With millions of apps available in the Google Play and Apple App Store we are often asked by our clients and partners how to keep their apps competitive, functional, and most of all highly rated. Like changing the oil on your car, keeping your app up to date can save a lot of pain down the road. A neglected app not only will see a sharp drop off in its user-base and positive reviews, but will also create a lot of technical debt that only becomes harder to fix as time passes. Many of the most popular apps are updated very frequently, often weekly.
From a technology standpoint the mobile app world is constantly changing and evolving. Apple and Google are making their own frequent updates to their platforms in order to be constantly creating a better experience for users and to fix their own bugs. These improvements are not always automatically made available to third party apps; often changes will need to be made by the developers to take advantage of these core updates. Apple and Google also strongly prefer to feature apps that take advantage of their new technology in order to help showcase it. Being one of the apps that is ahead of the curve can lead to incredible promotions that otherwise would be unavailable.
Bugs are a reality of software; you can’t escape them, and every piece of software – no matter how small or large – is afflicted. A good development team will squash any noticeable bugs and minimize the potential issues from unseen ones; however they remain a constant fact of life. If an app is kept up to date it is easy to release quick bug fixes when a new one pops up. When an app becomes neglected, even the tiniest of bugs can become a huge problem with required compatibility updates.
Beyond the obvious technical benefits to updating your app, there are even more marketing reasons to keep pushing out new versions. New updates will clear out old reviews, and past outdated feedback is moved to the back burner where most users will not go looking for it. This ensures that the reviews on your app are for the most up to date version of it. It is no secret that users are looking for apps that are highly rated – 92% of the top 100 apps have a 3 star rating, and 67% have a 4 star or better rating (at the time of writing). The picture is very clear: the better rating an app carries the better chance of success it has.
Frequent updates also keep a team well-disciplined; software is complex and if things aren’t kept in check it is easy to get carried away and build something too large. While large updates may sound great at first glance, they prevent getting consistent, measured feedback from users about changes, which can allow you and your team to gauge how customers are not only using the app but how they are receiving new features and changes. By pushing out new updates every few weeks; or months, you will be forced to focus on what is important and build a product that is properly compartmentalized. This type of mentality can save a lot of headache down the road since it automatically sheds a lot of potential technical debt.
Whenever an app is updated it’s going to be on the user’s mind; they will see it on their update list, and it will show up as new when installed. Just having a user quickly think about an app can be enough to re-engage them. Customers also love to see what’s new in an app; and with a good update description, they may want to check out the new features or see if any of their past complaints have been fixed. (So for everything good in the world, write a good description.)
And perhaps the most important secret that other app creators have figured out; new updates mean a bump back to the top of the charts. A very large portion of potential customers are browsing for undiscovered apps in the “New” section of the App Store. Most wildly successful apps have spread virally, and having a whole new set of eyes on your app every few weeks can be the boost you need to take things to the next level.
There are numerous reasons we recommend to our clients and peers that they maintain a frequent update cycle. Whether it’s to maintain that 4+ star average that users look for when trying software, to just increase the chances of being featured or found by exploring users, or just to improve the development process internally; updating frequently with small measurable changes is absolutely the way to go.