Mobile Trends & Analysis


‘Disruption of digital routine can be very stressful’

Posted by Bill Siwicki on May 13, 2015 1:29:00 PM

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I realized recently that my expectations of mobile performance are insanely high. As wireless network connections have evolved and become faster and faster over the years, my patience for poor-performing mobile web sites and mobile apps has dwindled to an almost non-existent level.

I “talk” to my smartphone a couple times a day, using language I cannot use here. I do so when something on my phone is not happening as fast as I expect it to happen. Click here to watch a 1984 20-second video of then-Saturday Night Live star Jim Belushi. That, more or less, is the level of frustration I outwardly express toward my smartphone when things don’t go right.

For years, mobile consumers have not had a great deal of tolerance for slow mobile sites and apps. But I started wondering. I use my smartphone not that much more than the average smartphone user. I’m connected by the same types of wireless connections. I’m using the same apps. Maybe my insane expectations are not truly insane. So I reached out to an expert source to find out.

Turns out: I’m more or less normal.

“Based on my experience over the years in my various roles in the mobile industry, I can definitely confirm that your experience of the trend and current state of user expectations for mobile apps and mobile sites is increasingly becoming the norm,” says Peter Kacandes, mobile technical product marketing Angrymanager at AppDynamics, a digital performance research, testing and monitoring firm. “In order to meet these increasingly high expectations from mobile users, the rule of thumb is that no task should require more than two or at most three user actions to complete, and response times for any digital transaction should be under three seconds, maximum. Anything beyond that and the data clearly shows there will be an exponential drop-off in the conversion rate of users completing a task or waiting for information.”

AppDynamics recently released a report entitled “The App Attention Span.” Based on the findings and on my experience, I think it should be entitled “Hoo, Boy, Are Your Mobile Customers Impatient!”

As smartphone and tablet owners become more familiar with, and reliant on, mobile apps and sites, their expectations regarding performance increase, finds the report, which includes a survey of 1,000 U.S. and 1,000 U.K. mobile device owners. AppDynamics conducted the survey with the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. 48% of U.K. respondents say their expectations of performance are 'increasing over time; 65% of U.S. respondents say the same, the report says. Their tolerance levels also are changing: Close to half (48% for U.S. and 47% for U.K.) of respondents are less tolerant of problems with mobile apps and sites than they were a few years ago. The results show that the margin of error regarding mobile app and site performance is diminishing, the report says.

When asked how mobile problems make them feel, 79% of U.S. respondents and 63% of U.K. respondents say frustrated (see the Jim Belushi SNL video); many others say stressed and disappointed, the report says. 'One U.K. survey respondent says, "It is very frustrating and can make you anxious that apps often don’t work just when you need them to be there, like on a train. Disruption of digital routine can be very stressful.”

The research also shows poor-performing mobile apps don’t last long: 86% of respondents in the U.S. and 82% in the U.K. have deleted or uninstalled at least one mobile app because of performance issues, the survey finds. When asked what they do when they experience problems using mobile apps, 28% of U.K. smartphone and tablet owners try another app and 23% stop using the original app altogether. In addition, 18% tell their friends and family about the issues. For U.S. respondents, 38% try another app when faced with a problem, 34% stop using the original app, and 19% complain to friends and family, the AppDynamics report says.

“To satisfy mobile consumers, retail developers and providers have to be maniacally focused on the user interface and user experience of their mobile apps and sites and the performance thereof, on the interactions between the user interface/user experience and performance, and on dependencies of apps/sites on back-end or third-party systems and content,” AppDynamics’ Kacandes says.

Indeed, retailers need to ensure they are providing the best, quickest mobile performance possible. I agree with Kacandes’ rule of thumb, and it deserves to be repeated: No task should require more than two or at most three user actions to complete, and response times for any digital transaction should be under three seconds, maximum.

Anything more and you risk frustrating customers. And frustrated customers tend not to make purchases. (And sometimes swear at their phones.)

Follow Bill Siwicki on Twitter at @MobileSiwicki.

Topics: Mobile Retail Apps