Have you ever renovated your kitchen? Remember how beautiful it looked once completed? Sure, it required a little extra maintenance — but it was worth it. Then something went wrong. You might feel like you just finished the renovation, and overnight, your new investment had a cracked floor tile or a garbage disposal that needed replacement. To keep your new space at the level of quality you want, you have to keep up with its needs.

The main takeaway here — quality things require quality care.

It’s the same with app development. Launching a beautiful, seamless mobile app that benefits your business is an investment. To get the fullest return on that investment, your app needs to be cared for and maintained. That means updating it.

If you just launched an app, you might be balking at the idea of having to update it. It could be surprising to learn that some of the most successful apps are frequently updated. A recent study by manifest revealed that 38% of companies updated their apps monthly, while 45% updated them every 2 – 6 months.

In general, the more successful the app, the more frequently they’re updated. Often this can mean more than 12 updates a year. In fact, mobile apps like Facebook are known to update their apps on a pre-scheduled weekly basis.

That might seem costly, but companies like Facebook have some strategically beneficial reasons for those scheduled updates. Interested? Read on.

Why Do We Need To Update Our Apps?

Anyone who has produced an app knows that updating can be costly, time-consuming, and labor-intensive. Best practices suggest that a company should budget about 20% of its development costs for ongoing maintenance and updates.

With that level of expense, why do some app developers update their apps so frequently? And why do freshly launched apps need updating anyway?

The high-level answer is that updates keep the app operating at peak performance. The deeper answer is more nuanced. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to break these reasons down into two groups: Reactive and Proactive reasons to update.

Reactive reasons refer to either A) external forces that act upon your app, or B) internal forces that act within the app’s function. In both cases, they necessitate change.

Proactive reasons refer to changes made to the app to either A) stay ahead of reactive reasons, or B) improve the app’s value to the user.

Many app developers may already be familiar with reactive updates. For some, it may seem like nothing but an expensive, necessary evil to keep their app operating. Yet reactive updates present the perfect opportunity to integrate proactive measures.

Reasons To Update: Reactive

At the very least, your app will require an update for reactive causes.

External reactive reasons for an update: 

  • New hardware is released which is incompatible with the current app
  • New software updates render the app obsolete in its current state
  • Your app needs updating due to changes in its programming language
  • Your app needs updating to conform with new security changes, or changes to the terms and conditions on the platform your app lives on

These changes are necessary and unavoidable. As technology changes, so must your app.

Internal reactive reasons for an update:

  • A technical glitch or bug became apparent after launch
  • User feedback has identified a UI or UX issue
  • Persistent lower-than-average download rates
  • Otherwise poor performance related to user experience

Reactive reasons are cause enough to update an app. Replacing your fridge when the cooling system breaks is a reactive and necessary update in order to keep the kitchen functioning normally. But since you’re replacing it, you might as well get a fridge with more shelving, a better freezer system, and an extended warranty. Those additional features may not be necessary, but including them is a proactive measure that dramatically increases the performance of the kitchen overall.

Reasons To Update: Proactive

Nearly half of all apps update more than twice a year. As mentioned, some apps like Facebook, update weekly. Frequent updates are often motivated by proactive reasons.

Proactive reasons for an update: 

  • Staying ahead of reactive reasons, such as updating in advance of a major technology shift or upgrade
  • Tweaking the user interface to improve navigation (such as changes to colours, button sizes, or images)
  • Testing or launching new features
  • Proactively responding to user reviews or feedback
  • Phasing into a new design, concept, or direction
  • Adjusting the app’s function to increase the end goal
  • Proactively integrating changes to enhance user experience

That beautiful new artisan backsplash in your kitchen seems like a “nice to have”.  But it’s always a conversation starter when you’re entertaining dinner guests, and you spend more time in your kitchen as a result. Whether it’s an app or a kitchen, that nice-to-have design feature enhances the user experience.

Proactive updates are often focused on adding value for the user. This may be by integrating user feedback, making small technical changes, or even slowly phasing the app in a new direction. Any change that adds value to your user will positively affect your app.

One of the most crucial yet understated benefits of proactive updates comes from listening to your audience. When a user reports a technical issue, responding quickly with an update that fixes the problem has a positive effect. It tells your user base that you care about their experience, that their feedback is heard, and most importantly, that you value the time they spend using your app.

Why Do Some Companies Update Their Apps Frequently And Others Don’t?

We’ve established that reactive updates are necessary and proactive updates can have some major advantages. If you are able to update frequently, then you can take advantage of these changes by testing out new features to see what works best and what doesn’t. With so many positives toward updating, why don’t companies adopt frequent updates?

There are three major factors: Time, Human resources, and Labor.

