I started this research in 2017 and I have surveyed 1000+ users and interviewed quite a few to understand their app usage patterns, their behaviours.
Today we are surrounded by apps, and our life depends on apps. Interestingly every app promises to solve the user’s problem and tries to add some form of ‘value’ to the user’s experience but still, we end up uninstalling apps. The question is if every app solves something for the user, then why do we uninstall it?
I used to have 276 apps on my phone and hence decided to count how many I need. It turned out that I need less than 10% of the apps. Few apps landed in my need bucket and few in want. But every app had its own pattern of my usage. Some I was using daily, few weeks and few apps a few times in a month and I am sure this might be true for others as well. Lots of apps I used a few times, few I just kept on the phone or end up uninstalling. Now if I look at every app that tries to solve our problem, then why do I end up uninstalling them? As the number of apps is increasing, many companies seem to be striving hard to catch up but are missing the underlying thought process.
A few questions I kept asking were:
I decided to research ‘app usage patterns with the objective of understanding “what it takes to design or build an app which people would like to keep on their phone and use it.”
To begin with, I spoke to 8 friends in person to understand their app behaviours. I tried to understand:
I gave each one an exercise
These conversations gave me exciting insights. I noticed a pattern that the value of an app changes over time. Sometimes an app can become a need, and after the same time, the same app changes to want.
I felt these insights aren’t enough, so I decided to gather more data about usage patterns and planned quantitative research to collect more data to validate.
I planned a survey along with an exercise that was rolled out to around 1300+ people in two countries (India and Singapore). 289 people responded. It was essential for people to do the task and then based on the exercise they need to fill the survey. The survey included quantitative + qualitative questions. The survey questionnaire was made in such a way that it had quantitative and qualitative questions. Getting qualitative data is hard through a survey because of its remote nature, the time it takes, and one cannot adequately express their true motivations/emotions, but I wanted at least a few keywords that can provide me with some profound insights.
This exercise gave me the number. Next step was to understand these:
It’s an agency model which works in a shared studio. This option was out because there is hardly any collaboration with a cross-functional team.
Results show 4-7 apps people use every day which was a mix of communication, food, email, social etc.
People use 4-7 apps which are mostly around banking, content-driven apps like Linkedin etc.
Excluding daily apps
1 - 3 was a surprise. For some, it was the banking and for some, it's something related to 'passion' which they use in their free time. e.g. traveling
Excluding daily & weekly apps
Content (data) & services are key motivators.
Performance, lousy usability & design are the key triggers for uninstall.
Pesearch was performed on corporate employees. I'm planning to extend this to the non-power users soon.
Based on the results, I began to believe that there are four circles of apps on our phone, and every app fits in one of these. The circle is not folder which we create on the phone, but a virtual one based on your usage patterns.
Research showed that daily and weekly apps were mostly needs. Like communication, food, finance, etc. Monthly was different; most of them were interest and passion-driven apps. These apps are different from social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
Note - I'm still working on this research. I'll be updating this page soon with final findings and insights.