Skip navigation
All Places > Canvas Mobile Users Group > Blog > 2017 > October

We made these Inside Look posts a regular feature in the Canvas Teacher Focus Group, and it seemed to work pretty well, so I’m writing this one to see how it flies in CMUG. The basic premise is to illuminate little nuggets of our product development process for people who might be interested.


Today, we’re talking success metrics. Every major Canvas project starts in a ‘Discover’ phase, in which a product manager (PM) researches a problem until they feel comfortable with it from a bunch of different perspectives. Then the PM prepares a project summary, which is a high-level review of the problem, and what Canvas could do about it, and how it fits with our product strategy. The PM also defines success metrics for the potential project, which take the form of, “If we do this thing, then we would expect this result by this timeframe.” Then the PM presents the project summary to leadership, who gives a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down or a “keep digging.”


Supposing the project makes it through those gates, and is developed and then released -- at the end of the project, we measure success by the metrics that we agreed upon at the outset. Usually with the mobile apps, we’re measuring success by usage and client satisfaction. In the case of the teacher app launch, we’re measuring usage by monthly active user count and we’re measuring client satisfaction by app store rating.


The new teacher app’s success metrics were:

  1. By the end of Q3, this app will have at least 15,000 monthly active users.
  2. By the end of Q3, this app will have at least a 4-star rating in stores.


Great news: We had over 30,000 monthly active users in the teacher app in the month of September! Woah! By comparison, we had roughly 7,000 monthly active users in the old SpeedGrader app at this point a year ago.


Okay news: The iOS teacher app is currently at a 4.1! The Android teacher app is currently at a 3.3 – but we think we’ll see a bump in Android ratings with version 1.1 out the door.


These metrics aren’t used to get people in trouble, but they are used to try to compare what we expected to happen with what actually happened, and then to make better metrics the next time.


If you want to help us out, make your feelings known in app store ratings!

I wanted to write a quick post about where we're going with the student app in the near future for those who might be interested. Feel free to leave feedback in the comments below.


(Note: We're in the process of transitioning the name of today's Canvas app, or red app, or "Canvas by Instructure" app to officially become Canvas Student, or slangily, the student app.)


Over the past two years, we've talked with students, teachers and admins from dozens of institutions around the world to gather feedback about our student app. Here are the categories in which people are looking to see improvements:


  • The iOS and Android student apps look nothing alike. This is particularly a problem for teachers demonstrating mobile access to a classroom of mixed platforms, and admins/coaches/support staff trying to offer assistance.
  • The student app doesn’t do what the web does. This is less of an issue all the time, but we've still got work to do. In the past year, we've added support for mastery paths, multiple grading periods, student annotations, and native quiz questions, to name a few significant upgrades. Looking forward, we want to fill the following gaps: Arc/Gauge launches, institution announcements, course invites, and cloud assignments.
  • The student app doesn’t look like Canvas. Schools spend time styling Canvas to be just-so, then students log into the mobile app and they don't see anything that looks like their school.


The challenge for us is to (1) address each of those areas (2) in a timely manner (3) without upsetting all the people. We're particularly sensitive to the third point, because the student app is now simultaneously averaging two million daily active users while maintaining the highest average store rating among LMS mobile apps. So the plan is to release changes iteratively to make steady progress without unnecessarily rocking the boat.


Let's look at an example of the sort of iteration we're talking about. Here’s the landing page for the same student logging into iOS and Android student apps today:


Those are pretty different. Bottom tab bar on one, not on the other. Card buttons on one, not on the other. Menu button on one, not on the other. Different icons all over the place. It's weird and annoying and hard to interpret. Here's a redesigned home screen:


Those are much less different.


I use this example in particular because it impacts each of the three categories I mentioned above:

  1. More consistent design between mobile platforms (see: they look alike!)
  2. More functional consistency between web and mobile (see: support for institution announcements!)
  3. More consistent theming (see: the same custom styles supported by Canvas Teacher, which impact things like bar and button colors, or replacing the Canvas logo with an institution's logo)


If you've used the new teacher app, this layout probably looks familiar. That's because we've built teacher app components with reusability in mind.


We plan to ship changes like these throughout the school year. If you want to be a part of testing these changes before they hit stores, fill out this form! Feedback from beta testers in the Canvas Teacher app has been incredibly helpful, and we'll take all the help we can get as we're rolling out changes to Canvas Student.

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: