TechMake App Development Decisions Based on Real User Surveys

Make App Development Decisions Based on Real User Surveys

The survey in question was conducted throughout the United States back in 2021. We targeted the survey towards teenagers and young adults, by selecting the two youngest available age brackets, 14-17 and 18-22.  A roughly equal distribution of 400 male and female respondents was provided, in order to get a fair representation of gender.

We also wanted the survey to cover as broad a sample base as possible, across the entire United States, in order to ensure that a regional trend did not overly color our survey.  We obtained respondents from as many of the 50 states as possible.

Limitations included

Any given survey has a number of limitations. By carefully crafting the questions, these limitations can be reduced somewhat, but the best way to increase the validity of a survey is to increase the number of people asked, to obtain as large a sample size as possible.

Key Limitations:

  • Sample size: While we included every state in our survey, several were either overrepresented or under-represented. The largest number of respondents hailed from California (67), which could have skewed the survey somewhat.
  • Gender Distribution: The gender distribution was not quite equal (2% difference). This distribution difference should have a negligible effect on the study.
  • Age Group: Of more concern is the discrepancy in representation of the two age groups. The discrepancy in respondents of each age group was not an intended outcome, and can possibly skew the results as a whole towards the patterns of the younger group. However, our interest was primarily in the younger demographic, so this may have worked in our favor.
  • Omitted Apps: A choice was made to include as many options as possible, and to avoid questions with typed fields for easier selection. In order to provide additional choices, we could not supply an “Other” field for teens to add their own choice, as we had hoped.

Survey Findings:

Facebook holds a unique position, in that it is the standard ‘everyone’ uses to stay connected and yet has very poor app ratings. It is the established veteran and retains its monopoly with those who saw its growth to its current state, and understand what an innovation it really was. But there is an entire generation now who grew up never knowing a world without it. It is this generation that we are starting to see turning away from (or never fully engaging  with) the networking giant, and looking to find a new place of its own.

And they are finding not just one, but several. Facebook still holds the primary spot for 27% of respondents (the largest single group represented).

However, the combined list of competing apps exceeded Facebook’s usage by a ratio of almost 3 to 1. This means that by far, the majority of teens now consider Facebook the alternate choice.  This is a paradigm shift, one that needs further exploration, in particular from developers hoping to create another such shift with a future app.

That Facebook has been losing traction amongst younger users is not a new development, with reports from as early as 2015 remarking on the growing trend. While talking to several members of the teenage\young adult age bracket, it became clear that the above results did not mean teenagers did not use Facebook. Facebook, even if not their “primary” social network, continues to play a big role.  It is, however, more of a utilitarian role than before.

Respondents noted that they often use Facebook for primary information gathering. After a new acquaintance, it is important to find information about a person in this social network, and if this person passes subjective face control – then he can be added to other social networks (Instagram, Snapchat, etc.). Others admit that they use it exclusively for communication with their family, and do not add here private photos that they do not want to share with their relatives. But at the same time, they thoughtlessly post such photos on other social networks.

It became clear that while Facebook was not in danger of losing users entirely, there was a shift in perception of the app, and that other apps were becoming the primary sharing medium.

This speaks to a shift in thinking amongst teens, in that privacy has become a concern. Users still want to be connected, but want to choose their connections more carefully, and compartmentalize their relationships. They want to share their lives, but to target where, what, and sometimes how long something is shown.

When teens choose to share their information, they tend to share a lot of it, and often. Cumulatively speaking, 78% of our respondents counted among those who accessed their favorite social media application at least three times a day. Regardless of which app is selected (and make no mistake, Facebook is included), users log on several times daily. A strong percentage, you might say, log on a little too often for their own good. According to the fourth question, the average amount of time spent daily on their favorite application, whether it be Facebook, Tumblr, Snapchat or Instagram, was nearly 4 hours.

