Long-Term App Maintenance Plans Prevent Costly Problems With Mobile Apps
Solving technical problems and fixing errors is what web developers do best, and it’s an essential part of building an excellent app. Proactive troubleshooting and development before, during and after the launch process will set your final product up for success and keep your app users pleased with their experience.
Following Pre-Launch Best Practices Can Help You Avoid Mobile App Issues
Even though maintenance refers to post-launch modifications, thorough preparation before launching will reduce the quantity and difficulty of post-launch maintenance work.
Large organizations have whole departments devoted to testing and maintenance of their software and processes for “continuous integration” and “continuous delivery”, but many apps are built and maintained by smaller organizations where developers may also be responsible for quality assurance and maintaining performance. Whatever your organizational size or structure, whether you are developing an app for an internal or external client, setting expectations beforehand can be very helpful. When putting together a quote or an estimate, include that you recommend spending a set number of hours each quarter or annually on planned maintenance. Setting these expectations upfront will facilitate proper budgeting and convey to the client that you are a good long-term partner for development.
Staying current with code, platform and store policies is another thing that can be done ahead of time. If a platform requires every app to make a minor, easily-fixed change (such as a key-value pair in a config file to prevent an unwanted dialog), it’s much better to know about that in advance so you don’t have to push out an update just for that one item. Many languages and frameworks have planned deprecations (code being made obsolete) and regular updates. Upgrading soon-to-be deprecated code before the event and before releasing your app will save you time and stress later.
Robust quality assurance testing before launch will reduce the amount of maintenance you have to do later. While you cannot expect to catch everything, you can at least make sure your product does not have a glitchy opening causing potential users to write you off immediately.
We also recommend setting up analytics during the pre-launch process. Many mobile platforms inherently have analytics built in, but these are particularly focused on users and crashes, and may not be able to pinpoint where users are having non-crash problems. There are numerous analytics solutions, including App Center from Microsoft and Firebase from Google and many others. These allow you to tag all your methods and actions in your app and give you an optimized look at user experience. Thorough analytics like this will make it clear when users cannot get from A to C because they cannot click the button on B.
What Happens After You Launch an App
Finally your app has launched, and the final product is available in the app stores. You’ve put in a lot of time and money (and sweat and tears) into building something incredible, but the job is still not over. One of the most common questions about apps and development is whether a maintenance plan is worth the investment, and our expert believe not keeping your app up-to-date is a huge mistake. Businesses that forget about their mobile app after it’s released and assume it will stay in prime condition are usually faced with bugs and costly errors down the road.
Does My App Need a Maintenance Plan?
Yes, ongoing mobile app maintenance is a responsible business practice because unplanned maintenance can be very costly. Apps are always updating to accommodate new best practices and user preferences, and regular maintenance keeps your system up-to-date, will help you fix any bugs and lets you provide the best user experience for your clients or customers.
For long-term success, it's best to prepare for some upkeep work and development maintenance after launch. In some cases, the maintenance, support and revisions may take more time and effort than even the initial development. This might seem overwhelming to some, but when you take a proactive approach to maintaining your app, it will cause less headaches and more savings down the road.
With some planning and experience, maintaining your app can not only be manageable, but it will provide lasting value to your users or clients and can distinguish your product in the competitive app marketplace. The following guide will lay out common problems and strategies for keeping your app alive and thriving.
The Top Problems With Mobile Apps: How to Prevent Errors and Maintain App Performance
Most maintenance work will be obvious: fixing what is broken. Users will tolerate some bugs or imperfections on an app, especially as downloading updates and patches has become a staple of modern tech use, but users will not stay loyal to broken products.
Nothing satisfies a customer like a problem that was fixed, and nothing enrages a customer like a product that does not get attention. In fact, if you look at negative reviews for apps, they tend to be about crashes or bugs. As much as people appreciate stylistic design, no amount of beauty can save an app that is not compatible with the latest operating system on someone’s phone.
Mobile App Issues Are Unavoidable, So Expect Things to Break
Ever since there was software, there were bugs and crashes. This is true for both mobile and desktop software. A successful app has many users and runs on multiple platforms which all require their own bug fixes and updates. This means your users will likely encounter problems which even the widest of pre-launch testing might miss. Expecting the unexpected is key: widespread use will correlate with more problems, and a lot of them will be things that the developer never anticipated or considered when writing the code.
Even experienced programmers still write imperfect code, and they should be prepared to revisit their work to fix mistakes. You may need to debug and step through your application to find exactly what is breaking, but that is standard for developers. Sometimes new requirements will mean re-visiting your original layouts, such as if a popular new screen size is available on a particular platform, or if changes in display technology affect how a particular screen in the app looks. Software beyond the simplest of console applications will likely be imperfect, and developers will need to inspect, investigate and make changes or fixes to correct any errors.
Plan Ahead for New Versions & App Upgrades
Any maintenance plan should carve out time in the spring when the preview releases of the new Android and iOS versions are available, and then again in the fall when those versions are launched. Testing in the spring to make sure the major app updates will work helps facilitate a speedy release in the fall of an updated version. Plus, this is a much better method than waiting for your users to spot the errors if the code breaks when they upgrade to the new version. If overnight a portion of your user base is prevented from using your app, you cannot wait to fix it. Unplanned app maintenance can be very costly, so having an expert that’s continually checking for new information on the latest updates will pay off.
It is possible you might need to make an update that does not include any changed code but does include changes to how the app looks in the store. Keeping up to date with store requirements helps ensure maximum reach for your app and keeps your app as close to the top of the search results for its keywords as possible. Once you have built the app with the revised code, both proprietary and third-party, you should send your app to your beta testers and correct any subsequent issues.
Update Your App Based on User Data
If you have access to data and tracking capabilities for your app, you may want to perform updates to enhance your users’ experience based on what the data shows. There are many things that you could learn about your users and how they interact with your app that could help you improve the final product. For example, you may find:
- Many users never get past a certain screen, which would indicate code or design flaws are preventing sustained use.
- You have a large percentage of app users in a particular region, which would allow you to provide better support for particular languages and character sets, or modify your design or copy to appeal to your realized audience.
- Your users are only using your app on tablets but not phones, which could direct you to adjusting your phone layouts to improve mobile user experience.
User Feedback Can Reveal User Preferences Along With Mobile App Issues
Maintenance does not only mean correcting errors. Customers will love some of the initial version, but there will be feedback about desired features and changes for things that are not broken but are dissatisfying. Depending on the size of the audience, you may immediately start receiving reviews and feedback through the app stores. Obviously there is a judgement call to be made on what changes are needed and what is user error or simply a user preference. If user feedback says they want a re-skin of the whole app to match their favorite color scheme, that is probably less urgent than user feedback indicating that a particular button is hard to see on a particular device.
We’re not saying that non-urgent feedback is bad; a lot of apps make money selling add-ons, and the best way to get started doing so would be to read the requests of your users. Responding to client feedback when making changes is a great way to build customer loyalty and increase your audience and profits. Setting up feedback channels is a key component in making good use of said feedback. If you have an internal client, you probably will not be reliant on public store reviews, but you may instead set up your own crash logging to save stack traces and error messages, and provide a mechanism to provide feedback.
Sign Up For an App Maintenance Program With Blue Compass
App maintenance is not optional - it can either be planned and efficient or unplanned and costly. A well-supported app will maintain its following even as customers upgrade their devices over the years and will fuel five star reviews that bring in new users. Blue Compass has years of experience in building and maintaining high-quality apps, so consider our app development team for your next app project. Contact us today to learn more!