Even the best, most widely-used and long-lived apps continue putting out updates, and not just for adding new changes and features to the app, but for sending patches and bug fixes too. As an app developer, updates are just another fact of life.
But how often should you update your app and what should you consider when doing so? After all, while it’s important to fix any glaring issues and bugs with your app, you don’t want to bombard your users with too many updates.
There are actually some benchmarks app developers should use to determine when to update their app, which we’ll review as well as why timing even matters in the first place.
Most app developers realize that an app is never really finished. Once it’s released into the wild, it’s pretty much expected that they’ll need to continue updating it on a regular basis to ensure it stays fresh and functioning.
Whether it’s pushing a bug fix, a new feature, or implementing improved security measures, the process is never-ending. While updates are crucial and users expect them, the last thing you want is to be pushing out updates every day. It’s just plain bad for user experience.
Why? Sending out too many update requests to users can be tiring, plain and simple. It requires they visit the app store, click on the update button, and wait around for the app to finish updating before they can use it again. Some users won’t even bother, especially if it looks like a minor update that won’t have much impact on their user experience.
This is why it’s important for developers to plan update releases ahead of time, especially when it comes to things like adding new features and compatibility updates that coincide with the release of new OS.
Other releases aren’t always planned, such as bug fixes and glitches with your app. Typically with these kinds of updates, you want to release them right away if they’re major, such as an app crashing or a screen not loading. These kinds of glitches can be frustrating and drive away users who might not be willing to give your app another try.
Let’s take a look at how to properly strategize your app update releases.
One of the most important reasons to update your app is due to user feedback, which you should continuously be seeking to gain insight on how well-received your app is. There should be a feature built into your app that asks users to rate your app, so make sure you’re reading the reviews they leave you in the App Store.
Another way to stay ahead of your app releases is to check out the reviews for similar apps’s features to see what works and what doesn’t before rushing out with your own update. This way you can continue to tweak your own features based on what users like and don’t, and thus avoid a premature update.
Even if your app seems to be doing well based on user feedback—features are working well, there are no glitches, and users appear to be happy—don’t grow complacent. It’s important to continue releasing updates that will improve the user experience. You want your app to stay fresh and relevant which will help retain your users.
Look at voice notes, for example. Users didn’t ask for this feature or even realize they needed it, but the ability for messaging apps to allow users to communicate long, verbal messages instead of typing them out made a big impact on user experience. It wasn’t a passing fad or trend-of-the-day, but rather something users genuinely appreciated as a new feature. It makes their lives easier, which is truly the best kind of update an app can make.
Another example of improving user experience that you may want to consider in future updates is the use of social media to engage users. Any app can have a Facebook “Like” or “Share” button, but the idea is to make full use of social media and use it as a tool rather than just a platform.
Remember, over 2.3 billion people are active users of social media, so you don’t want to ignore it. Social media can be used to share, connect, research, and overall, create new content for your users.
Putting a steady stream of updates will help ensure an optimal user experience by keeping your app up to date and always improving.
Updating your app on a monthly basis is a solid and popular timeframe for app updates. As a developer, this gives you a baseline for when to expect releases and it’s frequent enough to ensure your app stays relevant while not annoying users. In other words, it strikes the perfect balance.
Aiming to release updates at least once a month is a good strategy and will keep your content fresh, and while you can update more frequently, you don’t want to exceed three or four updates per month. Not only will too many updates annoy your users, but it might drive them away from your app and into the arms of a competitor who is planning their app updates more carefully.
The app market is constantly evolving and what may have been an amazing feature a few months ago may now seem completely outdated now. This also has to do with what’s trending in the app world and what users care about today. The expectations for what an app can do is always increasing, especially for apps that charge users to download it.
Look at Snapchat, for example. While their first round of quirky and cute photo filters captured a huge audience, the company has to constantly churn out new filters that are fresh and fun to stay ahead and compete with other apps like Instagram who have similar features. Their face-swap filter may be hilarious today, but tiresome tomorrow, so it’s crucial to release updates to keep your app relevant to users.
Waiting for important app milestones—such as a launch anniversary—is another good strategy for planning updates, especially bigger ones that include feature releases and not just minor bug fixes. This can boost hype around your app and get users excited about what’s coming next.
Just like your traditional storefront might offer a big sale or renovation to coincide with the anniversary of their opening, scheduling big updates for your app can help refresh it and create more user engagement.
Oftentimes, users will download an app and then forget about it over time. By releasing updates around important milestones, you’re essentially reminding users that your app exists and enticing them to come back to check out it’s new features, which of course will boost interaction.
This is a great opportunity for not only releasing big updates to your app with the opportunity to generate hype, but it also forces your development team to keep your content fresh and up to date with what’s trending.
Additionally, similar to brick-and-mortar stores, it’s also a good time to push promotions and in-app purchases. “It’s our one year anniversary, cash in on 1,000 free points and see what new items are available in our store!” You can see how this type of strategy can incentivize users to come back and it can even draw in new users.
The app landscape is constantly changing, and if you want your app to keep up, you’ll want to think carefully about what releases you’re putting out and when. App updates shouldn’t be pushed out into the world without careful consideration and they also shouldn’t just focus on bug fixes and minor tweaks. Your development team should have a whole strategy on how to best capitalize on app update releases to see the best results.
The key is to think ahead. Don’t wait for glitches to arise or angry users to leave feedback. See what other apps are doing, how their features are being received, and what’s trending so you can update your app in the smartest way possible. The goal is to not only retain users through a solid user experience, but to drive engagement, keep your content fresh and relevant, and bring in new users with steady, thoughtful app updates.
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