By correlating the two questions “What social media/chat app do you most frequently use?” and “How often do you access your favorite social media/chat application?” we find that Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram see the highest number of logins per day. Twitter and Instagram saw similar devotion, with 43% and 45% of users reporting 9 or more logins a day. This correlation assumes that favorite and most used are essentially synonymous.

Watch the Big Player and Try To Do Better

This high rate of returning users, ideally with a fair deal of time spent per session, is the holy grail that app developers constantly search for. Whether a social media application, a game or a utility, we are looking to create a user experience that keeps the customer coming back for more. Your business can benefit greatly from hiring an outsource web developer partner for all of your projects. A web developer can help you create a website that is responsive, visually appealing, and user-friendly. With their expertise in programming languages and web design, a web developer can help you take your online presence to the next level.

So we know from the above that users want to share. Facebook’s success lay in being the first to allow its users to easily share anything and everything, whether photos or videos, daily updates, messages to family and friends, etc.

Twitter succeeds because it condensed this to 140 characters (we didn't consider this social network after Elon Musk bought it, this is a completely different story), and an image or link, making it ostensibly easier to post often, and keep it immediately relevant. Content-based social media platforms –ie, where you can post, and create, and view others' more substantive content (videos and blogs, for example) – can take up a large chunk of a teens time, regardless of how many times they log in. 

Snapchat, which allows you to take images, doodle on them, and send them out into the world, holds a slight edge over Twitter and Instagram (the former limits how much you can send in a message, and the latter only allows you to apply a filter, not truly modify the image) in terms of time spent on the app per day. 

Youtube and Tumblr, which are focused nearly entirely on content created or shared by users, suck up nearly four hours a day, despite fewer per day logins. The hours spent on Tumblr, I believe, reflect not only the user content delivered from others, but also the time that is spent on creating and modifying “look and feel” to create a tailored page. Facebook’s UI, by comparison, is very familiar, but not highly customizable. Teens want to craft an identity, both in terms of content followed on their app or page, and if available, by modifying the app and profiles themselves.

Snapchat takes the common concept of sharing something, but ensures that it is always something new. It doesn’t truly limit what you choose to share, or how much, but the duration it is made available. This encourages you to share more often, as well as to check in more often. That Snapchat’s popularity exceeds Twitter’s might be due to this factor alone. 

Instagram too succeeds on brevity. The focus is again on shared images, but they remain as long as you keep them. Instagram focuses on making it easier to take photos and to improve them with filters. Photos can be removed from your feed whenever you choose, and you can discuss your photos or just chat in general. To simply share an unmodified image, one can simply login, snap, and post immediately. Adding a caption or drawing doodles on the image are separate, additional steps, but equally easy to perform. If an app shares a photo, it should be as simple as the camera interface it is based upon, and in many ways mirror it.

The Key Features of Apps that Succeed

The apps that are able to draw significant numbers from Facebook have a few things in common.

  1. Control over content – the ability to modify content in a way not available on other apps, as well as to choose what or how much of something they want to see.
  2. Control over privacy – the ability to choose who you share with (or in Snapchat’s case, that content is deleted near immediately after sending).
  3. A simple user interface without an overload of features.
  4. A sense of identity and community, based on the app.

The social media giant is making steps to align itself with most of these concerns. The first of these is the unbundling of Messenger, in order to simplify its offerings. Tweaks to the newsfeed in order to ensure content reflects users' tastes and configurations have met with mixed results, but it has obviously become a priority for the platform. Privacy has been an ongoing battle, but strong attempts have been made to address the concern. The permanence of the content on its network is perhaps the biggest challenge it faces in that regard. Snapchat’s deleted image model has brought unprecedented success simply based on the fact that the picture will be gone in seconds, or failing that, the next day if they use the stories feature.  The sheer number of users on Facebook that are not of their peer group is a primary concern. Teens are aware that employers, teachers, and other authority figures check the social network for information, and that an item in their timeline might come back to haunt them at a later date. Facebook is mitigating this by purchasing power.  By purchasing the popular Instagram platform, and associating it with their product, they are essentially keeping a portion of the teen user-base engaged, if only by proxy.

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