Interview with Nancy Hua, CEO of Apptimize

“Apps need to show value before they can ask for information”

Gabriela Motroc
Nancy Hua

Users want the apps on their phones to always deliver value – not satisfying their expectations will eventually lead to lower ratings and more regular uninstalls. So how can we prevent that from happening? We asked Nancy Hua, CEO of Apptimize, to explain what it means to truly optimize an app.

UX has become a real buzzword these days, but when it comes to mobile apps, even small changes to the UX can have a dramatic impact on user behavior. However, UX is not the only detail that can make or break an app; context is also very important, as well as A/B testing. Nancy Hua, CEO of Apptimize, a mobile optimization solution that allows native iOS and Android apps to innovate quickly and accurately through A/B testing, Instant Updates, and Feature Flags, will tell us how to create strong apps that can resist not the test of time, but users’ test.

JAXenter: What do faster iteration cycles mean for brands?

Nancy Hua: App store data shows a correlation between high app store ratings and faster iteration cycles. Updating your app more frequently can ensure that your app has relevant content and that you’re able to address any user feedback in a timely manner. Users expect apps installed on their phones to deliver continuous value; a stale experience or long-lasting bug can lead to lower ratings and more frequent uninstalls.

JAXenter: Mobile users have a low tolerance for buggy apps – only 16 percent are willing to try a failing app more than twice. What can we do when an app is bleeding users, yet additional app reviews sometimes take up to a week?

Nancy Hua: Apptimize helps to address this problem. Our customers are able to make instant visual changes to their app, perhaps by removing access to the buggy feature or tweaking the user experience. We also allow companies to gradually roll out features, so they can test the impact on a small subset of users, and instantly turn it off if it isn’t working.

SEE ALSO: “What’s the magic about unicorns? UX!”

JAXenter: Can testing small UX changes tailored to a specific customer make a difference? How?

Nancy Hua: Absolutely. Even small changes to the UX can drastically impact user behavior. We’ve seen companies greatly increasing their registration rates or conversion by simply changing the text or location of a button. Reducing friction or clarifying the value of taking a certain action can have a substantial impact on user behavior.

JAXenter: What are the details that impact user behavior?

Nancy Hua: Context is extremely important on mobile. Mobile devices know a lot about us – where we are, who were are, what we did the last time we used the app. The more apps can leverage this and provide contextually relevant information, the more likely it is that users will find what they’re looking for and engage with the app.

JAXenter: Does it matter if IoT companies do not shore up their apps? What are the consequences of failing to do so?

Nancy Hua: IoT promises convenience. This means IoT companies must anticipate user needs and offer a consistently great user experience to stay relevant. Through mobile apps, IoT companies have access to a lot of information about their users, such as geolocation, accelerometer, identity, and previous actions. If the app ignores this information (e.g., not offering to unlock a door when it knows a user is nearby), users will start to devalue the app and look for a better solution.

Context is extremely important on mobile.

JAXenter: How important is A/B testing mobile apps and what are the benefits?

Nancy Hua: Without A/B testing, it’s very difficult to know how real users behave in response to the features you’re developing. Internal and beta testing can provide valuable insight, but these users are different than your real users – they’re much more invested in your company and more tolerant of poor user experience. Also, since A/B testing is conducted on a larger scale, it can provide quantitative answers to key questions such as: Does the new onboarding experience lead to more purchases? Does simplifying the UI lead to more frequent engagement? That’s difficult to get through any other method.

JAXenter: What are the pitfalls of A/B testing?

Nancy Hua: Proper test design is important – running a test that is too small or for too short a time could lead to statistically invalid results. Equally important is the willingness to make tough choices based on data. A new feature may have taken a long time to build, but if it confuses users and causes retention to drop, it shouldn’t be released until it’s reworked.

JAXenter: How does app onboarding work? How do you get people who have downloaded the app to become active users? Could you offer an example?

Nancy Hua: Designing an app onboarding process requires a number of choices – should you require users to register? Does a tutorial increase registrations or add friction to the process? What’s the key action to drive users to that will ensure they return? New users will quickly remove an app that they’re not getting value from.

SEE ALSO: How UX can help you keep your job as a developer

JAXenter: What is the biggest turnoff for mobile users? What makes them avoid certain apps?

Nancy Hua: Apps also need to show value before they can ask for information. Too many apps ask for access to location, contacts, and notifications without telling the user why that will benefit them. In most cases, the user refuses. Since the apps rely on that information to be useful, they quickly become frustrating to use.

JAXenter: Is a simplified UI the answer to more frequent engagement?

Nancy Hua: The best UI isn’t always a simple UI. It’s the most appropriate UI for the task at hand. For a common action such as adding an item to a shopping cart, a straightforward UI is probably the best choice. However, for something where many options are valuable, such as photo editing, users may prefer the more complex UI.

Thank you very much!

Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc was editor of and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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