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App Performance

Best practices for optimizing your mobile app

Use these 6 best practices to optimize your mobile app for the best performance and experience.

When we surveyed users for our State of Mobile Experience report, 60% said they uninstall apps after just a few crashes and more than half would uninstall an app if it becomes unresponsive in any way.

For developers, this means the margin of error is narrowing as users come to expect great mobile experiences.

In this blog, we’ll help you spot optimization opportunities and highlight some best practices for improving mobile app performance.

Mobile app optimization best practices

Mobile engineers say their top day-to-day priority is optimizing app performance. Unfortunately, you can’t optimize what you can’t measure.

In order to improve performance, you’ll need a mobile app performance monitoring tool to measure key performance indicators and — more importantly — to measure the progress you’ve made toward optimizing your app.

Once you have the data, here’s what you need to look for.

Signs your mobile app is not optimized

These are some common signs of an unoptimized mobile app that you should look out for:

  • Broken user flows: Having users encounter key parts of your app failing to execute smoothly can be due to problems with navigation, unresponsive UI elements, or poor handling of user inputs. This is where usability testing and seeking user feedback is important.
  • Frequent crashes: Crashes are disastrous for your app — our report shows that 51% of users will uninstall an app after experiencing a crash. Crashes can be caused by a variety of factors and it’s important to have the right tooling to solve issues quickly.
  • Failed network calls: Failed network calls can stem from causes like unreliable APIs, improper error handling, or failed network calls, which can lead to incomplete data retrieval and functionality breakdowns.
  • Long response times: Pinpointing the source of long response times in your apps is difficult. It could be because of network latency, memory issues, or even code inefficiencies.

Any of these issues alone can negatively impact a user experience, and ultimately sink an app when they compound over time.

Focus areas for optimizing your mobile app

While there are plenty of signs that indicate when it’s time to focus on app optimization, there are essentially three areas of focus when it comes to improving app performance.

Those include:

  1. User behavior: It’s necessary to analyze user behavior to understand what users are doing in your apps. Optimizing your app requires an understanding of your users’ entire journey, including what elements of your app they interact with, their foreground and background activity, views, and more. Most importantly, you want to be able to observe and analyze your most important user flows — like checkout screens — to ensure issues aren’t impacting your bottom line.
  2. Performance bottlenecks: Regularly analyzing the performance of your app through audits is helpful. When doing this, it’s better to do so with unsampled data. Sampled data limits your access to understanding every aspect of your user experience. Using sampled data leaves you vulnerable to blind spots that lower your app performance and thereby disappoint users. The best way to combat this is through tracing, which allows you to pinpoint the exact issue causing the bottleneck.
  3. Refining code: It’s a good practice to write the best possible code and optimize it consistently. This is where a Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) tool becomes useful to help keep the development process as efficient as possible. This process helps improve things such as load time, app size, and overall performance. It also helps keep your app at peak performance and ensures a healthy app development process for your engineers. 

Mobile app performance optimization best practices

Optimization is a constant process of mobile app monitoring and management.

Therefore, the No. 1 way to begin improving your user experience on a daily basis is by implementing the following best practices.

1. Profile and benchmark

Profiling is important because it allows engineers to pinpoint parts of the functions or sections of code that are resource-intensive. Benchmarking is equally important because it helps contextualize the key performance metrics you’re tracking.

When you combine the two, benchmarking spots areas for improvement and profiling helps you optimize in these areas. In practice, this could look like you noting that your mobile game’s startup time has significantly increased because the benchmark shows it takes longer than the industry average. Profiling helps identify the issues causing this slow down, like a troublesome ad SDK.

2. Test and monitor on real devices

While many test on emulators, it’s always better to test on actual devices when possible. This is because testing on a device gives you insight into the performance of your app under a variety of conditions, including different operating systems, network conditions, battery levels, and user behaviors.

If you’re meticulous about your testing strategy, you can monitor user personas through this type of testing and even pinpoint opportunities for device- or region-specific optimization.

3. Monitor and act on user feedback

In a perfect world, your users would give you detailed bug reports that perfectly outline their issue. In reality, this is rare, and the lack of precision in reports leads to ample time spent tracking down and fixing bugs. Despite this, it doesn’t mean you should value user feedback.

You should always keep app store reviews and support tickets as a top priority. This is because these issues affect the user most directly. By prioritizing these issues, you can create happy, loyal, returning customers, who evangelize your app through positive word of mouth and help boost app store rankings.

4. Leverage dashboards for focused monitoring

Instrumenting dashboards requires time and effort on the engineer’s behalf, but the outcome is worth it. Dashboards are a worthwhile time investment when improving app performance is a top priority

Once implemented, custom dashboards help you view your most important performance metrics at a glance. You can stay on top of what matters most like your new releases, new location launches, errors, slowdowns, and more.

5. Configure alerts around performance thresholds

It’s a safe bet to say that any mobile monitoring platform you use offers alerting capabilities. Most platforms can even integrate with other tools like Slack or Jira to seamlessly incorporate alerting into your current tech stack.

The key is to set alerts around your performance thresholds. This way, you’re never exceeding key thresholds like a certain number of events, number of users impacted, or duration of a request or task, and your alerts act as a safeguard against app failure.

6. Take advantage of of tracing capabilities

Tracing allows you to monitor and analyze how efficiently your app works. Specifically, tracing captures performance data from individual segments or operations of your app to show you how they affect users.

You can use tracing to pinpoint specific issues in your app. For example, you might have an e-commerce app where users never reach the end of their checkout process. You know something is wrong, so you investigate, but don’t see a crash or anything notable in your error logs. This is where the ability to track specific operations of the app becomes beneficial.

Key metrics for maintaining mobile app performance

Optimizing your mobile app is an ongoing process that requires a combination of the best practices we mentioned above with the close monitoring of key metrics in order to maintain your performance goals.

If you’d like to learn more about improving your mobile app performance, learn about the top 10 key performance metrics you need to track, here.

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