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Users Ignore Half of Your App’s Features — Here’s How to Choose the Right Ones

Web & Mobile

Isadora Teich wrote this article


Many modern companies are finding that building an app is essential to conducting business in the modern-age.

But just having any old app is no longer enough.

After all, with so many apps out there to choose from, consumers can readily tell a good app from a bad one.

And as it turns out, users are also barely using apps — even when it comes to the ones they download.

According to research from Standish, modern app users rarely use (or entirely ignore) 50% of all in-app features.

While it might not exactly seem like a crisis if users are not accessing all of your app features, this research actually reveals some pretty interesting angles for appreneurs and companies to take into consideration.

It’s Easy To Feel Pressure To Build An App That Can Do It All

But it’s also possible this may be more akin to shooting yourself in the foot while simultaneously trying to support a feature-heavy app.

The Standish data shows that in many cases, less is more. This goes for any new venture, and that includes app development.

Investing resources into an untested app idea with hundreds of features (fifty of which are almost never used by anyone) could be considered a waste of resources.

This data also reveals something pretty compelling about consumers.

Many users will never discover the full potential of the apps they download.

This is likely because few companies provide enough education about their products.

Of course it’s important to get users to download your app.

But once they do so, it is equally important to make sure they understand how to utilize your app to get the most value.

That way, they’re more likely to stay.

Worldwide, 25% of all apps are accessed just once after download. Enticing users to keep coming back with the right user experience matters.

But in the case of many apps out there, some users are just giving up right out of the gate when it comes to feature exploration.

Users are either choosing not to interact with the majority of the in-app tools offered to them, or simply have no idea they exist.

Beating the 50/50 Feature Rule

When it comes to building apps, there are very few universal rules that apply to every situation.

Every business and app is different, and that means careful consideration is always required.

However, this data suggests that appreneurs and companies may want to tailor their approach to app development in two key ways:


1. Scale back the complexity of their app.


2. Provide education for consumers on how to use their app.


Limiting Scope While Nailing The User Experience

Ah, minimalist apps.

There are some compelling arguments for and against embracing minimalism when it comes to apps.

Whether this makes sense for your app will depend on a number of factors.

This can include your audience, type of app, your niche, and overall goals.

For one thing, certain apps can benefit from having a plethora of features. For example, a photo-editing app with minimal features would likely be non-competitive in today’s app market.

On the other hand, if an app is too complex or offers too many features, it can easily lead to feature-overload.

You really don’t want to give the casual user choice fatigue.

The question of “how much is too much?” is not an easy one to answer. It all comes down to your budget, user demand, and your timeline.

Besides providing a better user experience, a lighter app also benefits the developers who build it, and coincidentally, whoever’s funding the app.

A lighter app can also lessen the load when it comes to annual app maintenance.

It’s just more cost effective to maintain, easier to implement, and faster to get to market building an app that’s more selective on features.

We recently built an app for Mister Softee, the popular ice cream truck company with a lovingly familiar jingle. Mister Softee approached us at Chop Dawg to reach their next generation of customers through mobile.

Mister Softee wanted to create a mobile application that will allow anyone to see, in real-time, where a truck is, where it is going, and how close it is to them. The trucks use geolocation devices and connect to customers’ locations at home or on-the-go.


The mobile application also provides a localized menu for each region that Mister Softee serves. Customers have the chance to pick out which menu items they want in advance.

We knew from the get-go the app did not need to have anything else besides these two core functionalities.

Mister Softee’s feature-light app is going to delight audiences of all ages on an entirely new frontier; changing the game forever for their loyal franchisees and ice cream lovers alike.

What Do Users Want To See In Your App?

If you opt for the ‘less is more’ approach, the features that you include need to make perfect sense.

It’s going to be the sole reason users stick around.

But how do you figure this out?

– Start by looking at the most popular apps in your niche, and take note of what they’re doing.

– Be sure to check the App Store and Google Play and also take careful note of what your app can do better.

– Seek out ways to set yourself apart from the competition and make your app an invaluable asset to users, as this will become your moat.

– Read reviews and go on help forums to see what issues users are currently facing.

– See what the online conversation is like surrounding some of the most popular apps in your niche.

Listen to what users are saying out there about the apps they’re using every day. After all, this is who you will be trying to engage with someday very soon.

If you already have a team that regularly engages with consumers, they can be a valuable asset to you as well.

