offer sign in with the Apple ID or Google options. These simple, secure sign-in options protect your users’ personal information and give users peace of mind.
  • Offer Apple Pay and Google Pay payment options. This makes it easier for users to buy your products and services via trusted, secure payment options.
  • Even when users aren’t actively using your app, consider thoughtful ways to appropriately surface your app in share extensions in action sheets, OS search results, and in OS messaging apps.

03. Meet your users where they are. Users expect to be able to view basic content and perform key functions within apps. Don’t make users switch to the “right” channel to do something. 

  • Consider the omni-channel experience. Enable users to seamlessly switch channels and pick up right where they left off. Financial services customers, for instance, may prefer to use your website to compare credit card or loan products or review their statements in detail, but they should be able to make timely payments from any channel and in any context of use — even if they’re on-the-go.
  • Show the appropriate amount of information. Do not overwhelm users with information, as they’ll need no further reason to discontinue use of the app.
  • Do not abuse push notification privileges. If users opt in, do not bombard them with reminders to use your app in a one-sided attempt to increase retention. Consider thoughtful ways to use push, interactive push and the lock screen to enhance your app features and their overall app experience.
  • Use App Clips and Instant App to increase discoverability. It’s a fast and convenient way to give prospective users a peek at what your app has to offer.  

04. Be transparent to build trust. Use primers before displaying permission dialogs. What’s the first thing your users see when they download and open your app? Is it a prompt to allow your app to use their location, allow notifications, etc.? What privacy are you asking users to give up? Why should they? Simply tell users why you’re asking before you prompt them, in a way they can easily understand. Make interactions feel mutually beneficial, for example, a fair exchange of information. Explain how information will be used in order to build trust. If you don’t, it feels one-sided or spammy.

05. Bring your app to life by responding to users’ interactions. Don’t skip the last layer of polish. Include this in the visual QA process.

  • Use motion and animations thoughtfully to inform, provide feedback and guide users’ focus throughout your app.
  • Express your brand in motion and interaction in your app (e.g., app initial loading animation). We’re not just talking about surprise and delight — motion conveys meaning

Applying these table stakes and following a user-centric process puts your users at the core of every mobile app experience decision. And when users feel taken care of and their expectations and needs are met, they will continue to use your app.

If the path to realizing your ultimate mobile app experience vision still is not clear, that’s okay. We can help. At Nerdery, we’ve been developing mobile apps with iOS and Android standards and capabilities since smartphones came on the market. (See our work in transforming M Health Fairview’s patient experience through an improved digital ecosystem of mobile and web properties.) In response to the challenge of always adapting to ever-changing standards, we’ve built a specialized cross-functional team of mobile designers and developers to work collaboratively with business stakeholders throughout the mobile development process to ensure business objectives and user expectations are met.