Let’s start with the obvious: why are you updating? What’s the point of it? Is it really worth the hassle?
These are the main reasons for updates.
It’ll help keep your customers happy
If your app does well, you’re going to get feedback. Customers are going to tell you what they like and what they don’t like.
If you’re smart, you’ll listen to them!
Implementing the changes your users ask for will increase engagement and make for more loyal customers. It’ll also show that you care about quality, which will ensure you build a group of users ready to snap up any future projects.
It’ll show that your app has not been abandoned
See, there are a LOT of apps out there in the app graveyard, long abandoned by both customers and their developers.
No one is going to tell their friends about an app that’s not been updated for two years, even if the app was good at the time.
It’ll get rid of the bugs
All apps are buggy in some way. There are simply too many variables involved to entirely avoid issues.
The cool thing is, consumers are used to things being a bit buggy. As long as the developer busts a gut to fix them.
If you’re seen as a company that irons out any minor issues quickly, you’ll retain customers. If you ignore the problems and simply let your app rot, however, you’ll put customers off. No-one wants to buy from a company that doesn’t care.
It’s an excuse to re-promote
Users give up on apps every single day. We all lead busy lives, and it’s very easy to forget about that game you used to play, or that fitness app you used to type your calories into.
Remember, your app is competing with thousands of others. (This is why a good marketing approach is valuable.)
Updating your app is a great – genuine – reason for sending a new push notification out. You can remind users that your app’s still there, AND that it’s got some fancy new features.
Speaking of which…
You can add fancy new features
If you’re listening to your customers – and again, you really should be – you’re probably going to get requests for new features, or for improvements to existing ones.
You don’t have to honor all these requests, especially if they come from one or two people. BUT if you’ve received a feature request from a large percentage of users, you should give serious consideration to adding it.
Remember the golden rule of any product: your job is to add real value to your customers’ lives. If you do that, you’ll reap the benefits.
And doing it is a lot easier when your users are telling you how!
We’ll start by giving the more vague answer, which is that it completely depends on your individual circumstances.
Here, though, is a more telling fact: many of the most successful apps out there are updated as often as once a week. Many others take a ‘once a month’ approach, which can be enough depending on the complexity of the app itself. Facebook, for instance, provides an app update every two weeks like clockwork.
As a general rule, the more complicated and feature-heavy an app is, the more often you’ll need to update it.
We always stress a ‘more is better’ approach to our clients. If there is something to fix, you should aim to fix it as soon as possible.
Of course, there’s one other factor that’ll influence how often you need to update.
Major v minor updates
This is the other main pressing issue.
- Major updates are those that significantly update your app, and alter its functionality.
- Minor updates are the ones we’ve discussed, such as bug fixes.
As you can probably imagine, minor updates occur a lot more, and you should expect to carry them out a lot more often.
Major updates are another matter…
Major app updates: what you need to know.
When carrying out a major update, you’ve got two main options:
- Carry out the major update, or
- Release a ‘new’ app
Unlike with traditional software, apps can’t get away with charging for a major update. (As in, going from version 1 to version 2.)
App stores don’t permit this. However, if you believe you’ve made a substantial enough change to your app to warrant an additional charge, you can release a brand new version of it and charge accordingly.
(This would be suitable for those situations where you’ve made a major re-structuring and added a number of new features.)
If your update is still substantial but not different enough to describe it as a ‘new’ app, then you should probably go with a major update.
There are pros and cons to both approaches, of course:
App update pros
- An app update will keep your current users happy. No-one wants to re-buy something they’ve already paid for, even if the update is substantial!
- App updates don’t require you to do the additional work of updating your promotional material or editing or app store profile, website and so on.
App update cons
- Development costs will need to be met by entirely new customers: you won’t be able to charge your existing customers. (Nor should you.)
- Users will have to update the app to enjoy the benefits. Some customers simply don’t like updating. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about this!
‘New’ app pros
- You can earn back the development cost from both new and existing customers.
- Users don’t have to update if they don’t want to. They can continue using the current version of the app.
‘New’ app cons
- The chances are some of your existing customers simply won’t be interested in upgrading.
- You’ll have to deal with migration issues. Relevant user data will need to be carried across from the old app to the new. The same goes for databases.
- You’ll need to invest in marketing it as a fresh product. If it’s a ‘new’ app, your current marketing promotions won’t be sufficient.
OK, here’s an example of a typical update schedule for a standard app.
The app goes live. Assuming you’ve worked with a high quality developer, everything goes swimmingly and you get a lot of downloads.
After a week or so, you’ve got a (hopefully) relatively small list of bugs. So, you fix them and release v1.0.1 – this update gets rid of those immediate annoyances your customers have reported.
Once you’ve done this, you can settle into a schedule of making weekly, fortnightly or monthly bug fixes.
Why do bugs keep appearing?
It’s a good question, and the frustrating answer is that it will often have nothing to do with your app. It might be because the operating system changes, or because a database you’re pulling from changes their software.
So, for the first few updates, you should focus entirely on simply fixing these bugs and ensuring your app is running as smoothly as possible.
After a few months, you should have gained enough feedback to start focusing on more in-depth User Experience (UX) issues. You’ll be able to look at things like:
- How long your users are spending using the app each day
- Which features they obviously love
- Which features they’re ignoring
And so on. If you combine this with the straight feedback you get from user reviews, you should have a firm list of more substantial changes you can make to improve their experience. From there, you can start planning a bigger update focusing on these alterations.
Once that release comes out, you’re back to minor bug fixing.
From there, the loop continues for as long as you want to continue maintaining the app!
Major Update followed by minor bug fixes followed by obtain feedback follower by major update, and so forth.
Typically, you should plan frequent minor fixes within the first year alongside three or four more substantial updates.
Iconic Solutions are specialists in app development and maintenance. We’ve helped our clients generate new leads, grow their customer base and increase revenue. If you’re interested in growing your business through app creation, give us a call today.