Last Minute Travel did it by removing the push notification prompt that appeared when a user initially opened the app. Omer Chehmer, head of mobile communications, and his team replaced it with multiple touch points along the customer’s journey. By expressing the benefits of push notifications to the user at the appropriate time—including asking the customer permission to send updates on potential flight delays after they booked their trip—Last Minute Travel celebrated a push notification opt-in increase of 182%.

The New York Times, long thought to be marching toward oblivion thanks to Internet news, has finally managed the transition to paid online journalism, and is seeing even more success in mobile thanks to recent usability redesigns. A mid-2015 iPhone homescreen redesign not only increased visit frequency, it resulted in users reading more articles and spending more time on the app. According to the company, six months into the new look, new user retention was 60% higher year over year.

Small user experience changes that are A/B tested on customers are critical for mobile success during the initial launch period when the vast majority of new users abandon the app, according to Apptimize, a mobile-first testing startup.

“Retention curve: I think that’s the first thing you should think about,” said Nancy Hua, Apptimize’s cofounder and CEO. “When we first started the company, we put a lot of focus on user acquisition. But if you don’t have good retention, you’re pouring money into a leaky bucket.”

Using her tool, you can not only scientifically test theories about usability and flow, you can also hotfix copy and other minor changes, bypassing the app store review process. Of course, A/B testing (indeed, testing of any sort) still seems aspirational for many mobile efforts. Clearly it shouldn’t be, especially with so many options for mobile testing around. Testing also becomes critical in the highly competitive world of mobile apps.

“Successful apps are cloned pretty rapidly. Every random utility app is cloned soon after launch,” said Hua. The answer is to keep testing new features—and never assume the app has finished evolving.

Mobile Continuous Delivery
Patrick Debois hopes you don’t think of him as a DevOps one-trick pony. At least, that’s what he said in his 2015 O’Reilly Velocity Conference talk, “Mobile Continuous Delivery—with a DevOps mindset.” During the presentation, he listed a vast array of open-source and commercial tools his team uses to build mobile apps that report real-time results to a live television show.

These include:

  • Hosted Continuous Integration options for mobile, such as Hosted CI (for iOS and Mac), Circle CI and Travis CI
  • Mobile security testing with dexter.dexlabs.org
  • App metrics with Fabric
  • Flight recording with Flight Recorder
  • Scenario testing with Appium
  • A/B testing and retention rates with Apptimize
  • Ranking with App Annie

Tools for making your own hybrid apps
In one case, going hybrid means attempting to use the pros of native apps (such as native device features) while utilizing Web apps for the general content of the app. In this hybrid situation, we look to create a native app that provides a shell such as app navigation and general chrome, while using a WebView control for the app content. The WebView may then load a general Web app or a PWA to provide the content, data or functionality of the app itself.