In today’s fast-paced world, users demand fast in-app experiences. Therefore, optimizing app performance and speed is critical to ensure that your application provides a stellar user experience and remains competitive in the modern market.
“Oh, I love it when apps drag and take forever to load,” said no one ever. Maybe once, many years ago, we were content with slow apps that took forever to load; and who could blame us? We didn’t know any better. There was no notion of speed and performance optimization. But those days are long gone…thankfully! In today’s fast-paced, tech-ridden world, where smartphones are ubiquitous, and applications are an integral part of our everyday life, for a mobile or software product to be anything short of seamless and perfectly optimized is inexcusable. Not only that but with the increasing levels of competitiveness in the app development industry, any product that doesn’t meet specific standards of excellence is doomed to fail. Slow and unresponsive apps can frustrate users and lead to a steep decline in user engagement and retention. Therefore, it’s crucial for modern app developers to ensure they always ship smooth and quick products, optimize app performance and speed, and follow the best practices that will allow them to accomplish that so they can provide a positive user experience every single time.
So, seeing that speed and performance are essential in modern-day app development, in this article, we want to explore the best ways you can optimize your application to ensure it provides a seamless, fast, and enjoyable user experience that sets it apart from the competition. But, first, let’s begin with some context for our non-developers, non-tech savvy readers.
What are app performance and speed, and why do they matter?
If you are an app developer or have talked to one and have asked them what they think is the number one reason users leave an app, their answers would probably be limited to user experience flaws or poor app design. And while they may not be wrong–those are two very valid reasons why users would uninstall an application, they’re likely not the leading cause of usage problems. You see, even before a deficient user experience or mediocre app design becomes an issue, your app must perform… immaculately. There are no cutting corners here; if your application performs poorly, not even the most spectacular UX design can save it. Poor app performance and speed are the most detrimental elements to your application and account for over 71% of uninstalls, which comes as no surprise because modern users want more faster and more fluid mobile experiences; we need to give that to them…now.
Speed is one of the most important metrics by which modern users assess the relevance, quality, and trustworthiness of applications today. App speed is how quickly an application responds to user actions, loads content, and performs tasks, which includes how fast the app’s start-up time is, the speed at which it navigates between all its different screens and menus regardless of how intricate they are, and the time it takes it to load and display content such as text, graphics, and video. This responsiveness has become non-negotiable; there’s no way around it: an effective app speed is pivotal for providing a positive user experience.
App performance, on the other hand, refers to the quality and efficiency by which an application performs in terms of speed, responsiveness, stability, and overall user experience. Therefore, it is critical to keep apps functioning quickly and smoothly without any glitches or delays, which depend on factors such as how quick loading times are, the smoothness and responsiveness of the user interface, and how efficiently the app uses mobile device= resources such as memory and CPU. In that sense, an effectively optimized app performance results in exceptional app response times, processing speed, memory usage, and network usage.
Ok, that sounds great and all, but how can you optimize app performance and speed? Read on to find out.
Minimize network requests
Network requests are petitions that an application sends to a server asking to retrieve and exchange information or data such as text, images, videos, or any other type of content that the app requires to function correctly. They are pivotal for proper app functioning, especially for apps that require real-time data, such as messaging apps, as they are responsible for transmitting all the data between the application and its server. However, too many or inefficient network requests slow down data transfer, making it unreliable and increasing latency, negatively impacting your app’s performance, speed, functionality, usability, and user experience.
Reducing the number of network requests your app needs to make to display content is one of the most effective ways to optimize app performance and speed. Why? Because as we mentioned above, each network request increases latency, dramatically slowing down your app’s response times; thus, reducing the number of requests your application makes can significantly improve its speed and performance. So, you can start by using simple techniques such as caching for frequently stored data, data compression, and lazy loading to help minimize the number of network requests.
You can also prioritize more important network requests, such as user authentication or critical data retrieval, and leave “less important” ones for later to help ensure that the most crucial tasks are processed quickly and efficiently. And lastly, make sure to continuously optimize all images, videos, and other media within your app. Since most developers use high-resolution images and media file sizes to ensure the quality of their in-app content, these media files are often large and heavy, which can slow down network requests. So, it’s vital you always make sure to optimize images and media by compressing them or taking steps to reduce their size without sacrificing quality or app performance and speed.
Optimize your app’s code
As you may or may not know, your app’s coding structure is its backbone; if it is flawed or full of errors and other inefficiencies, it cannot perform properly. Yes, this one may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised to learn that, on average, a programmer makes a mistake once at five lines of code. Granted, most of these mistakes are detected and fixed during testing, but still, some may slide right by. So, to stop faulty code from slowing down your app, it’s crucial you always:
- Use suitable data structures. By using the correct data structures in your code, such as arrays, lists, stacks, hash tables, queues, and trees, you can minimize the number of conversions that take, make your code more efficient, and access and use it faster.
- Minimize memory usage. Keep an eye on how much memory your code uses and try to reduce it as much as possible without sacrificing functionality and efficiency.
- Use caching and lazy loading. Caching allows you to store your app’s frequently used data for faster access, while lazy loading enables you only to load necessary data.
- Optimize I/O. Since Input/Output operations deal with your app’s data transfer, they can often be a bottleneck when optimizing app performance and speed. So, you need to ensure that your code only traffics data when it absolutely has to and avoids any unnecessary reads and writes, making the performance of your code more efficient.
