It’s’s been a tough week for Zynga. The Farmville founders had to show 520 people the door, and will be closing offices in Dallas, New York, and Los Angeles. As explained in Mike Snider’s article in USA Today: 

Two troubling trends have hit Zynga; for starters, fewer people are playing Zynga games, with the number of overall players dropping by more than 10% from last year.

And those who are playing aren’t spending as much, with the company posting a first quarter drop of about 30% from 2012. All of Zynga’s games are free to play, but they get revenue from players spending in the game to help them, for instance, build their farm faster.

According to a Reddit thread started by one of the now-former employees, the layoffs were unexpected. While things were not necessarily great at the company, they didn’t appear so dire. In his official memo, CEO Mark Pincus framed the layoffs as part of a larger commitment to social gaming success:

These moves, while hard to face today, represent a proactive commitment to our mission of connecting the world through games. Mobile and touch screens are revolutionizing gaming. Our opportunity is to make mobile gaming truly social by offering people new, fun ways to meet, play and connect. By reducing our cost structure today we will offer our teams the runway they need to take risks and develop these breakthrough new social experiences.

At first glance, the company’s struggling situation is curious. Mobile games are immensely popular. People download them by the millions. But as optimistically spirited as that sentiment is, we’d offer that there are additional factors you must measure when determining the success of any mobile app, whether consumer game, enterprise app, or otherwise.

Downloads, as it turns out, might be the mobile application false prophet (and following that means less profit). Hanging on to that lone metric reveals no visibility in to actual usage. There’s no rating system, no ability to offer in-app feedback, no ongoing measurement of any kind that might paint a better picture of user experience.

If there are no performance metrics tied to an app, it becomes an incredibly dangerous money trap. At best, you’re hoping users like it after it’s been downloaded — and download they might, but are they remaining engaged enough to achieve successful ROI?

For more information on effectively tracking mobile app usability check out our free eBook ‘From Design to Measurement’ Steps for Building Successful Mobile Applications, where we discuss a mobile App’s lifecycle to better understand Apps in general; all of the elements to take into consideration during the development phase to ensure a good user experience; and how to measure usage.