App User Lifecycle

Top Reasons Why Users Uninstall Mobile Apps

December 18, 2015

The greater our understanding of mobile user behavior, the more successful our apps will be. It’s important to understand what draws people to apps, and how they use them, but it can be equally valuable to learn from failures: to understand the top reasons why users abandon and uninstall apps.

You might think that if a user downloads and later uninstalls your app, there’s no way to find out why, but that’s not necessarily the case. Mobile user behavior – in particular how quickly they uninstall an app – can provide valuable clues as to the likely reasons.

Immediate dissatisfaction

If the app analytics show that a user uninstalls an app almost immediately after downloading it, we can label that immediate dissatisfaction. The most common example here would be a confusing or unattractive user-interface: people take one look at the app, and either hates the way it looks or can’t immediately figure out how to achieve their desired task.

Another key reason for immediate abandonment is an app requiring a lengthy registration process. Remember that on-screen typing on a smartphone is never a pleasant experience, so it’s important to minimize the amount of data users needs to type.

But even if providing data is as simple as ticking boxes or selecting from a few dropdown menus, users may still object if the app is demanding information that strikes them as irrelevant or intrusive. Again, the key here is requesting the minimum amount of data necessary to provide a good user experience.

Rapid abandonment

If customers use the app a few times before uninstalling, that tends to point to one of two things. First, an app whose functionality falls significantly short of user expectations. While your marketing and promotional efforts need to sing the praises of the app, it’s vital to avoid over-promising and under-delivering. Nothing is more likely to generate both abandonment of the app and a poor rating or review.

Second, bugs! If an app freezes or drops out more than one or two times, most will uninstall it even if they like both look & feel and feature-set.

Later abandonment

If your app successfully navigates the first two stages, and customers have used the app sometimes before abandoning or uninstalling it, then we’re likely looking at different reasons.

Sluggish performance

Some apps seem great the first few times you use them. They look good, they are easy to use, and they deliver the promised functionality. It’s only after you’ve been using them for a while that you notice that they aren’t as snappy as they could be. Eventually, users tire of waiting and seek alternatives.

A common reason for users to try a sluggish app a number of times before giving up on it is that they may initially blame poor network coverage. There is no way for a user to tell whether the reason an app takes 10 seconds to retrieve the time of their next train home is because of slow data speeds, an overloaded server or an inefficiently-coded app. It’s only when they have the same experience repeatedly that they conclude it’s the app at fault.

Bloated apps

A user may like the look & feel, find the app easy to use, be pleased with the functionality and satisfied with the performance – but still uninstall it. The reason? The app takes up too much space.

Users store more data than ever on their mobile devices, so when space starts to get tight, they review their content. When it comes to apps, a few taps in Settings are all it takes to view apps in size order, largest first – and the biggest apps are the first to be considered for deletion. If your app is bigger than it needs to be, you’ve put it right in the firing line.

 Too many push notifications

 Most of us suffer from information overload: we receive too many emails, too many chat requests; have too many people and services demanding our attention.

App notifications, in particular, need to be extremely well thought-through. It’s all too easy to get carried away and end up spamming users with a constant stream of notifications, most of which are seen as trivial or irrelevant. Always aim to be economical in all of your communications with users, and to consider the most appropriate channel for each of them. An email may be a more acceptable way to alert users to a sister app, for example, than an immediate notification.

One particularly reliable way to annoy users is to use notifications to pester constantly them to rate and review the app! It’s ok to ask, but not too soon, and most not too often. And if they hit the ‘No thanks’ button rather than the ‘Ask me later’ one, then take the hint. The only thing you’re likely to achieve by asking them again is them deleting the app, perhaps with a negative review if they are sufficiently irritated that they want to voice their displeasure.

Forgetful users

 If a user doesn’t uninstall your app but ceases using it, there may be nothing wrong with it – it’s simply that they have so many competing demands on their time, they forget all about it. Abandonment rather than uninstallation is one case where notifications and other communication tools can be useful; reminding users of the reasons they downloaded and used the app in the first place.

Careful analysis of your app analytics can give valuable insights into mobile user behavior, even where that behavior is abandoning or uninstalling the app.

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