tablet-pc-and-smart-phone_z1V7vJDd_LMobile User Experience (Mobile UX) is a common subject these days when it comes to discussing how to keep users coming back and how to keep them engaged. I’ll be discussing Mobile User Experience in my full-day workshop, Mobile UX is The New StoreFront, at the Practical Software Quality Conference  this August 19 in San Diego. What many don’t realize is that mobile UX is not just about placing buttons in certain places and having good contrast so people can see (usability), but more about providing an integrated experience specific to the mobile platform and specific to the tasks your users are trying to get done. But once you understand your users and the tasks they are trying to get done, one of the key criteria to providing them a good experience depends on performance. That’s why mobile performance testing is a critical component of mobile UX testing and evaluation. Despite what great experience you provide combined with optimal user flows, if it takes several seconds to provide it, then it’s all for naught. For performance testing in mobile applications, there are many acceptance criteria or measurements you should examine, but we think these two are the most critical.

  • Load time – Load time is the time it takes for an application to start up. A lot of this is dependent on the architecture of the app. For a native app, no problem (or shouldn’t be), but for apps that depend on a server component, there are many elements that can contribute to poor performance. While the load time threshold used to be under 2-3 seconds for satisfactory acceptance, the bogie keeps getting lower as carrier networks get faster and your competition gets better at architecting applications. So don’t only test your own apps; test your competition to see what expectations they are setting for users in your domain.
  • Response time – When a user inputs data or presses a button and the application responds, that’s the response time of the app. When you think of user tasks, each button and each swipe generates a different response from the server side of the application. Again, if it takes more than a second or two, the user is already distracted (or annoyed) and has possibly moved on. At minimum, your app needs to show the user that something is taking place while they are waiting.

We’ve outlined here just two of the many criteria that you need to look at when performance testing mobile applications. Of course, there are a dozen or so other criteria, but if you can get these right, you’re well on your way to achieving an acceptable mobile UX. In a future blog, we’ll be covering some of the tools we use for mobile application performance testing, as well as many other performance testing tips for areas beyond mobile. See you in August.