How not to deliver a poor user experience on your apps

The importance of user experience (UX) has exploded in the era of ubiquitous personal computers, tablets and smartphones. Poor UX occurs when a company’s apps deliver disappointing business results.

UX is the discipline that strives to make complex devices easy to use. Outside of computing devices, it applies to everyday objects including cars, elevators, ATM’s, toothbrushes, cappuccino makers and airplanes. UX is particularly important in life and death situations faced by aircraft pilots and nuclear power plant operators.

UX design focuses on enhancing user satisfaction with your apps by improving the user experience. Superior UX produces superior business results. Studies show that companies that invest in UX are rewarded by:

  1. Higher sales per customer and per customer session.
  2. Increased customer retention.
  3. Increased market share.
  4. Growing market awareness and reputation.
  5. Lower cost for new customer acquisition.
  6. Lower business support costs.
  7. Fewer shopping cart abandonments.
  8. Reduced product return rates.

Here’s my list of the top issues that can undermine or improve user experience, and can help you identify what’s causing disappointing business results from your apps.

App data

It’s difficult to make data-driven decisions about how to improve the user experience you’re delivering when you have no data about what your users are actually doing on your apps.

For ideas about what data to collect and review to improve user experience, look at these CA App Experience Analytics Demo Videos.

Wait times

We’re all impatient. No one wants to wait for web pages to load.

Reduce wait times by keeping pages small. That means displaying a modest amount of text, avoiding giant images, and compressing all graphics files. Also do not preload the first part of a video, minimize the number of pop-ups and overlays. Ensure adequate server and network capacity.

If you have long web pages, load just enough information to fill the screen. Load more only if the user actually chooses to scroll down. Linkedin handles this case very well.


Ideally, no app will ever produce a 404 page not found error. Because that’s unrealistic, at least display a web page that apologizes and provides some navigation choices that strive to keep the user on your app. Air Canada, Amazon and many other apps handle this case well.

Similarly, apps should not return a 500 internal server error. This error points to poor operation of the underlying computing infrastructure and inadequate testing of the app. Improve your management processes or those of your vendors if you encounter this error.


Every app should provide visible feedback for user actions. Can I tell if I’m properly logged in or not? Display the user name somewhere on every web page. Top right is a convention that has been adopted by many apps.

Am I actually receiving the discount that I was promised on a previous web page when I reach the checkout page? Make the discount amount explicit as a separate line on the invoice page.


Keeping app content current and relevant is an ongoing task. If your company is still displaying pages related to an event or a sale that occurred in the past, then your content strategy needs work. Are your web pages missing graphics? Most business apps require the use of a supporting content management system.

Screen size

We’ve all tried unsuccessfully to view a website designed for a typical workstation monitor on a smartphone. Apps are expected to look great and work well on the varying screen sizes found on personal computers, tablets and smartphones.

App designers have developed the responsive and adaptive app design philosophies to meet this challenge. Debating which philosophy to adopt can take on religious overtones.

Adaptive may be the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to convert significant existing large screen website applications to function well. Responsive is often more expensive but provides more flexibility and may be more future proof.


It’s amazing how confusing navigation can become. Users end up going around in circles until they leave in frustration without ever finding the page they are sure exists.

Pull-down menus are a must. Displaying links to related content at the bottom of web pages has become an effective feature to entice users to linger.

Perversely, many websites are indexed better by Google than by the website owner. Your action is to improve the indexing that supports your search box.

UX resources to explore

The web contains a huge body of knowledge related to user experience that you can easily access by searching.

For an expanded list of issues and features to consider that will improve user experience, read the Usability Checklist.

You may find it useful to read this IBM monograph: Creating a Compelling Mobile User Experience.

Not surprisingly, software packages have been developed that can help your company quickly understand user experience weaknesses related to design or technical issues of your apps. Read summary reviews at this link.

What is your experience with improving the user experience of your apps at your company?

Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Yogi Schulz
Yogi Schulz
Yogi Schulz has over 40 years of Information Technology experience in various industries. Yogi works extensively in the petroleum industry to select and implement financial, production revenue accounting, land & contracts, and geotechnical systems. He manages projects that arise from changes in business requirements, from the need to leverage technology opportunities and from mergers. His specialties include IT strategy, web strategy, and systems project management.

Featured Download

IT World Canada in your inbox

Our experienced team of journalists and bloggers bring you engaging in-depth interviews, videos and content targeted to IT professionals and line-of-business executives.

Latest Blogs

Senior Contributor Spotlight