Blog Post: Breaking Down #Mobile Principles – #Performance

In an amazingly dense post, Mashable’s Grace Smith laid out some core foundations of the current mobile landscape. It inspired me to explore each of them in a way to help you refine your mobile strategy.

To begin, let’s explore the concept of performance of an app or mobile site on a device. 

Whenever you click the “like” button in Facebook’s app (or mobile site), users assume the action is immediate. As a matter of fact, there are many times you could like something and then by the time you pull up the desktop site on your machine it would most likely appear in kind. Seems like there is no problem, is there?

Perception, as the saying goes, is reality. Maybe.

I don’t doubt that Facebook has performance on it’s flagship product (your news feed) humming like a sports car. A “like” is a simple action, and depending on what kind of network connection you have there might not be any latency. On a more complex action, not so much.

When you create an account in a mobile app, for instance, the activity is a little more complex. There’s information to write to a database, device information (location, contacts, etc.) to import, settings to save, and so on. The user does not see all of that. All that matters is that whatever you entered is immediately reflected once the new page loads. To do so, apps use the local database on the device to aid in performance while the actual saving of that data to the web service takes place. 

Going back to liking something on Facebook. Even though the activity does not happen automatically every time, the app itself shows the action happening instantly. The user can rest assured that once the button is highlighted blue on their feed, they can move on.

Can you imagine what would happen to the user’s experience if there was a spinning wheel every time a stall occurred in performance? Complaints would rise, the action would lose it’s popularity, and engagement would drop severely. 

Instead, developers have realized that giving users the impression of lightning fast performance is much more important than it happening in reality. I don’t remember every post I have liked. I just know that I have liked a ton of stuff and I want the app to run smoothly while I do so. If not every action is saved for future reference, no big deal. My experience while in app is what brings me back for more.

If you can resolve any latency of the experience, your users will be more forgiving of back end data storage activity. Of course, if you are developing a banking app, priorities shift.

For most consumer applications, just make sure your app is perceived well. That’s really the only reality you need to increase usage and engagement.

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