In the app industry, we like to focus on the development process. It’s more creative, engaging and glamorous than app maintenance. However, app updates are just as important an aspect of the app lifecycle. If you fail to update your app on a regular basis, it quickly becomes irrelevant and redundant. 63% of the Android App Store’s top 1000 apps are updated at least once a month. That figure hits 70% for the Apple App Store (42Matters).
But how do you know when your app needs updating? In this article, we examine seven key signs that your app is ready for a refresh and requires an update.
1. Users are reporting bugs
Negative user feedback and customers complaining of bugs or performance issues are two of the clearest indications your app needs updating. Here at The Distance, we believe User Experience (UX) determines an app’s success.
Provide your customers with a sub-standard experience, and they will quickly abandon the app. Deliver the goods, and you are far more likely to encourage loyalty amongst your customer base. That’s why we put so much focus on perfecting our apps’ UX. It is key to maximising the value our customers derive from our products.
Usually, customers provide feedback in the app store, so keep an eye on the app’s rating and make sure you reply to feedback. Some individuals may choose to contact you directly. In these cases, it’s good practice to respond as quickly, comprehensively and professionally as possible.
2. Your performance metrics highlight problems
However, customer comments aren’t the only relevant feedback mechanism. There is a diverse array of performance metrics to consider, too. These include:
- Active users – Often expressed as Daily Active Users (DAU) and Monthly Active Users (MAU), this measures the number of unique users engaging with your app over the designated period.
- Session time – Sometimes referred to as Average Session Length, this measures the amount of time users spend on your app each time they access it.
- Retention rate – Measures the number of users who revisit your app over a given period. You can measure retention over any timescale, but monthly, quarterly and yearly retention are all considered important metrics.
This is just a small sample of the metrics available to app owners and developers. At The Distance, we go much deeper, ensuring we have a real insight into how an app performs. Metrics like Cost of Acquiring a Customer (CAC), Average Revenue per User (ARPU), Average Order Value (AOV) and App Load Time can also tell us a great deal about whether an app needs an update to improve performance.
3. New features are required
Digital technology and e-Commerce move fast. If you’re caught standing still, you risk losing customers to more agile competitors. In app terms, this often means introducing new features to keep up with trends within your industry and to maintain pace with customer demand.
We see this in the app ecosystem all of the time. Consider Instagram’s recent shift towards video. Though it generated considerable backlash amongst the app’s users, it was a clear attempt to reposition the app, avoid missing out on the growing popularity of video and catch up with an increasingly popular competitor in TikTok. Though the implementation may not have been perfect, this case shows how even the biggest apps regularly introduce new features.
4. Your codebase is ageing
Another consequence of tech’s ever-evolving nature is that the foundations on which you build it change quickly. With apps, this manifests in codebases that rapidly become outdated. Take Apple’s programming language, Swift. Apple released the first version in 2014. It released the most recent version, Swift 5.6, on the 15th of June 2022. That means there were five large-scale releases over eight years, with numerous smaller updates in between. Keeping up means staying abreast of the latest industry developments.
Though updating a codebase is a lengthy and complicated process, it’s also often the best option. There reaches a point where outdated code makes maintaining an app almost impossible. It may even become incompatible with new operating systems. That’s when an update becomes absolutely essential. Fortunately, our expert developers are always on hand to help you recognise when you have reached that moment.
5. Changes to mobile devices
Mobile hardware is always moving forwards, too. This presents its own challenges. New display orientations and screen resolutions affect how your apps look and the way users interact with the app. Fresh technologies impact the type of features you can introduce. Consider the reemergence of the flip phone. Its foldable touchscreen is shaking up the industry in several exciting, new ways.
The iPhone X is another excellent example. On release, the switch from a rectangular screen to an edge-to-edge screen resulted in significant changes to how apps were presented. There were several problems with those apps that were not optimised for the new format. Parts of the screen were cropped, the top of the screen disappeared, the larger screen size made everything seem more stretched, and content at the bottom of the screen was not easily tappable.
Changes like these are one of the main reasons working with an industry-leading app developer like The Distance makes so much sense. We constantly stay up to date with the latest developments and ensure you know when your apps need updating.
6. Responding to security concerns
Data security is a significant concern for any organisation that works with sensitive personal information. A company that fails to adhere to regulations is at risk of financial punishment and will also suffer enormous reputational damage. While many larger businesses can ride out the negative press – Amazon, Slack and Klarna apps all suffered from significant data breaches in 2021 (DarkReading) – smaller companies find it much harder to survive the fallout.
Digital security is a never-ending race between those who want to steal personal data and organisations that want to protect it. Cybercriminals are always searching for new ways into secure systems and regularly find them. That means businesses must stay aware and always respond to evolving security threats. With apps, the most efficient way of doing so is releasing periodic security updates.
7. App stores alter their guidelines
Finally, all major app stores update their guidelines to reflect changes in the digital ecosystem and ensure they stay relevant. Occasionally, they loosen the guidelines, as occurred at Apple’s 2022 Worldwide Developer Conference (TechCrunch). More often than not, they add or refine guidelines, forcing app developers to reassess their products to ensure they still comply with the regulations.
App store guidelines dictate whether you can distribute your app via that platform. Fall foul of the rules, and Google or Apple could choose to remove your app from the store. At The Distance, we keep a watchful eye on industry developments and make it our job to know what’s happening with all of the major app stores. It enables us to plan and prepare updates that acknowledge changes to the guidelines and guarantee customers can still download and access your app.
Updates are part of the app development lifecycle. For an app to remain relevant, secure and in line with regulations, it must receive regular updates. Technology, customers and industry trends are always evolving, and the only way your app will continue to offer value to users is if it grows, adapts and changes over time.
Our team has more than a decade of experience creating, maintaining and updating world-class apps. We understand when, why and how we should update your app. That ensures the apps we develop for your business offer long-term value and a greater return on investment. If you want to learn more about how The Distance can help your business, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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