Time:

Updating an app takes time. The more extensive and complex the changes, the more time it will take. If designing the app in-house, you may have to hire specialized talent for specific changes. The time it takes to source, vet, and train talent is an often-overlooked factor. If you decide to outsource your app updates, then you will need to budget time to source a skilled professional agency. Many companies face challenges in finding time for frequent updates, so ensure scheduling time is an early priority.

It also takes time to properly research proactive changes. For example, if you’re hoping to enhance your users’ experience, you’ll first need to know what users like and dislike. Time is needed for the app to operate and generate user feedback in the form of reviews and bug reports. Further, you’ll need time to sort those reviews to find the quality feedback or recurring concerns.

Human Resources: 

We touched on this briefly above, but human resources are necessary to make updates to your app. Unless you have a designated team or agency working directly on your app, programmers and developers will need to be pulled off of their existing projects to work on the update. If your team is stretched thin, then talent will need to be sourced externally, or other projects may need to be prioritized differently.

Cost: 

Time is money. Labour is money. This is why most apps spend between 10% – 30% of their total development costs on ongoing updates for their app. A company may be able to afford an update once or twice a year, but weekly or monthly updates may prove too costly.

If any of the above factors feel familiar, don’t worry, there are some ways to get the best of both worlds!

How to Make The Most Of Your Update

All apps need updates. Armed with this knowledge, you can build a stellar plan to focus on the necessary reactive changes while embracing the proactive changes to get the highest value update necessary.

Build Updates Into Your Budget

When you sit down to budget for your app’s initial development, prepare space for your updates. Aim for 20% of your total cost to be allocated for updating. It’s not unheard of for app updates to cost up to 30% of the initial budget. So, if the resources exist for you to increase your budget in this area, do so. Consider this money spent.

Stay On Top Of Industry Trends

Your app is at the mercy of the technology that supports it, so staying on top of the most recent iOS, Android, and hardware updates is a critical tactic that will assist you in planning and strategically timing your updates. The last thing you want is to release a costly update right before the launch of a new tech change that will render the newly updated app obsolete.

Budget Time For Your Update

While we’re on the topic of planning your update around industry trends, we should touch on another crucial area of time — ensuring you have enough of it. Schedule the time you think you will need in advance. That may mean starting early to source the right talent, or outsourcing to the right agency. It might mean planning time for reviewing feedback and troubleshooting solutions. Rushing an update will only enhance one thing: the failure rate.

Prioritize Your Audience 

Ultimately, your app exists for its users. Any change you make should have their needs at the center. What is the ultimate goal of your app? What does it offer its users? If your company has budgeted enough resources for only one or two updates a year, you may have less opportunity to beta-test small enhancements. In this case, ensure that every front-end change or new feature adds value, heightens the users’ experience, or enhances the funnel that brings the user to the desired end-goal.

Listen To Feedback

Plan for and strategize around the integration of user feedback. Reviews are a primary resource directly from the group you are looking to support. User feedback is a great way to find out what isn’t working. It also provides valuable insights into what works. Reviews praising your app will inform you of what your users enjoy. Do they love that new feature? Are they asking questions about future tools, or requesting different types of content? Find the repeating patterns in the feedback and act on them. Enhance what works. Fix what’s broken.

Test As Much As You Are Able

Test as much as your resources allow. Test within your development and QA teams. Test with focus groups. If possible, beta test a version of your updates to early adopters to screen for and troubleshoot issues. The more you test, the less likely you’ll find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing to patch an error or worse — releasing another version reactively in order to fix a bug that was missed.

Harness The Power Of Social Media

If an update will dramatically change the look, feel, or user experience of a product, embrace the change with a positive spin by involving marketing. In fact, 98% of businesses have a documented app marketing strategy.


Many users have anxiety toward change in the technology they’ve grown comfortable with. When you can provide updates frequently, major changes can be dropped in phases over time. But when a company’s updating capacity is limited, alerting people of a major change ahead of time could prove beneficial.

In cases where noticeable changes are happening (think a brand overhaul or major changes in the apps’ look, feel, or function) framing the new update as profoundly positive may ease users into faster adoption. Getting the word out through social media, strategic marketing, and transparency about these changes may even excite your user base, instead of scaring them away.

Conclusion

Like with any quality investment, ongoing care is required to ensure the best performance. For your new kitchen to function, it needs to be updated — so does your app. But while you’re replacing that garbage disposal, why not save time now by upgrading to that double sink you’ve always wanted. When working within the confines of your resources, bundling reactive updates for necessity and proactive updates to enhance your app’s value, is a fantastic and cost-effective way to get the best of both worlds. Have an app that needs updating? Find out how we can help you optimize performance.

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