4 Stages of App Development: Part 4, Support & Maintenance

 

Having completed each of the stages outlined so far in this guide, you should now have a live app which your target audience has started using. At this point you will move into the fourth and final stage – Support.

The first thing to address during the support stage is any bugs or teething issues. Regardless of how much testing has occurred during the development stage, there will always be something unexpected that occurs, from usage by a very old device, previous OS, etc. These issues need to be addressed as they happen.

The next part of support that can be planned is when major new devices are announced, or an OS update happens. Most minor updates don’t cause any problems to an app, but when there are larger, more major changes, these can cause issues. It is important to ensure that when you are preparing your app development budget that you allow resource for these occurrences.

These maintenance updates are relatively easy to manage. Developers receive beta versions of OS updates around one month before they are publicly released. This allows us to plan for them with our clients and make recommendations on the best way to handle the changes or new features.

Another area where we provide support and insight, particularly for B2B or internal apps is by conducting field visits, to see how the app performs in real life, out in the wild, with its intended users.

This form of research can produce some very interesting and valuable results. As an example, we had one client who had built a QR scanner into the app, to help run on-pack promotions at retail outlets. The initial feedback we received was that the scanner wasn’t working. We tested it thoroughly in our development studio and everything seemed fine. We therefore arranged a store visit and it was immediately apparent what the problem was.

The shops where these products were sold were small newsagents and the lighting inside by the counter was often quite weak. As a result the camera had trouble focusing. Gaining this insight, we were able to update the app so when the scan functionality was selected, the camera’s flash was turned on automatically prior to the scanner operating.

This – literal – light bulb moment would never have happened if we hadn’t seen the app being used in context.

The support we provide at the final stage moves into a more consultative role. Based on app analytics, user feedback and our own years of experience, we can produce a report of recommendations for potential updates and enhancements based on current usage patterns, which can feed into your product roadmap.

A product roadmap is something we advise all our clients to produce when planning to build an application and it is something we can help with if you’ve not produced one before. This document gives you the vision of where you want the app to be in a year’s time. However, whilst a roadmap is an excellent resource to help guide the evolution of your app, its analytics can and should influence and amend these plans.

A final thing to consider, once the day one version of your app is live, is the frequency of product updates. A well-timed update can be an excellent way to re-engage your audience; they receive a notification on their device that a new update is available & the majority of users still perform the update shortly after it is announced. They will then invariably open the app again, giving you a great chance to speak to this potentially dormant audience.

It is however important to consider the frequency of your app updates. You need to get the balance right, between introducing new features and not overloading with unnecessary new functionalities too frequently.

When planning the support stage of an app development project, clients often want to know how much budget to allocate. In our experience, we usually find that 15-20 percent of your build cost should be dedicated to annual support and maintenance costs. This ensures you have the budget and resource available to take advantage of new opportunities, address unexpected bugs in a timely manner and plan for the ongoing evolution of the app.

Conclusions

We hope you found the outline of the four stages we recommend for any app development project useful. As you will see, it is more involved than simply having an idea for a product or service that you’d like to introduce by just building an app. However, with the right planning, processes and resource, there is no reason why your app idea cannot develop into a robust and successful solution that serves your audience, whether internal or external, for many years to come.