How to improve your app in 5 easy steps

These days, there's no such thing as 'finalized'. Websites are constantly optimized for conversions, advertisements are tweaked and tested for optimal user-engagement... and your mobile app is no different. Almost every single app has areas that could be improved - whether that's the design of a sign-up page, the layout, or even some ambiguous text. These types of small problems can be the source of widespread user annoyance that means more people dropping your app and moving to a competitor.

Even if all you want to accomplish is a perfect user-experience, you need to be constantly updating your app design (opens in new tab) based on real live-action data. Unfortunately you can't just wait for your app users to send you an email with detailed lists of their specific problems (because that will never happen).

So how can you combat this issue? With our five-step guide to refining your mobile app! With this straightforward strategy you'll be on your way to user-experience heaven in just a matter of days...

01. Gather user data

Think about what problem your app is aiming to solve

Think about what problem your app is aiming to solve

The first step is formulating a strategy. Start by thinking about the basics - what problem does your app aim to solve? What demographic makes up your userbase?

Think about how your users would utilize your app, not someone who is extremely tech-savvy and not you (the owner). Try to remember that mobile applications are made for the users - and that oftentimes developers will be used to their own design.

02. Meet users

You might not happen upon the same issues as your users, because you've grown accustom to them. Another useful part of this research stage is getting in direct contact with your users.

Go straight to the source - your best bet is forums dedicated to your app's niche. If you're not sure where to look, try some related searches in google: 'appname issues' 'appname problems' 'appname thoughts.' If you want to get extremely specific, try limited your search to the 'discussions' tab in google so that only forum threads with your relevant keywords are displayed.

To really delve into your user-experience issues, try integrating a simple in-app analytics platform (opens in new tab). This will give you the inside scoop on your users, with features such as user-session recording, touch heatmaps, realtime data, and pretty much anything else app-related you can think of.

03. Identify pain points

What issues really grind your app users' gears?

What issues really grind your app users' gears?

Now comes the arduous step: taking hold of the wealth of data that you've just gathered and turning it into actionable information. Using your analytics platform, try to figure out which features are under-utilized (compared to their intended meaning).

For example, if you've got a sign-up page, yet you're only getting a small amount of people to click through, that's a big red flag. Think about why they aren't taking the intended action and what you can do to fix that. Maybe your design was visually attracting your users to the wrong element or the wrong section of the page.

You can even get into extremely complex and deep parts of your app's user experience flow - which processes are abandoned most often? When looking at user-session recordings, where did the interaction slow down (or come to a complete halt?)That signals a problem in your user experience, because the user had to actively stop and think about the correct place they wanted.

A solid user interface should use the visual hierarchy (opens in new tab) to keep the flow of your app extremely simple and straightforward. Are there any obvious steps that take much longer than they need to what about processes that are literally annoying and repetitive to complete? You can probably simplify and streamline these operations for a much improved user experience.

04. Test, test, test

This is the trial and error stage. Since you've already figured out the major problems, now you just have to find a suitable solution. Don't relax just yet: this is the most intensive step, because you need to come up with creative ways to improve some extremely complex parts of your application.

Normally, you want to come up with a multitude of different potential solutions for each problem and then test them one by one. One thing to note is that sometimes a bunch of your in-app UI issues will actually all stem from one main element - in that case, try to look for a solution that can solve multiple problems.

Similarly, when in doubt, go for the simple route. It's almost always better to lower the ‘barriers' a user has to go through to accomplish a task. Another smart way to make the entire re-design process quicker is using beta-testers. Either offer this to your friends, or your most involved users, as a way to help you improve the app. Get their opinion on the user experience. Remember, sometimes the 'human element' of testing can give you just the idea you needed.

05. The final iteration

When you add the finishing touches, don't get too 'optimization happy'

When you add the finishing touches, don't get too 'optimization happy'

You've gone through the entire process, and now you've got a streamlined application that has an amazing user-experience. But that's not the end, right? No, of course not, now you just have to put the finishing touches on the app design.

At this stage, get inspiration for user interface changes from industry norms (often times people get attached to the 'normal' way something should work), your competitors, or anything really. Try to think outside the box (as cliched as that sounds) and you might stumble upon a great new user interface change.

Overall, just keep the original vision for your app in mind and strive for that ultimate goal. On the other hand, don't get too 'optimization happy' because your original implementation probably had a lot of positive elements, they just needed a little tweaking.

Make sure you're thinking of this process as refining, rather than re-doing your entire app. Finally, just be flexible and allow your testing, analytics, and data to work - as long as follow this process, you'll be on your way to a (near) perfect user interface within just a few days.

Words: Alon Even

Alon Even is VP of marketing at Appsee (opens in new tab), a company dedicated to helping you deliver the best possible experience to your app users. We enable mobile app publishers to track, understand and improve the user experience, and act on insights provided by our platform. Try our free version and learn how your users really use your app.

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The Creative Bloq team is made up of a group of design fans, and has changed and evolved since Creative Bloq began back in 2012. The current website team consists of six full-time members of staff: Editor Kerrie Hughes, Deputy Editor Rosie Hilder, Deals Editor Beren Neale, Senior News Editor Daniel Piper, Digital Arts and Design Editor Ian Dean, and Staff Writer Amelia Bamsey, as well as a roster of freelancers from around the world. The 3D World and ImagineFX magazine teams also pitch in, ensuring that content from 3D World and ImagineFX is represented on Creative Bloq.