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A great mobile app user experience starts with building trust

Mobile has sensors and capabilities our desktops don't. But the best mobile app user experience Jennifer Lent had was old-fashioned phone support.

Apps that offer the best mobile user experience aren't just mobile. Sure, they take advantage of mobile device features like the camera and the GPS. But the best experiences also include old-fashioned features like phone support.

This realization was brought home to me this week as I worked my way through the unenviable task of moving my bank accounts from one financial institution to another. When I ran into trouble -- the new bank's mobile app wouldn't let me complete the check deposit process -- the app saved the day with a strategically placed Call a Rep button. With a single click, I was talking to a real person who explained why the app wouldn't let me deposit my check.

I didn't like the answer, but I loved the mobile app user experience. Instead of giving me an error message that didn't really make sense or abandoning me altogether, my new banking app quickly directed me down a path that led to an answer.

Elizabeth Rosenzweig, principal consultant at the Bentley University User Experience Center, said that when our apps communicate with us, they build trust. When apps don't communicate with us, they create distrust, undermining the credibility of both the app and the organization behind it.

In this edition of Quality Time, I outline what made the mobile user experience with the banking app inspire trust.

When apps don't communicate with us, they create distrust.

For quality-assurance, or QA, pros working on mobile apps, this is a reminder that no amount of device testing or in-the-field testing will matter if the user experience doesn't meet user needs. The most important step software testers can take is running a mobile app through its paces, evaluating the user interfaces. How does it respond to actions the user takes? Does it communicate effectively with the user? Do the error messages make sense? These crucial questions can't be left unanswered.

Here's how I graded the mobile user experience with my new banking app each step along the way.

  • Working from my desktop, I open an account from the bank's website. Took longer than promised but straightforward. I'll give it a B+.
  • Download the iPhone app for my new bank. Fast and easy. It's an A, but of course, this is about the app store, not my bank.
  • Navigate the mobile app to find the check deposit feature, and select the account. Reasonably intuitive. Another B+.
  • Here's where the trouble begins. When I click on the account, a new screen sporting a caution sign icon appears with this message: "Sorry, this feature requires an eligible personal account. Certain account types are currently not supported." I am tempted to give this response a failing grade. But I will go with a D because the message is in English and I understand what it's telling me. The problem is, I know my account type supports this feature, a fact I carefully researched at the outset of the process. When it comes right down to it, mobile check deposit is really the only reason I want the app. I rarely check bank balances from my phone, and I pay all my bills from my desktop.
  • As despair sets in, I click back to the previous screen, and there, in the bottom right corner is a Call a Rep button sporting a phone icon. I click it and within 30 seconds I'm talking to a real person! He tells me that bank regulations require new account holders to wait 30 days before the mobile check deposit is activated. The app didn't abandon me. It didn't make me look up the phone number. It didn't force me to leave the app to make the call. This is an A+ mobile user experience!

Yes, it could have been better. There's room for improvement. Ideally, the app would communicate the 30-day rule to me directly. But compared to other mobile apps I use, it's still an A+ experience.

I trust my new banking app. I trust the institution behind it. Will users trust the mobile apps you're testing? Let me know!

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What are the guidelines on how to make users trust my app?