Let's be fair here — most mobile apps are pretty good. They're easy-to-use, have slick and responsive user interfaces and generally make your life easier. In fact, you may not even know why an app is so good, you just know that there's a good reason you use it a lot.
Not all apps are perfect, however, as I have found on reviewing hundreds of applications for iOS, Android and Windows 8. With that in mind, here's a breakdown of some of the app problems that I find most irritating.
Is there really anything worse than an app crashing when you’re halfway through doing something? It’s certainly my single biggest complaint.
That said, it should be noted that it’s not always the developer’s fault. Sometimes there are too many users using the app or perhaps the user has inadequate bandwidth. But more often than not it is because the app’s front end isn’t communicating with the back-end or because a new feature — which has perhaps come on-board as part of a new update — has introduced a new bug.
I am certainly not alone in this, late last year a study from API company Apigee revealed that crashing is the second most annoying app problem, after freezing.
Slow loading times
Coming a close second is speed, or more precisely, the app lacking any speed whatsoever. This is often the case when an app lags on loading up, although sometimes you can also encounter issues when there is a lag in performance during a certain task.
From a user’s perspective, it’s worth sometimes checking your Internet connection because these problems are occasionally down to some kind of bandwidth restriction.
(Enterprise app development will be a key session focus at the upcoming TabletBiz conference coming to New York on November 13, 2013).
Complex user tutorials
Have you ever opened an app and been greeted with a complex tutorial on how to use it? It doesn’t happen too often – most developers realize that 'keep it simple' is the way to go – but detailed tutorials that are cramped on one page are an instant turn-off.
If the app’s worth pursuing then I’ll most likely swerve the page and go on my own intuition, but sometimes an app with a messy tutorial puts me off to the point that I either delete it outright or (more likely) never use it.
As an aside but still linked to tutorials, I've sometimes been frustrated by a developer's decision to include some artistic 'tutorial' video which tells you nothing about the product.
Messy user interface and navigation
I see it increasingly less these days but I do still come across the odd app with a user interface that is either cluttered or lacking in consistency when it comes to design and navigation.
In these cases, everything if often meshed together on one page and that can make it quite difficult to get to the tools you want. Less is more in my book and, the UI should generally be consistent and easy to digest.
No-one wants to use an app that is hard to get around.
“Navigation through the app is obvious if you’ve been working on it for weeks or months, but not everyone else may find it so clear,” said Martin Wrigley, director of the App Quality Alliance.
Being forced into app communities
Let’s be honest here – we’ve got enough passwords to remember as it is what with email, Facebook, Twitter, PC log-ins and online banking. We really don’t want another one, especially if it stops us from getting in and using an app.
But increasingly developers are pushing users into email-bound accounts or even user communities. True enough, often this is optional but really I am happy enough either not signing up at all or doing so via Facebook or Twitter.
Too many ads
As the earlier study revealed, most app users aren’t happy about having a lot of ads fill up their tablet display.
Sadly, that’s part and parcel of the app experience. If you want a free app you have to put up with the ads, if you don’t you’ll have to upgrade in-app. Developers have to monetize somehow.
If that isn't irritating enough however, you'll sometimes encounter an app where the positioning of an ad is a hindrance, and almost in the way of some icons.
Contrary to Creative Strategies analyst Ben Bajarin, I rarely use my iPad or Android tablet in portrait orientation.
And yet various app developers, including those behind the highly-rated Task iPad app, persist with apps that are portrait-only. It’s not a huge problem of course, but I still find holding and using the iPad in this way to be unusual and slightly cumbersome and I suspect I'm not alone. A choice of either viewing mode would eliminate the issue.
You’d think that apps running on Apple’s iPad, which is after all a touchscreen device, would play nice with the touchscreen icons.
Sadly, that’s not always the case and numerous apps I’ve tested have either been slow or completely unresponsive to touchscreen taps.
Have a pet peeve I didn't cover? I'd love to hear yours in the comments section below. Maybe we can enlighten more developers as to the things that will help make their apps more successful.