Optimizing Performance for Native Mobile Applications

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Optimizing Performance for Native Mobile Applications
Optimizing Performance for Native Mobile Applications

In recent years, companies have put tremendous effort into improving the performance—that is, the speed and reliability—of their mobile sites and mobile Web applications, with the goal of driving sales. This is not surprising, given the sheer size of the mobile commerce opportunity and the fact that an increasing percentage of overall online commerce sales are occurring through the mobile channel.

In a recent survey, 49% of smartphones and tablets owners said they will be using their mobile devices this holiday season to search for and buy gifts—an astounding 200% increase from last year's holiday shopping season.

Clearly, mobile site and mobile Web apps are important—but strong performance for native mobile applications is essential. The aforementioned survey found that more than one-third of smartphone and tablet users will be using company-specific native mobile apps this holiday season. Since app users tend to be loyal—repeat customers with significant lifetime value—the stakes for delivering highly satisfying, high-performance app experiences are huge. In spite of this knowledge, native app performance snafus—for example, crashes, freezes, errors, slow launch times, apps that never properly launch — are common.

How can companies better protect and enhance the performance of their native mobile apps? Consider the following:

Recognize that wireless networks and devices aren't always conducive to excellent performance. Native mobile apps may be preinstalled on a device, but ultimately these apps can only run as fast as the network allows. So, companies can't just test native app performance over WIFI and assume their end users are having an excellent experience. Rather, companies need to assume the lowest common denominator of wireless network capabilities and measure the true end-user experience at the most likely connection speeds, including dial-up.

In addition, developing apps for mobile devices requires close consideration of the constraints of these devices. A tablet, for example, may be a lot more functional than a basic smartphone. But, if basic smartphones are prevalent among a customer base, the performance of a native mobile app must be assessed from the perspective of this lower-end device user in order to truly reflect what users are experiencing.

Proactively monitor performance for all native app downloads, 24/7. Companies need to know what's going on with their native apps at all times, especially when performance is going awry. It's not ideal to discover something is wrong only upon seeing a one-star rating in an app store. By then the damage to company reputation is likely already done.

In addition, the very nature of native mobile applications—often accessed by customers on the go hunting for deals—places an ultimate premium on speed and convenience. The worst thing that can happen to an end-user is that an app crashes or shows error messages. Capturing crash reports for individual failed mobile visitors is essential for identifying and fixing functional problems before a larger number of users are impacted.

Use common monitoring practices for native apps and mobile Web apps—even though one is native and the other is a standardized Web technology. Specifically, this means that companies must combine end-user experience monitoring across multiple app versions and device types with deep-dive diagnostics. Mobile Web applications depend on a wide range of Web and network technologies performing well, including carriers, ISPs, and CDNs.

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