How do users react when their mobile applications aren’t performing up to expectations? How frustrated do they become? These were answers we sought out to find when we started the App Attention Span Research with the University of London. We wanted to find quantitative proof to see how poor performing apps affect our emotions, and discovered some exciting results. We all know how it makes us feel but we needed to take a more scientific approach to understanding the emotions poor performing apps drive.
So last month we conducted a joint study with the University of London to discover how users react when the performance of mobile applications aren’t up to expectations. We took actual app users as case studies and put them in a scientific lab – with some really lousy apps for company. No need to have a clandestine “mood” study without users knowing (cough, cough, Facebook, cough), our participants were willing and provided some compelling results.
The study gave us great insight into how glitchy, slow, and unstable apps affect users’ app preference, and how terrible performance impacts their emotions. Sure, we expected the lab research to reveal a certain level of user frustration. However, frustration levels were much higher than we thought. And, as we later found out, this directly leads to a sharp spike in users deleting and uninstalling apps that don’t meet their expectations.
App makers, take note.
The University of London’s Director of innovation Chris Brauer – our research lead – observed, “Users experience a lot of negative emotions and frustrations when trying to complete some digital tasks and apps or Web pages are slow to load.”
It is also clear that our patience wears thin in today’s app-enabled world. As Chris Brauer puts it; “Our attention span demands have adapted dramatically to the available technologies.” In short, if we’re not getting the performance from one app we’ll simply move onto another. Despite this lack of patience, results from the study demonstrated that in many cases, people are now becoming more loyal to an app than a brand.
“Consumer expectations regarding apps are really high, so when people’s experience is not satisfying, they are going to go elsewhere and look for an alternative. It’s therefore very important for app developers and service providers to test and optimize.”
Don’t stress me out.
One thing we found especially surprising was the level emotional distress that inferior mobile app performance caused. Despite how melodramatic this may sound, the impact on our guinea pigs was substantial. The three most common reactions were frustration, stress, and disappointment. Yes: stress.
As one of our UK case studies, Will Marshall, put it: “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 also be very stressful.”
In short, frustrations stem from the high expectations we have for the apps that are never far from our fingertips. We expect them to respond instantaneously and perform without any stalls or crashes; which means the margin of error that app developers have to work with is quickly diminishing. As a result, mobile application performance has never been more critical.
We’ve also created this infographic showcasing some of the interesting data points from the study:
To check out the full report and detailed data, click here.
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