This is a guest post by Xanadu founder and product strategist Mariya Yao

You put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to build your app only to launch and discover your product’s not the blockbuster success you fantasized it would be. Sound familiar?

If you’ve built an app people want yet you aren’t retaining users, you may have usability issues that are spoiling long-term engagement.

Luckily the internet has made it much easier to perform methodical studies on how people use and think about your app. We’ll be discussing user experience and more at VentureBeat’s upcoming Mobile Summit.

Meantime, here are some tools and techniques you can use to flush out problems in your mobile app design.

Get a professional evaluation

Non-designers make a lot of rookie mistakes that violate basic design and usability principles. Experience design professionals can flag many of these problems in usability audits of your product. Before you start testing with real users, consider getting an expert evaluation using services like uTest.

Check if people get your value proposition

You may think your landing page perfectly articulates why your app is awesome, but your wording might be unclear or unconvincing to others. Test this by using Clue which lets you quickly create a memory test you can use to see what users actually recall from your product page.

Track the right metrics

You can’t learn if you don’t measure. Flurry and Google both offer free basic app analytics like user session lengths and frequency of use. Advanced mobile analytics platforms like Kontagent, Localytics, and Apsalar offer additional features such as sophisticated user segmentation, detailed usage breakdowns, and flexible tools for measuring retention and conversion.

Record real users as they try your app

Trying to find local testers who match your target user profile and set up in-person usability studies is incredibly time-consuming. If you need user feedback quickly, try remote mobile usability testing services such as User Testing and Userlytics, which offer recorded videos of target users using your app for the first time and vocalizing what they find confusing.

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Use heatmaps to track user actions and paths

Users often use your app in all sorts of unintended ways. On mobile, you can use touch-tracking tools like, to visualize user taps and gestures. also builds user paths to show you how people navigate your app and where they bounce. Learn if users pay attention to the right things and stick around long enough to take important actions.

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Split-test different design assumptions

Split-testing, also known as A/B testing, refers to running multiple different designs in parallel to determine which one performs best. Services like Swrve, LeanPlum, and make it easy for non-technical people to design and test multiple alternatives such as different tutorial screens or variable pricing for in-app purchases.

Results from mobile split-testing are often counter-intuitive. For example, Swrve customers discovered that dramatically increasing the cost of top-grossing in-app purchases surprisingly did not result in a decline in sales.

Discuss your design feedback with your team

Once you’ve done all this user testing, where do you keep track of all your design feedback? Notable is a collaboration tool from the creators of Clue that lets you bulk upload and annotate screen shots of your apps in order to share and discuss your feedback notes with your team.

url-1What are your favorite mobile usability testing tools and techniques? Let me know in the comments below or tweet at me at @thinkmariya.

photo credit: premasagar via photopin cc