Top Ten Enterprise App Errors


By Martin Wrigley, Executive Director - AQuA

Developing Apps for an Enterprise to use internally carries unique pressures, and the need for great quality is never more pressing. AQuA’s Martin Wrigley describes some of the help available to avoid common quality pitfalls.

Developing an app for use in the business you work in is fraught with difficulties, not least that you are likely to be mingling with your users on a daily basis. None of us like to be harangued at the coffee machine if the app you developed has crashed or disappointed the user.

But is it enough to simply be getting users involved in the functional design, users trialing it before general release, and a responsive feedback loop, or can you prevent grief by learning lessons from prior developers? You are, or at least have access to, an expert in the business and that will help you get the functionality right. But are you an expert in the mobile devices, and how mobile apps behave on real users devices?

AQuA believes that apps have the capability to connect ideas, information, products, services and entertainment for everyone, and that apps have yet to reach their full potential. We see too many apps today are not yet good enough and still make basic errors in quality.

We believe that by providing practical, straightforward and free help to developers they can produce better apps that will benefit everybody.

We want to see apps that work, apps that are easy to use and apps that work well with the handset and the network.

We know that developers are committed to providing the best functional app that they can, and that they are experts in their field. However their field is often not telecoms, networks or handsets.

AQuA has been involved in helping to improve the quality of apps for years, and there are some clear common errors that many people make, purely through not thinking to test for them.

I remember when I was a developer getting so annoyed with the users who wanted to do what I though was daft things with the software I wrote, but to them it seemed natural.

So what has AQuA found to be the consistent top ten failures in Enterprise apps?

  1. User interface inconsistency; make sure menu options, button labels, ‘soft keys’, menus etc are consistent and clear and to your company standards.
  2. Lack of clarity of graphics and text; make sure that all the text is readable, clear and not cut off by the edged of the screen or overlapping other screen items

  3. App browsing confusion; although the navigation through the app is obvious if you’ve been working on it for weeks or months, not everyone else may find it so clear.

  4. Language inconsistency and spelling errors; if you support multiple languages, make sure that it is consistent and you don’t have the odd label in English hidden away… And use a spell checker!

  5. Privacy / Corporate security policy omission; you must always have a privacy policy / corporate security policy in the app, this is getting a real hot topic now.

  6. Hidden features; doing stuff behind the scenes without letting the user know will never win you any favours, even if your intentions are good.

  7. App crashing; you would be surprised how may apps can be made to crash when even some simple things happen on the device, memory cards, attachments, keyboards are common causes.

  8. Help is not there; whilst it is obvious to some, other people like to read help information and so providing help is a must.

  9. Network connection: lack of notification; again, so many people don’t test the phone dropping out of coverage. If you miss it and the app dies when the connection drops, the user ends up re-booting their device. With new networks and more handovers between technologies this is going to be a new hot topic.

  10. Screen orientation distortion; surely everyone check this one? No sadly not. Distorted images when changing from portrait to landscape and vice-versa still manages to hit our top ten simple errors that let apps down.

These top ten fails are all really annoying, as much to the developer as the user, and can really put a user off.

Happily they are also all quite easy to avoid by building a good QA process.

And as a final tip, one other aspect that is becoming really crucial is looking after the battery consumption of your app. One of AQuA’s members, AT&T, has developed an elegant tool called the Application Resource Optimiser (ARO) which can help. ARO looks at the way your app handles data. This may sound trivial, and if you are used to using WiFi, irrelevant, but is vital when using the mobile network. The mobile handset has various inbuilt algorithms for managing the power consumption of the radio, and a dangling tcp/ip session or an inconveniently timed keep-alive can play havoc with this power management. AT&T ARO identifies and pinpoints issues either during development or when the app is complete so that they can be fixed. And savings in the radio power means savings in the battery power and happy users.

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