If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the mobile apps business is that it absolutely must revolve around empathy. If the project managers fail to understand and share the feelings of their audience, it will be damn hard to create a compelling, awesome app that everyone will enjoy using.
But empathy itself is a tricky thing, especially when you’re trying to tap into a large audience. It requires a thorough understanding of today’s users, as well as how users of tomorrow will behave. With things moving as fast as they do in the digital world, it might seem close to impossible.
What we do know about the mobile audience in general is that they’re a tough bunch. They are hard to reach, even harder to retain, and merciless in their desire for an almost flawless user experience.
Understanding your mobile audience, their needs, wants, moods, behavior patterns and expectations can seem like a superpower at times. You’d basically need to read their minds.
But product managers are essentially caught between a rock and a hard place – they *need* to know these things, otherwise their apps could be set up for failure.
Here’s a real-life example of this common challenge for you (we’ll explain later how we got this data). Trinity Mirror, one of the largest and leading UK publishers, created a new app for one of its news sites. As with most new apps, their app crashed now and then, and crashes are known to be the biggest app audience killers. Logically, they absolutely had to get rid of the crashes. So, they were faced with a choice: either sniffing through endless streams of data and trying to recreate whatever users did to initiate the crash, or somehow read their users’ minds, understand their behavior patterns and app usage, in order to be able to quickly reproduce crashes. They were actually able to choose the latter, (no we’re not pulling your leg) which helped them eliminate the issues swiftly.
Imperfections of (traditional) analytics tools
Let’s take a closer look into the two options Explore Trinity has had, to understand exactly why “reading users minds” worked better for them.
Say Trinity Mirror used traditional analytics tools to monitor their new app’s behavior in the wild. What would they be able to find? That their app crashes often, and that it probably crashes more often on a specific platform. They could also see that the time spent with the app drops, but it would be pure speculation to link those two things together. The point is – they could get a lot of valuable, useful information, but they’d lack an answer to a simple, but tremendously important question – why?
Why did the app crash? And why did it crash on a specific version, more than on others? It could take countless hours to reproduce that exact scenario which led to the crash, and even then, there are no guarantees that fixing that particular instance will make a significant impact in the long run. Again, we can go back to the start. Understanding is the key, and traditional analytics tools can offer plenty, but not understanding. These tools provide a lot of value, but they don’t provide a full, accurate picture. For that, after all, you’d need a superpower.
Solutions for tomorrow
Combining a traditional analytics tool with a means of understanding the ‘why’ will enable you to form a complete picture of the app’s state and your users’ minds, allowing empathy to take the stage. That way, future iterations of your apps can provide exactly what your users want, essentially helping the app grow. What we’re talking about here is user session recordings. Being second best to mindreading, they allow you to see the exact sequence of events which led to things like app crashes or app abandonment. If certain app’s elements (for example, the shopping cart) get abandoned, through user session recordings it’s easy to determine if it’s because of a bug, a crash or if certain features (for example, payment methods) are missing.
Now let’s go back to our Trinity Mirror example. When they noticed a high percentage of crashes in their new app, instead of combing through endless streams of reports, they used a qualitative analytics platform entitled Appsee. Appsee’s user session recordings and could instantly identify the exact sequence of actions that led to a crash. And because Appsee automatically detects all unique screens, gestures and user interactions in an app, Trinity Mirror didn’t have to do the unnecessary work of pre-defining in-app events in advance.
But perhaps the best part of this fresh approach to analytics is that it’s proactive – sort of like finishing someone else’s sentence. Instead of waiting for users to start complaining and or worse- uninstalling the app, they could identify and react on an issue before it got out of hand.
By having access to user session recordings, you can see if certain buttons, or key features of your app are going unnoticed or confusing your users. You can see what users are gravitating towards, and which parts spark their interest the most. By analyzing screens users flock to, as well as those they avoid, you can start understanding behavior patterns. All of this will help you identify your app’s most frustrating UI elements, consequently leading to – you guessed it – empathy.
Once realizing which parts of the app are most popular, you can expand on those features, essentially growing your app creating a compelling, satisfying and well-rounded user experience. You can get first-hand feedback on newly installed features without having to ask for complicated and expensive face-to-face interviews. At the end of the day, these tools will allow you to understand your users. Bear in mind – understanding and empathy are great tools for growth hacking your app. They will help you identify your app’s pain points fast, and will make sure your changes always hit home.
Painting the complete picture
In-person interviews, as well as other forms of user research, are still essential, if you are looking to get a complete, well-rounded story on your users. However, they have been, and will continue to be lacking, for as long as you don’t keep empathy and understanding in mind.
Session recordings truly are a critical, extremely insightful instrument and allow you to maintain those factors. Together with traditional analytics tools, and classic methods of understanding users (such as in-person interviews), they will allow you to focus on the most important thing of all – being empathetic.
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