It’s a tough balancing act between delivering rich content and letting players enjoy the game without a painful loading screen. Catch up on this VB Live event for a deep dive into the best practices for reducing load times across both the mobile web and apps.
Qualtrics data shows that the average app is losing 77 percent of its daily active users within the first three days after the install. Within 30 days, it’s lost 90 percent; within 90 days, over 95 percent, gone.
And slow speed is the number one reason that users are uninstalling your app or game.
And yet, you still want to provide users with rich content, good looking games, and a great experience. But there exists the perfect balance between keeping the speed of the app high, making sure the download size is small, and continuing to provide that rich content.
“The approach we took to balance rich content and speed began with a slim, polished initial release, and then we added to that,” says Jonathan Meson, CEO at VisualBlasters in this recent VB Live event. “We started with the basic core features of our apps just to test the waters.”
Their main focus has been speed, right out of the gate. They found that the sweet spot for their apps’ size (an animated drawing app and a streaming radio app) was between 20 and 40 megabytes. Then based on feedback from users, they looked for ways to bring in more features and more rich content, while still keeping a sharp eye on performance.
“If you do a new update and users realize it’s not working that well, you’re going to get an uninstall right away,” Meson says. “You’re going to get a one-star rating. That hurts your app and your stats on the app store.”
David Holtkamp, CEO at Crimson Moon, says their company approaches the question of app speed in two ways.
“You can either improve your engineering, or you can also entertain the user as loading goes on,” he says.
And a lot of that depends on the devices you’re targeting. High-end Apple devices can load graphics on the back end in OpenGL, unlike many Android devices. And that gave the company a variety of ways to eliminate the boredom and frustration of wait times.
“I think you can do a lot,” Holtkamp says. “Don’t just show a loading screen or a loading bar and have that be it. If you’re giving them useful information and engaging them, you can afford to put in more engaging content. You can afford that extra load time without causing churn, because the user’s engaged.”
They’ve added content a user can play with, an achievement in the loading screen for users to uncover as a bonus, and other buried features. Companies like Supercell tend to add tool tips, especially for their games with complex features and gameplay that take some time to get acclimated with.
Martin Dominguez, CEO at Etermax, agrees.
“You need to give the user some content, and you you have to move the attention of the user to another part of the app, not to the waiting,” Dominguez says. “No one likes to wait in any kind of place.
“We don’t have any gameplay explicitly — that’s a really good idea, David, I think we may steal that from you,” he adds.
Then there’s the engineering things you can do.
Holtkamp suggests making sure everything you’re doing is parallel.
“So if you have some network calls you have to do beforehand, be sure you’re not waiting for those network calls to come back before you start loading your graphics on the back end,” he says. “We’re still in the process of doing a complete optimization on that, but we’ve made some big strides,” he says.
At Etermax, Dominguez says they’ve used smart engineering to make the app smaller, with smaller assets, and they implement background downloads for assets if needed.
“It’s a really good practice to understand what device the user is using and just download the assets specifically for that user, the content that user needs,” Dominguez says.
Content compression is also hugely important, he adds, not only for games, but for any assets you need to transfer.
Meson agrees that lazy loading, or background downloads, are essential if your assets are large. Their app, FlipaClip, has to load a lot of assets and large raster images.
“We believe in giving our users a seamless experience,” Meson explains. “They can begin drawing while other parts of the app are getting substantiated, created, and loaded. Lazy loading, for us, can make things seem really fast when the devices might be slow.”
Above all, you need to know how slow is too slow for the user before they delete your app — your own testing is just not enough, especially with the myriad Android devices and their wildly varying capabilities.
“You always want to have your finger on the pulse of the analytics,” Holtzkamp says. “If you’re looking through your one-, two-, and three-stars and you see anything about load time, that’s obviously a huge red flag that somebody who actually likes your app is getting annoyed at you.”
He also suggests soliciting feedback. “You never know what your other users are seeing unless you go through and bother to talk with them,” he adds. “Surveys are always a huge help, if you can integrate a survey API to ask them, ‘Hey, what do you think about the load times?'”
For a deep dive into the best methods to optimize, the tools experts are using right now, and even more techniques, catch up on this VB Live event.
Don’t miss out!
In this VB Live event, you’ll:
- Identify the best practices for optimizing load times for games with rich content
- Find out the risks are if you fail to optimize load times, including the dangers associated with global reach
- Discover what to do first, and which technologies can help you get there quicker
- David Holtkamp, CEO, Crimson Moon
- Jonathan Meson, CEO, VisualBlasters
- Martín Domínguez, CIO at Etermax
- Stewart Rogers, Director of Marketing Technology, VentureBeat