If you’ve just rolled out a beautiful app and the downloads are chiming in just as you expected, you’ve sure done well, congratulations.
However, you are far from done and there’s plenty more work to do. Your app needs to be kept updated, bug free and functioning smoothly. You need app maintenance.
That’s right – all those long hours and late nights of developing the app were only half the work. Once you launch the app, you expose it to the world of users who are constantly evolving, and demand that the app evolve with them. People’s needs grow, requiring you to provide better experiences. Bugs find a way into the app and need to be routinely exterminated. Designs need to stay trendy and feedback needs to be implemented. In short, app maintenance is an ongoing process and is critical to the success of your app.
So here’s a quick handbook that will give you a primer on all aspects of post launch app maintenance. You will see why apps need maintenance, how often should you release updates and just what those updates should do, as well as you’ll discover how to choose the right app maintenance company. So let’s dive right in.
Why Do You Need App Maintenance in the First Place?
There are unavoidable changes in the world that will affect your app, and you will need to update your app according to them. For instance:
Users will change phones and usually, the new phone will be very different from their earlier phone in terms of screen, speed and every other aspect. Your app must be able to perform on every new phone coming into the market. The iPhone X for instance brought in a whole new aspect ratio and screen design, necessitating all app makers to update their apps if they had to stay in the new iPhone.
All the major operating systems including Android and iOS are updated almost every year, and most often, these changes are significant enough to call for suitable app updates.
Design and Style Guides
Skeuomorphic design, material, design, flat design and more to come – design trends change and if your app doesn’t adapt to the latest trend, it begins to look dated. So whenever a major design shift happens or the style guides evolve, apps must follow suit.
Just like operating systems, languages evolve too. Apple moved from Objective-C to Swift and Android moved from Java to Kotlin. HTML5 took the world of web apps by storm recently. Whenever such radical moves take place, apps must be updated.
If you used third party libraries and dependencies in your code, you have to change whenever the original writers of that library choose to update.
These probably don’t even need an explanation. Bugs need to be fixed as soon as they are found.
When users express their unhappiness about one or more aspects of your app, it is in your best interest to respond immediately, or you may start losing users quite soon. If too many users are irked by a particular problem, it’s time to fix the problem with a prompt update.
How Often Should You Release Updates
There are no rules for the frequency of app updates. Depending on the category your app falls in and the usual practices your competitors follow, you can adjust how often you update your apps.
As a rough estimate however, apps must be updated at least once every three months and no more than once a month. An app that hasn’t been updated for six months quickly begins dropping in the charts and ratings begin to fall. Apps that don’t see enough developer activity are considered abandoned or obsolete and are taken down by app stores. In September 2016, Apple took down nearly 50,000 apps from the app store for the same reason.
According to an AnyPresence survey over 80% of enterprise mobile application development professionals reported updating their apps at least twice a year and nearly 33% update their apps at least once a month.
Understanding the costs of app maintenance
It’s hard to put a number on the cost of app maintenance. A Forrester survey suggests that the average app development cost of $50000-$150000 is only 35% of its actual total cost over a two year period.
In 2015, Commentum estimated the maintenance cost for a medium-sized enterprise application project to be in the range of $5,000 to $11,000 per month.
So as you can imagine, the cost of app maintenance varies greatly depending on your app specifics. The common things that influence these costs are:
Hosting costs: As your user base grows, the hosting costs will go up too.
Monitoring and Analytics: app performance needs to be continuously monitored, analyzed and optimized, and that costs money. As users go up, this goes up too.
App Store Optimization: To increase visibility in the app store and make sure you rank high in searches to garner maximum downloads, you need to optimize your app store listings and update them from time to time, adding to the costs.
Other Costs: Renewing licenses, advertizing, content marketing, PR, email campaigns and a bevy of other costs are ongoing.
How to Choose the Right Developers Who’ll Handle Maintenance Well
Before you even begin developing your app, you must have the maintenance talk with your developers. Hiring a third party for app development is almost out of the question and hence you have to choose a developer who is signing a sturdy maintenance contract. Look for the following aspects in a maintenance contract:
- Quick Response Time: You don’t want to be waiting on hold while the app is down and users are starting to get anxious.
- A Maintenance Plan – Will they be issuing time-based or incident-based check-ups?
- Backups – An app is made up of too many moving parts and keeping backups is a substantial task. In the event of a data loss, managing backups effectively is a great responsibility.
- Do they offer maintenance in-house or sub-contract it to another agency?
- Do they provide real-time phone/chat support?
Making sure you have answers to these questions beforehand will make sure you don’t run into problems when the app already has vested users who need to be provided a good experience.
Problems in the development stage can delay the launch and cost more money. But problems in the maintenance stage can cause user discomfort and bring the app a great deal of bad rep. That is why ensuring timely and proper app maintenance is extremely crucial to the app experience you wish to offer your users. So be sure to have a good chat with your app development company about the maintenance they offer and be sure that your app scales with your growing user base and keeps everyone happy.