They interact with your customer base regularly.

Ask them what problems they encounter repeatedly and try to understand the causes behind them, then maybe think about adding a feature or two to your app to help solve that problem.

You can also turn social media into a customer education asset for you and your customers.

When in doubt, ask your existing or target audience what features they’d like to see. It’s one big reason we recommend marketing your app on social media before its launched.

A company blog or YouTube channel can also be a home for tutorials or educational content for new feature rollout.

You can also use social channels like Facebook and Twitter to field consumer questions and generally keep tabs on the conversation surrounding your app’s niche.

What Apps Are Users Currently Loving?

The top 5 apps downloaded in 2019 were WhatsApp, TikTok, Facebook Messenger, Facebook, and Instagram. Facebook owns almost all of these social media apps and collectively had over 16 billion downloads.

While social media dominates the world of apps, this does not mean that there is not a booming market across a wide range of niches. In 2019, over 2.4 billion people played mobile games via apps, for example.

Recent trends in apps that consumers are loving include AR (Augmented Reality), which is mostly used in mobile gaming. So you may want to think about incorporating mixed reality features into your future app.

Apps with offline functionality are also being added en masse to the App Store.

While it might seem strange that people are demanding apps that also work offline, this is actually for practical reasons.

The travel planner app TripIt, for example, has offline features. It also has over 50,000 reviews and has been downloaded more than 5 million times.

For one, frequent travelers who might find themselves on a plane without WiFi or service for hours can really benefit from offline functionality.

Also, depending on where in the world you are, WiFi and data might not be a given. Service can be as unpredictable in the metros of big cities as it is in the middle of the countryside.

Building offline mode into your app can help guarantee users a more seamless experience.

For evidence of this, just look for one of those round-ups of “the best offline apps” that are becoming incredibly popular online.

The Way Consumers Access Information Is Changing

It is forecast that by the end of 2020, more than 100 million smartphone users will work with voice assistant applications.

To prepare for this, you may want to consider optimizing your app for use with voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home.

Knowledgeable Users Tend To Be More Loyal

While they may have downloaded your app only for specific features, once they learn it offers them even more, they may spend more time with it.

On the other hand, many users actively abandon apps that they don’t connect with. As only 21% of people who download an app use it for more than a day, this is a big problem you need to tackle early.

Depending on your app, numerous in-depth features may be necessary, and even a selling point.

In these cases, the answer may lie in extra considerations taken during the UI/UX planning phase and providing users with an easy on-boarding process or guided rollout.

Providing Constant User Support Can Be Costly

For one, it may lead to your user helpline being flooded with users requests and companies.

This is bad for both your team members and your users. If your team spends all day answering the same basic questions, it can lessen their overall productivity.

Also, consumers really don’t want to have to bother with contacting support.

In light of this, you may want to consider opting for a social login API for your app verses including your own login functionality. Most users seem to prefer them to filling out lengthy forms each time they download an app. So that’s one feature you can confidently leave out if you choose to do so.

This can limit also any pesky password or login-related requests from users, which end up costing on average about $70 per request.

The reality is, occasional user issues are unavoidable. You need to have a system ready to go upon app launch to deal with any that may arise.

However, if countless users contact support with the same issues regularly, that may be indicative of a deeper problem that needs to be addressed when it comes to the app’s user interface.

Something is negatively impacting the user experience, and it needs to be corrected.

Making efforts to continually engage with your user base throughout app development and with ongoing user education efforts can help increase customer loyalty and positively boost your ROI.

Final Thoughts On Prioritizing Features On Your App

Ultimately, the way people use apps, and their expectations for them, are changing.

Currently, users are ignoring about half of all of the features in any app they use, and many never open an app they download more than once. This is a pretty big con for both users and appreneurs.

It means that users are constantly looking for apps to address problems, abandoning them, and then seeking out new apps. This is likely because there is little consumer education coming directly from companies behind the apps.

A business may pour resources into creating an app with all the bells and whistles, believing that this will make their app more competitive.

However, if you don’t point users in the right direction when it comes to using your app, they will likely miss out on most of them.

In order to correct this, companies and entrepreneurs alike may want to embrace some combination of minimalism when it comes to app features and investing in more user research and education.

What do you think? Should app developers offer fewer features, more user education, or both?

Talk to me below.

About Since 2009, we have helped create 300+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.


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