App Performance

How to make improving mobile app performance part of your daily workflow

Mobile engineers are more focused on improving mobile app performance than ever before. Here's how to make it a part of your day-to-day.

What do Instagram, Zoom, Spotify, and Roblox all have in common?

They’re not just some of the most downloaded apps of the past year — they’re some of the most downloaded mobile apps of all time.

While different factors contribute to each app’s popularity, one reason they consistently rank on app stores and maintain high download rates is because “they just work.”

Mobile is now the No. 1 way many access the internet, with daily screen time nearing 4 hours and 40 minutes per day, or a third of waking time, according to some estimates. Much of that time is spent inside of mobile apps and, in an attention economy, users have little appetite for experiences that stutter, stall, and simply do not respond.

As a result, mobile engineers today are hyper aware of app performance and are spending more time on it than ever before.

In fact, in a recent survey of more than a thousand mobile app builders, improving mobile app performance is the No. 1 priority, ahead of working on new features and deploying new releases.

A yellow bar graph shows the responses to the question "Considering the following aspects of your day-to-day work. Which of these are most important to you personally? (Top 3)"
The 2024 Mobile App Builders Report surveyed mobile engineers, engineering leads, software architects, principal engineers, engineering executives, engineering managers, and chief technology officers. Get the report here.

Fortunately, you don’t need the resources or budget of Meta or Spotify to prioritize improving mobile app performance.

Improving mobile app performance on a daily basis

Improving mobile app performance requires constant monitoring and optimization. To make it a part of your daily workflow, consider the following:

  • Profile and Benchmark regularly: Profiling can help mobile engineers identify resource-intensive functions and sections of code, while benchmarking helps put key performance metrics into context. When used together, benchmarking can help you prioritize areas of improvement, while profiling can help you find optimizations within those areas. For example, you might want to improve your app startup time if a benchmark indicates it’s much higher than industry average. Then profiling can help identify issues, inefficiencies, and areas for optimization within the startup process.
  • Test and monitor on real devices: Testing emulators and simulators are great tools, but they do little to offer a true picture of your apps performance in the wild. Testing and monitoring your app on real-world devices can give insights into performance under varying conditions, like on different hardware or operating systems, as well as under different network conditions and user behaviors. With the right tools, this kind of testing can enable the monitoring of user personas. Real-world monitoring and testing also provides better data for earlier regression detection and can help prioritize device- and region-specific optimizations.
  • Monitor and act on user feedback: While you can’t rely on your users to deliver detailed bug reports, it’s still important to pay attention and prioritize their feedback. App store reviews and support tickets tend to point to user-impacting issues that have an outsized role on the perception of your app’s performance. Likewise, faster resolution of such issues can go a long way in building user loyalty, increasing user referrals, and ultimately lead to higher app store rankings. It’s a key reason many companies that prioritize their mobile apps are investing in tech that can help them link app store reviews to real user sessions.
  • Leverage dashboards for focused monitoring: Dashboards might require some time and effort to set up but, once enabled, are an incredibly powerful app performance monitoring tool. Custom dashboards can help you stay on top of your most important performance metrics, key user flows, and recent releases. They can also help foster collaboration between different technical and non-technical teams, and help answer key business questions.
  • Configure alerts around performance thresholds: Most mobile monitoring platforms come with an alerting function and some can even be integrated with other tools to leverage higher-quality data and improve their functionality. Setting alerts around performance thresholds acts as a bit of a shield for mobile engineers. By setting alerts around key user flows, like your check-out screen, or around key performance metrics, like startup time, you’ll be the first to know when these limits are breached, allowing for faster issue identification, prioritization, and resolution. Alerts help reduce the manual effort debugging and issue resolution require, and frees engineers to focus on solutions and new innovations.
  • Take advantage of tracing capabilities: Tracing is a technique used by mobile engineers to monitor and analyze how efficiently their app works. More technically speaking, it’s the process of capturing detailed performance data of individual operations in order to understand how they combine into, and impact, user flows. In this regard, mobile engineers can use tracing to optimize mobile user flows and improve performance.
  • Prioritize tooling that eliminates toil: According to our 2024 Mobile App Builders Report, many engineering orgs are experiencing a priorities gap between individual contributors and senior leaders. Those who are closest to the work understand that certain tools go beyond the basics of mobile monitoring and can help improve efficiency among builders. In order to improve app performance, you need to prioritize tools that provide the kind of data that makes it easy to identify and prioritize performance improvements, while helping you avoid time sinks like getting stuck trying to solve the same crash twice.

Removing mobile engineering pain points

The mobile app builder ecosystem is diverse. When we think of mobile app builders we’re thinking about everyone from individual contributors to the leadership organizations that surround them.

Consistent performance improvements are difficult to achieve, but that goal is put further out of reach when priorities within organizations don’t align, or when definitions of performance vary. These misunderstandings and disagreements — these pain points — are some of the biggest obstacles organizations face when building.

With that in mind, the first step to eliminating those barriers is by gaining a better understanding of where the disconnects lie.

Learn more about the biggest pain points impacting mobile app builders in 2024 by downloading our report here.

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