Why Your Data on Mobile Users is Incomplete

May 30, 2017 Hannah Levenson

The following is a guest post written by Hannah Levenson from Appsee:  

Sure, it doesn’t take a PhD to realize you shouldn’t consult your mom, or your gut feeling before making any changes to your app. Instead, you should consult facts: What you’re missing, however, is roughly half of your precious data.

Yeah. Lower that eyebrow and let me finish. With everything being online and digital, it is relatively easy to gather data (I say ‘relatively’ because there are things like data silos, dark data and unstructured data which can make it more complicated and in extreme cases a nightmare endeavor). The problem is – you’re probably not ‘looking’ in all the right places.

Do I have your attention now?

How do you gather your data?

Most mobile app companies nowadays aspire to make the most data-informed decisions for improving their app. That’s one of the reasons why the Big Data Analytics market is predicted to hit $203 billion in size in the next three years. They gather a bunch of stuff – the number of downloads, the number of installs (yes, there is a difference between the two) the number of uninstalls, the time spent in the app, the frequency of app use, all that jazz. There are literally dozens of KPIs that mobile app pros track, some more important than others (depending on the app, obviously). This data can tell a mobile app company a lot about its product, its relative success and popularity. What it can’t explain – is the ‘why’ behind the numbers.


Why are 43% of your users skipping your app’s onboarding? One might argue that it simply isn’t good enough – but that’s not an answer you’ll base your ‘informed decision’ on.

Why do 33% of users abandon your mobile shopping cart? Yeah, maybe they were just interested in seeing the price tag at the checkout. Keyword – *maybe*. Not good enough for informed decisions.

You see where I’m going with this? The fact of the matter is – most app professionals’ data is innately lacking. It can signal a problem, a pain point or friction in the app’s UX or performance. But, at the end of the day, all they’re doing is ringing the alarm. The root of the problem still needs investigating.

Things can get even messier when you realize that after getting all this numerical data you still need to play the guessing game as to what to do next and how to remedy different problems.

The A-ha moment

Image Source: Appsee

What app pros are missing is the other side of the coin. The Ryan Reynolds to the Blake Lively of data. The alpha to the omega of data. That other side of the coin that I am speaking of is called “qualitative data”.

This is the type of data that can’t exactly be expressed through numbers and figures, but still plays an extremely important role in building a proper mobile product. It can offer a clear, unbiased perspective on the numbers already collected through other means. Is onboarding too long? Is the user interface too cramped up? Is the navigation intuitive? Does the app focus too much on a feature that nobody needs, while ignoring something everyone’s craving for? Those are just some of the things that can be answered with qualitative data.

Gathering and applying qualitative data

In-person interviews are a great way of gathering qualitative data. With a strong sample of your target audience, some time and some funding, you can make a lot of sense out of the numbers gathered by tracking KPIs, like low retention rates or poor session frequency. Another great way to gather this data, especially if you need a bigger sample, or if you’re short or time and funds (which is probably everyone) is through qualitative analytics platforms like Appsee.

These come with tools like touch heatmaps or user session recordings. They can be easily embedded in an app and they won’t really leave a mark on its performance. Their biggest benefit is the ability to give app pros access to first-hand, unbiased data on how their app is being used.

Example of Touch Heatmaps. Image Source: Appsee

Touch heatmaps is a tool which pools every user’s interactions with an app (like taps or double-taps), and creates a visual touch heatmap. This allows app pros to quickly see and understand which parts of the app are most used, and which are being ignored.

It can also help them spot the lack of intuitiveness in their navigation (if users are swiping when they should be tapping, for example), as well as unresponsive gestures (when users try to interact with what they believe to be a navigation element).

Example of user session recordings. Image Source: Appsee

User session recordings allow app pros a direct window into each unique user’s journey through the app. Every interaction, on every screen, is recorded, giving app pros first-hand, instant insights into the user experience. The tool can help answer many of the questions app pros have, like why certain app screens have a higher abandonment rate or why users decide to quit an app right before making a purchase.

These are the kinds of answers app pros need, as they look to better understand their audience and optimize their app for a better user experience.

Final thoughts

Making data-driven choices about your mobile app is the way to go – no doubt about it. But you must keep in mind that data needs to be much more than just quantified app user behavior. It needs to help you understand not just how people behave when they use the app, but also *why* they behave the way they do.

Only then, once you really understand your users, you’ll be able to become more empathetic and deliver a truly enjoyable mobile experience. Everything less means you’re risking going down the wrong path. Using incomplete data to make informed decisions means not making informed decisions at all.


About the Author

Hannah Levenson

Hannah is the Head of Content at Appsee app analytics. A UX and mobile app enthusiast, she has a great affinity for discovering and sharing unique insights and resources with the mobile tech community. Hannah also loves photojournalism, classic rock, and pretending that she's the only one with a "foodie" Instagram account. You can follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahLevenson.

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