Launch Blog

Presenting a Healthcare eBook: The Complete Guide to Wellness Software Development

Healthcare. It’s just one word, but it feels like over a hundred problems and potential solutions spun up like a spider web — benefits, cost savings and improvements are stuck together without being truly connected.

What are the best ways to ensure patient outcomes and lower cost?

It’s on everyone’s mind. That very question has become a mantra of sorts for healthcare payers, providers, physicians and especially Washington policy makers. But what are we doing about it?

The answer is a lot. And there’s particular promise in the wellness space through apps or health portals to help prevent or more adequately maintain the very — often chronic — conditions that are costing the country so much to treat.

Inspiring actionable progress in healthcare through software

Though we may feel like dialogue is a start, there’s more work to do — especially by way of actionable software to begin addressing more of the ills society and businesses have identified within the healthcare ecosystem.

Still dubious that prevention is as large a problem as professionals say?

86% of healthcare spending is used used by people with one or more chronic conditions. It’s also not a shock that many of these conditions are preventable. And, over 33 percent of new patient prescriptions are never filled.

Statistics like these seem shocking. They are unfortunately, the “new normal” in healthcare. But, it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Presenting: The Complete Guide to Wellness Software Development, Why Health Portals & Apps Matter More Now Than Ever Before

In this eBook we:

  • Take a pulse on wellness trends throughout the country and identify areas for improvement
  • Explore how to improve preventative patient habits through technology
  • Share how to create health portals, apps and software patients want to use
  • Detail a health and wellness software kick-off plan

After reading The Complete Guide to Wellness Software Development, you’ll have answers to the following questions.

  • How is medical nonadherence impacting healthcare cost nationwide?
  • What factors are motivating patients to gamble with their health and wellness?
  • What behaviors do more engaged patients demonstrate?
  • Should you build a custom solution or choose a white label product to fill your need?
  • What are the first steps if you decide to build a custom app?
  • How can you identify a good software development partner from the rest of the pack?
  • How can you begin to identify your target audience?
  • What type of solution should you create: native app, web solution or a hybrid?
  • Before you begin building, how can you identify your priority features?

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EVINE Live: Streamlining the digital shopping experience

The shopping experience has changed dramatically since the early 1900s when department stores rose to prominence. Now eager buyers can purchase from the comfort and privacy of their own home — all thanks to eCommerce.

Once shopping was an experience, an occasion. It was an outing for families, an excuse to dress up. Now shoppers relish the chance to browse in their sweatpants over a cup of coffee in the morning or a bowl of ice cream for a late night snack.

Screen shopping replaces window shopping

The shopping experience first evolved when consumers could call in to purchase products they heard advertised on the radio. Then television sales were introduced. As long as the station was broadcasting, consumers could shop. Goodbye to waiting in line, or waiting for the store to open in the morning. Enter ShopNBC.

MentorMate partnered with ShopNBC in 2012 in a strategic effort to evolve its digital footprint with a custom iOS app. The app was conceived to take power shopping to the next level for the segment of the network’s viewership who liked purchasing watches and couldn’t get enough. The app allowed the target audience to peruse collections of watches and celebrate their purchases with their networks on social media.

Transforming a known consumer brand through digital

When ShopNBC rebranded to ShopHQ MentorMate was at bat to complete a comprehensive redesign to differentiate the app from the now ShopHQ website and jumpstart the return rate of users.

The design and development work strengthened an already engaging consumer journey with a revised navigation structure, popular previews and a streamlined aesthetic. The app also featured additional content to pair with the live programming including top daily values and host bios.


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When ShopHQ rebranded to EVINE Live in early 2015, MentorMate was called to bat again. This time to further integrate the streaming television broadcast with online access and exclusives users value. The goals were two-fold. One, introduce the new brand in a way that transitioned past users easily and allow content consumption across a variety of screens — seamlessly.

As consumers’ digital prowess increased, they needed more ways to shop, view and interact with the live broadcast.

