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Is app maintenance important?

App maintenance is very important and every app on the store needs it to survive. Things such as new OS releases, new device releases, design popularity changes, and functional needs are some of the reasons why you should have an app maintenance plan before you even start development.

People often think that all you have to do is build the app, complete the app store submission and you’re done. If the app was built properly then nothing more will ever have to be done. This is all wrong. It does not matter how well a mobile app is built, there is always work to be done to maintain it.

Think of it this way, a person that goes to the gym and eats right to get to their goal physique doesn’t stop working out or eating healthy once they reach their goal. In order to maintain their optimal physique, they have to constantly do maintenance through continual exercise and eating healthy. If they stop doing anything they won’t stay in shape anymore. The same goes for mobile apps.

What does mobile app maintenance include?

1. Keep up with the latest of iOS and Android

Technology is always improving which means that both platforms have new versions that come out. iOS 10 is a great example because that release had a lot of big changes for which app owners needed to make updates. Generally, they come out with new versions every year. Once they do, a common issue that happens is certain app features just stop functioning. It’s the same as updating your computer. As your computer gets older it has a harder time keeping up with the latest updates and tends to slow down.

You should always stay proactive about your maintenance. iOS and Android release these new versions to developers first before they release it to the public. This is the opportunity to work out any issues that may arise with the release. Do not wait until after the new version is released to have your development teamwork on the app. Your users will already be facing issues and you will receive a lot of angry feedback.

2. Updating the design (UI)

Chances are you are going to change your mind about design pieces. You want to do this because the User Interface is just as important as the functionalities. Like anything else, what’s popular in design always changes. You’re going to get new ideas to make look more modern and fresh.

The other side of this is the necessity of making design changes based on new mobile devices being released. As you have probably seen, there are many different devices out there and both iOS and Android come out with new phones which have different screen sizes. This can have a huge impact on how a user sees your app. Buttons may look off or even cut off. Just look at the iPhone X, XS Max, and XR and how the screen size changed but also having the screen surround the speaker at the top. iOS apps had to be updated in order to look correct otherwise items would be blocked.

3. Update the functions

This generally happens along with design updates as well. The user experience (UX) is the most important item to maintain. Generally, after you receive your first round of feedback from users you will have a good idea of what they like and don’t like. It’s wise to let your users determine what changes to make because they are the source of your profits.

Through the use of app analytics, you can see what people use most. Approximately 45% of features within apps are not used at all and almost 20% are only used a little. Your analytics can help you decide what to remove as well. This is going to spark a version 2 conversation where you will change, add, and/or remove features.

However, you want to be careful because too many drastic changes can have a negative effect. Small gradual changes ease users into those changes better. Make sure that the features you want to adjust are really what users want and not just for you and your circle of friends.

Also, talk to your developers about software libraries. If your app developers are using that then that should also be regularly maintained and your team should know what to do and when allowing you to have a proper maintenance plan to keep your app running smoothly.

Keep in mind that if you want to keep your app relevant and useful it should be updated about once a year. A good time to do that is when you receive notice that a new OS version is coming out. Doing everything together can save time and effort.

How much does it cost to maintain an app?

It’s not just the cost of developing an app but the cost of maintaining it as well. You need to be prepared before jumping into app development blindly. Of course, the cost of app maintenance does vary from app to app just like the design and development costs do. On average, app maintenance will cost you around 20% of your original app development costs.

For example, if your app costs $10,000 to develop then your app maintenance cost would be about $2,000 a year. Of course, this depends on the number of operating systems. If you have a native Android and iOS app, maintenance could be a little more. To break it down monthly the average app owner will need to spend somewhere between $250 and $500 a month initially to keep the app functioning perfectly.

Some items you need to keep in mind when taking the cost of app maintenance into account are:

1. Hosting

In order for your app to actually work you need to pay to have your app’s database and backend hosted. There are multiple hosting options such as a cloud-based environment. Cloud services like Amazon Web Services (AWS) tend to be less expensive as you only pay for what you use and there is way less set up and maintenance cost of the server itself. You want to speak with your app development company about this ahead of time to understand the approximate cost.

