Over the past few months, the in-the-wild mobile app testing company uTest has broken off a team of developers and data scientists to work on the questions beyond the company’s day to day. The company has grown to 120 people, and about eight of them now work in what it is calling uTest Labs. The origin of the company’s latest product starts there, with a few engineers wondering what it would take to create a formula for what goes in to a great mobile app.
Today, uTest announced the launch of Applause, a mobile app analytics tool that aims to help app developers learn what specifically users like and don’t like about their products. But whereas most analytics tools can only capture activities and offer insights based on what those activities imply, the premise of Applause is to look at what users are actually saying.
To do that, Applause crawls both Apple and Google’s app stores to see what users are saying in the reviews that get posted. While the app stores give a simple view of how much users like an app, based on a star rating system, Applause goes farther. Using natural language search and proprietary algorithms, Applause discerns what users are saying about specific aspects of an app like performance, content, or privacy. It’s able to distinguish whether the appearance of the word “crash” in a review is saying something good about performance – like, “this app doesn’t crash” – or something negative.
The result is a score of an app along several different dimensions, benchmarked against the competition (as seen in the image to the right.) It also lets developers benchmark against previous versions of an app, to see if they’re making progress in desired areas of improvement.
Here’s the full list of criteria that Applause ranks:
Content – relevance of an app’s or content across locations and cultures
Elegance – how attractive, cool or slick an app’s design is
Interoperability – how well an app integrates with other services or hardware
Performance – how fast and responsive an app is in standard usage
Pricing – how an app’s perceived value compares with its cost
Privacy – comfort with an app’s terms of service and handling of PII
Satisfaction – how well an app satisfies users’ core expectations
Security – perceived risk to logins, passwords or other sensitive information
Stability – how often the app crashes, hangs or freezes
Usability – ease of navigation and discoverability among an app’s features
uTest CMO Matt Johnston told me he sees Applause as consistent with uTest’s crowdsourced testing product, as both rely on the input from actual users rather than paid testers. “There’s this torrent of feedback coming from users,” he told me. ““It doesn’t really matter what the CTO says. It matters what users say.”
The tool is available for free, and Johnston underscored that it will continue to improve. Interestingly enough, in beta the company found that Applause was generating interest not just from the QA and development teams, but from product and even brand managers. “It’s more reflective of the fact that app quality isn’t [only] the job of QA,” he said.
Over time, uTest plans to begin offering recommendations into the tool, which is where it starts to look more like the Labs team’s original dream of defining the perfect app. Is the best news app more about content, performance, elegance, or price? Applause can help uTest find out, and then share that information with other developers. Ditto for banking apps, gaming apps, etc.
The perfect app will never be able to be distilled into a formula, but the data on what a good app does is getting better and better.