- Profile and test. As always, testing comes to save the day. For your code to be effective and ensure you meet all the recommendations listed above and more, you must use profiling and testing tools to identify glitches, errors, bottlenecks, and other areas of poor performance. This is the best way to test your code–and do it regularly– to ensure it performs optimally and enhances app performance and speed.
You can also optimize your code by monitoring the amount of network requests your app makes, using asynchronous code, and optimizing loops. By implementing these strategies, and many more we can’t dive into right now, app developers can optimize their app’s code to ensure their products always perform flawlessly, resulting in a faster, more responsive app with a better user experience.
Monitor your app’s memory usage
Memory use is critical to how fast your app runs and performs. You can develop a beautiful, feature-rich app with incredible graphics, but if it hogs all your users’ device memories and performs poorly, then what’s the point? On the other hand, when an application consumes too much memory, especially in mobile devices, which often have limited storage capacities, it can lead to slow load and response times, inefficient data retrieval, crashes and glitches, and other performance and speed issues that will negatively affect the user experience. Therefore, you must monitor your app’s memory usage to ensure that it runs efficiently and without performance issues. For that purpose, you must:
- Limit image use and file sizes. Large or too many unnecessary images and files can make your app look good but consume too much memory. Instead, try to use icons or use compression or scaling to reduce and adapt the image size to the minimum required when possible.
- Use a memory profiler. You can use a memory profiler to monitor how much memory your app is using, and it can help you identify memory leaks.
- Avoid memory leaks. Memory leaks happen when your app stores unused data and continues to allocate memory space unnecessarily without releasing it.
- Watch your app’s garbage collection. Garbage collection is crucial for cleaning up unused memory. However, it can get cluttered fast, causing your app to slow down or crash. So, keep an eye on the frequency and duration of garbage collection.
- Watch your app’s cache. As we learned earlier, caching helps optimize app performance and speed. However, there are cases where caching storage gets too big, causing memory issues. To avoid this problem, monitor your cache size or use tools such as NScache to help you keep things running smoothly.
By monitoring your app’s memory usage, you can effectively identify and address memory-related issues before they impact the user experience and affect app performance and speed, resulting in a faster, more responsive product.
Use a performance profiler
A performance profiler is a tool that helps app developers monitor, identify, and diagnose performance issues in their code. Of course, a performance profiler isn’t mandatory to ensure optimal app performance and speed. Still, it can help you simplify processes such as measuring and evaluating execution times and resource usage of different parts of your code, pinpointing errors, targeting areas that are causing slow load times, identifying memory leaks and high CPU usage, or homing in on other performance issues. You can also lean on a performance profiler to look for bottlenecks during your app’s development process, which, as you know, can significantly help you reduce expensive, hard-to-fix problems down the road. As a result, you have a tool that can help you optimize your code for faster load times, increase the responsiveness of your app, keep it running seamlessly, and improve its user experience, all without adding too much hassle or overhead.
Here are some performance profiler tools you can use both for mobile and desktop platforms.
Note that using a performance profiler will never replace good testing strategies, nor will it uncover any of the underlying issues that can result from poor coding practices or faulty development techniques. However, performance profilers can help you identify parts of your app’s code that can lead to bottlenecks and serious problems later. Furthermore, they can assist you in finding and fixing these mistakes early, which, as you probably already know, can make a world of difference in ensuring optimal app performance and speed.
Test, test, test… and then test again
Last but definitely not least: testing. Testing is one of the most important, if not the most important, steps in optimizing app speed and performance. It is the most effective path you can take to identify and fix existing issues and predict others before releasing your applications to their users. There’s no better way to pinpoint problems, add or remove features, improve the app’s user experience, and prevent app uninstalls and negative reviews than to test and iterate.
A robust testing strategy can take many forms, and while they’re all necessary, they all also work differently depending on your and your product’s needs. On the one hand, you have functional testing to ensure that your app functions as intended. On the other hand, performance testing can help you measure how your application performs under different conditions, such as low network connectivity or device memory. And finally, you have stress testing, which involves pushing your application beyond its limits to see how it performs under extreme conditions such as high traffic or heavy workloads. All three forms of testing are pivotal to helping you identify potential performance issues and weaknesses in the system, such as slow load times, high CPU usage, memory leaks, and network latency, so that you have the tools and information to optimize your code and improve your app’s performance and speed.
Beyond working to spot bugs and mistakes, testing can also help you ensure that your application is compatible with different devices, network specifications, and operating systems. As a result, you can be sure that your app is optimized for speed and performance before it hits the visual shelves of app stores and gets to your users’ hands, which is priceless always to be one step ahead and improve the user experience, increase your app’s engagement rates, and drive positive reviews and ratings.
As app developers, we always want our applications to be flawless and perform seamlessly without glitches. And while typically, things work out that way, optimizing app performance and speed requires holistic solutions that don’t happen by chance and don’t come easy but are crucial to avoid poor app performance, which can lead to a frustrating user experience. Nevertheless, optimal app performance and speed guarantee that your app runs smoothly, is highly responsive and provides a positive user experience.
As you already learned in this article, improving your app’s performance and speed involves strategies and techniques that are pivotal to identifying performance issues on time and allow you to optimize network requests, optimize your app’s code, monitor its memory usage, and design robust testing frameworks, to name a few. So, make sure you keep an eye on your applications running smoothly and efficiently; it is highly decisive for providing positive user experiences and, ultimately, securing the success of your application.
If you still have any questions or doubts or want us to help you optimize your app’s performance and speed, we’re happy to help. Just drop us a line!