Letting Mobile Apps Fail


TechCrunch offered up some insight on failed apps in a recent article entitled “Why Standalone Apps Are Supposed to Fail.” This may serve as a lesson in general for understanding how to better make apps work within our industry.

Some insights:

  • Developers of apps that have large-scale followings to do not roll out new functionality within the app. Generally, they will build a separate app first, test the user response there, and later retire the app, moving any desired components into the primary app.
  • While this is occurring, the company is able to A/B test components within the app, determine how they impact use and satisfaction, and generally learn more about the user base.
  • The major apps make few modifications to their products. Navigation, look and feel, and other elements are updated very rarely and only after careful study within other apps.
  • More often than not, the newer app is allowed to fail and many times, supposed to fail.
  • While the apps used in market research are not launched on the scale of Facebook, Twitter, and many of the other apps that we know and love, these lessons have for the most part not been felt by the MR industry. This approach is expensive, and only for larger initiatives for this reason. Development cost may be doubled, and there is the complexity of managing two separate apps that appear to be the same, and what becomes of the users of one when the “ultimate solution” is chosen.

    What is does say is that:

  • Apps are best for users when they introduce as few new features as possible
  • Changes to GUIs are especially perilous, and can result in confusion and frustration to users
  • Change management is an ongoing and increasingly important process for retention of a user base
  • We have seen several apps within market research fail, or simply be sold off to third parties. How can the industry get the benefits of a separate app with an expanded feature set, without incurring the additional cost and potential issues?

    Even though it may seem like an obvious beginning, research is key. In an industry focused on determining the habits and preferences of the populace, there are struggles to keep up with those habits and preferences ourselves. Mobile is a powerhouse in market research, and while we’re still determining the best way to use it for the most effective results, an overlooked factor is what the users actually want.

    On the Google Play Store*, Facebook owns the top two free app spots with their Messenger taking top honors, and the traditional app following. The top five is rounded out by Pandora, music streaming; Instagram, photo editing and sharing; and Snapchat, limited life messaging. Each of these apps is fairly different from the others. Even the Facebook Messaging as a separate entity has some notable differences from its originator. Studying both the design and the way these apps can be used will give some insight into what mobile users are looking for. Feature rich simplicity is the balance that is struck in each of the most popular apps. How can this be achieved in market research? The goal is to give respondents and community members the options they desire, without being overwhelming and confusing, and with no user training required. A fully intuitive experience is required.

    Fortunately, market research is an industry of experts. Tracking respondent behavior in surveys can provide information on where current apps may be lacking. The same exact tactics that would be used to determine behavior and preference for a study can be employed for our own benefit. Qualitative data is being passed through mobile applications on every use. Why not take the time to analyze it to improve user experience?

    Some mobile apps are expected to fail, but not every company has the luxury of developing these experiments. Where market research has the upper-hand is understanding the importance of behavior, and the taking opportunity to use that information to make small, measurable, calculated efforts to create excellent experiences.

    *The iTunes store was not as applicable. Facebook still owned number one, however the other spots included games which aren’t as relevant to this discussion.

    Professional Company Blog

    This is a blog post written for Kinesis. It offers an overview of an article published by Tech Crunch and demonstrates how it applies to the mobile market research space. This demonstrates how current trends can be applied within an industry.

    • ClientKinesis Survey Technologies
    • Date2014