Why apps fail and how to avoid that

Usually, a person will decide to download an app in only a few seconds. At the same time, the massive volume of apps available intensifies competition for user attention. As of August 2019, a combined total of 4.42 million apps were available between the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store. So, in today’s saturated market, what does it take to develop a successful mobile app?

While the competition in the app market is high, failure isn’t always a result of getting lost in the noise. In most cases, there are other contributing factors. This article will outline six common reasons mobile app development projects fail and identify areas for improvement so you can adjust your strategy to effectively meet business and product goals.

Market & Audience

It’s easy to think that users will love your app, but can you validate that assumption? Long before development begins it’s essential to have a deep understanding of your product’s target audience. Not only is audience research necessary for developing an app that addresses a specific user need, but it also aids in the development of marketing campaigns that will attract users. A successful app launch strategy is firmly rooted in user research.

There can be multiple groups of users for an app, so during the early planning and discovery stage of a project, you have to identify the product’s central demographics and create user personas. A user persona is a semi-fictional representation of the product’s ideal user. The more detailed user personas are, the better. Demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals are just a few aspects to include in a user persona.

If you decide to build an app without doing the research, defining the audience, and strategizing use cases and features that will appeal to that audience, you run the risk of building a product you assume people will want, but in reality, don’t.

Introducing a new product to the market should be an iterative process to validate assumptions about user behavior and the product itself. An iterative process is highly beneficial for continuously meeting the needs of users and maintaining engagement. But how do you know exactly what to build for your users? How will you solve their pain points and exceed their expectations far beyond what the competition offers? Consider the minimum viable product development method, which is a process designed to identify user pain points and determine the proper functionality to address those needs over time. Building an MVP provides quick market entry and a foundational user experience that allows companies to learn how users react to the app’s core purpose, and with this insight, make logical decisions about how to achieve both business and product goals.


The truth is, app stores are oversaturated with similar apps. Today’s most successful apps have a strong value proposition. Competitive research will help reveal your competition’s strengths and weaknesses to define your own competitive advantage. Building a product that offers the same features as your competition won’t help you win over users. A unique value proposition (UVP) is the first step you need to consider to optimize user loyalty and overall business success.

One of the best ways to increase your chances of success is to draft a vision statement for your product. A vision statement creates a definite sense of direction towards the end goal of the application. As well, your vision statement defines the solution to the problem your intended users are facing.

Mobile app prototyping is another excellent method for creating a UVP. Testing a mobile product with a prototype is essential for user-centric design and development. Prototyping is a central part of the design thinking research process and uses rapid iteration to arrive at a product that offers maximum user value. Often the prototyping process will expose new ideas and confirm the best direction to take during development. Developing a prototype is a cyclical activity where product teams continually review and refine the product concept, returning to the beginning of the process several times until the concept meets business objectives and user needs. Overall, the process helps identify and fix problems early on in the project when it’s far less expensive to make changes.

Design thinking is at the core of creating original mobile products. Throughout the design thinking process, product teams conduct a substantial amount of research to either validate or invalidate a product concept using rapid prototyping. Design thinking supports innovation by observing and considering multiple solutions to a single problem. The core principle of design thinking asserts that a user-centric approach to product development encourages innovation, which leads to market differentiation and competitive advantage.


Android and iOS (as well as other platforms) have very intuitive interface guidelines. They operate in different ways and appeal to different user groups. By looking at your users’ choice of smartphone, you already gain some useful knowledge from statistical data alone. For example, iOS users typically have a higher income and more education than Android users. This information in itself may influence your decisions about the product’s monetization strategy. If your monetization strategy relies heavily on in-app purchases, an iOS app may be the most profitable platform; however, if you plan to monetize through ad placements, Android might be your best choice. Remember, the primary objective of any mobile app is to provide users with a solution to a specific problem they collectively face. If you don’t have a solid understanding of how user behavior changes between operating systems, you’ll find it difficult to develop an app that addresses the specific needs of your target user group.

When apps don’t perform well across the scope of devices, networks, and operating systems, it becomes a major problem. Users get frustrated when an app works on their iPhone, but not on their iPad, for example. When deciding what platform is best for your mobile app, a key question to ask is: what is the goal and purpose of your application? Choosing the right platform for your mobile app depends on the app content you intend to create and overall business goals. It comes down to analyzing your target market, and core user demographics to choose the option that best suits your business.
When developing for multiple platforms, it’s important to build with platform differences in mind. Apps that fail to do this stand to cause frustration amongst users. With the average user taking less than a minute to decide whether or not an app is worth using, a little frustration can be detrimental.

User Experience

There are a lot of components involved in building an app that offers a great user experience. At a base level, your app needs to be intuitive. If a user struggles to perform basic functions on your app and can’t figure out core functionalities easily, the result is very poor usability. Some other examples of poor user experience include:

  • App performance issues (slow or lagging)
  • Long load times
  • Long registration processes
  • Features that are difficult to access

Successful mobile apps all have one thing in common: they benefit users. If a user is going to use an app repeatedly, the product needs to be useful and offer a great deal of value. Creating an amazing UX involves practicing design thinking and establishing an extensive understanding of the target users’ lives and unmet needs.

It’s important to note that the UX encompasses much more than how a user feels about a product or service. It incorporates a strategic understanding of the product’s business model and the processes clients use. It also consists of understanding the broader context in which users interact and engage. A successful UX design creates solutions that meet the needs of the client, users and ultimately works within the bounds of the technological platforms.


While it’s rare that an app will be launched without minor bugs, making sure you invest in QA before shipping can ensure there are no major issues. If an app isn’t tested properly, it’s bound to be rife with bugs that impact user experience and is prone to crash. A single crash is more than enough to stop users from ever using it again. In fact, some of the most common negative reviews on app stores are related to apps crashing. In today’s mobile app market, it doesn’t take long for users to pass judgment on the products they download. Users have incredibly high expectations for mobile app quality, functionality, and performance.

According to a study by Blanco Technology Group (BTG), Fifty-eight percent of iOS-based devices suffer from performance failures like apps crashing or components shutting down. App testing must be done thoroughly, with a documented process in place, to ensure that your application is market-ready. It’s unlikely you’ll get a second chance if you fail to impress users the first time around.

App launch

An app launch strategy has a significant impact on acquiring and retaining users; it is a marketing effort that requires extensive research and ongoing work to see results. To improve your chances of success, there should be an established marketing plan to ensure that every step is made and executed properly in a timely manner.

If you want your app to have a high download and user retention rate, it needs to make a good first impression within the first few days prior to launch. This is a critical time to focus on highlighting the value of the app in order to optimize the onboarding process. If you don’t impress your new users quickly, you’ll likely lose their interest altogether.

A mobile app launch isn’t a one-time event. There will always be room for improvement which makes the mobile app launch a cyclical process that requires reassessment as market demands change. Recently launched mobile apps should be updated and relaunched regularly to keep users engaged through new updates and features.

In Summary

The performance of an app depends on many factors that can range from competition to marketing budgets to sheer luck. But beyond these factors, poor research and poor process execution are common reasons why mobile apps fail when launched. Focusing efforts on market and audience research, following platform-specific best practices, and thorough quality assurance testing can be the difference between failure and success.