2. Analytics

In order to understand what your users are doing so you can make the right change decisions you need to track your user’s usage and receive reports which provide you answers. Tools like Google Analytics provide a lot of information to help you make better decisions. You can find free tools but you may want some more advanced tools to provide other information. It’s also the cost in time because you will need someone to spend time implementing this and monitoring everything.

You will also want analytics for performance issues such as crashes, glitches, and other bugs. You will have to fix these over time as they do happen for various reasons beyond just new OS version releases.

3. Bugs and Updates

Updates will always be necessary with any technology. You will notice that pretty much all the apps you have on your phone have had updates. Just go to the store and look in the description and you will see the updates mentioned there. The cost of these updates depends on a lot of factors.

If you only have 1 bug that requires a quick fix in the line of code, it will cost you about $50. If you need to update an entire functional aspect that could take a couple of weeks to fix, then you’re looking at more like $1,000-$2,000. Although it can be much more depending on the size of the app and how deep-rooted that function is. It’s better to have an app development company that offers maintenance free for 6 months so any bugs that appear can be made at no cost to you.

4. Third-party

If you are using anything in your app that comes from someone else there could be a monthly cost to it. For example, a licensed technology that you use will have a fee you must pay. This is something you should discuss in the beginning to find a way around it.

5. Customer support

If you want to truly be successful you need to listen to your users. As soon as you see a complaint, address it. As angry as someone is, their attitude changes the moment they hear a response. They want to be heard more than anything else. Many of the most successful apps have great response teams to complaints.

Investing in this is worth it as those people you responded to are more than likely to tell their friend and family. Having someone dedicated to responding to users is the key to great reviews. This will obviously be an ongoing cost to you as well. It’s not that much as it can be added to the marketing efforts you are already putting forward.

6. Marketing

Of course, there are user engagement and marketing activities you want to take on to help you get and keep users. Many app owners drop the ball on this which is a mistake. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to market your app. There are many free things you can do, but putting in a little investment can really get your name out there. If you do this yourself, the cost is mostly on time.

Often times the list of activities is too great and they hand it off to the company they hired to do the development if that company offers that service like SDI does. You could spend anywhere from $100 to $250,000 on marketing depending on the activities you need and what your budget is. A great marketing team can tailor a marketing strategy that is specific to your app and budget.

How to reduce app maintenance and development costs?

The best way to keep your initial costs low is to start small. Many people make the mistake of trying to put every idea they have into the app. This can be very costly for all 3 phases (design, development, and maintenance). It’s better to start with a simplified version but still focusing solely on the key feature. That feature should be the one that solves a problem. It would be the reason you wanted to build the app in the first place.

You may also want to pick an OS to start with first. Whether you should start with iOS or Android depends on many factors. Your app development company should discuss this with you to help you decide which one you should start with.

Picking either of those options could cut your initial costs by about 55% and it makes the costs later on smaller as well. You can release multiple versions each with a small change and/or improvement. It takes less time and money to do little changes than trying to do everything at once. This also helps with investment opportunities because it gives you time and a minimum viable product to increase investor engagement.

Of course, you can do all of these maintenance tasks yourself. Hiring a dedicated person versus doing it yourself can have a huge cost difference but it’s almost impossible to do all this yourself and most people just aren’t able to do it themselves, they need a team.

The best solution to encompass all of these is to discuss a maintenance plan with your mobile app development team. This team will be able to provide you with any app maintenance that your app will require. Discuss these options and the costs associated with them ahead of time so you know the full scope cost and not just the cost of app development. You don’t want to waste your time with development if you aren’t going to maintain the app.

In the end, it’s not just about developing the app, but having a proper app maintenance plan in place. Fixing bugs, making updates and improvements, and customer attention is key to user loyalty. Remember even small things can change a negative into a positive. Talk to Sakshi Sharma at sakshi@sdi.la or 408.621.8481 to discuss your app idea and learn about the costs of development and maintenance.

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