The EVINE Live iOS and Android tablet apps united live TV, online media and the ability to shop via a mobile device with social media sharing across outlets from Facebook to Pinterest.

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EVINE 2015 First Quarter Results

  • Average purchase frequency rose to 4.1 units per customer, a 15% increase.
  • Mobile remains fastest growing platform with sales of $28 million, a 26% increase.

Download 3 Mobile Disasters and How to Avoid Them

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10 updates we’re still talking about from Google I/O

This year’s hidden secrets and innovative projects from Google I/O were shared last at the ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) keynote-like session. This group of researchers, that call themselves pirates, shared their latest projects bound to change the way technology interacts with humans. Here are the 10 things you need to know about Google I/O 2015:

1. Project Soli — Gesture radar

Google opened the ATAP session with Project Soli, an initiative aimed at enabling the use of technology through gestures with radar. This tiny chip, small enough to fit in a smart watch, is a full system capable of measuring velocity and distance, and therefore motions and gestures, allowing the user to control devices with ergonomic and intuitive human-tailored motions.

2. Project Jacquard — Interactive textiles

Google’s new interactive textile experience, named after Joseph Jacquard’s weaving process and loom, aims to transform your clothes into wearables. Partnering with Levi Straus, Google has developed a method of weaving in touch-sensitive strands of copper into every-day wearable fabrics. Both Soli and Jacquard focus on “tech infused with humanity” by allowing the user to interact with technology without actually touching the actual devices they aim to control.

3. Project Vault — User authentication

Humans are bad at remembering passwords, and in this day and age, with more and more of our lives connected to our mobile devices and our technology, security has become a focus. Fingerprint authentication is certainly a step in the right direction, but Project Vault has found a better way. Vault is a removable card that slides into any Mirco SD port and is operating system agnostic. Instead of what you type as  your password, Vault measures how you type or say your password, increasing the security over 10x more than any existing user authentication system.

4. Project Ara — Configurable devices

So far, wallpapers, ringtones and covers are the extent to which a user has been able to customize their mobile phone. Project Ara introduces a modular approach to mobile devices. Google engineer Rafa Camargo physically assembled his smart phone and booted it in less than 1 minute. This new way of thinking about mobile phones allows anyone to customize the components of a phone by just sliding in a “camera” or “speaker” capabilities into the phone hub’s slots.

5. Android Pay — Hands-free wallet

Although not that much different from the already-existing Google Wallet, Android Pay makes things a bit easier. This new-ish, hands-free payment method similar to Apple Pay is built right into the operating system. It no longer requires a user to open a separate app and enter a pin. It will also take full advantage of any phone with fingerprint reader, allowing you to pay effortlessly.

6. Google now on tap on Android M — Contextual search

This is by far the most exciting thing about Android’s new operating system, Android M, yet to be given a name. Most everyone is familiar with Google Now. The added feature, Now On Tap, provides contextual information on almost anything that you’re doing on your phone. It proactively gives you the information you’re looking for, learns your lifestyle and behaviors and helps you get things done.

Imagine your friend emailing you about the new movie that comes out on Friday that he wants to go see. Now On Tap would bring up the movie ratings, trailer, and nearby theaters and times available for Friday. But it gets even better! Now On Tap is able to interact with any installed application on your phone, whether it be the Whatsapp messaging app, or the music-streaming Spotify app. Now On Tap has seamlessly solved connecting us to the right information at the right time.

7. Doze on Android M – Battery improvements

This year Android M focused a little less on innovation, and a little more on getting things right and improving existing experiences. Doze is a mode on mobile devices that is able to identify a device’s idle state and switch to a low-power state by doing less in the background and prioritizing actions, such as suppressing unimportant app notifications, therefore extending battery life significantly.

8. App permissions on Android M — User control

A big change for Android’s new operating system announced this year at Google I/O was application permissions. Android M aims to empower the user to choose and grant permissions not all upfront upon app installation, but as the app interactions require permissions. Additionally, users will be able to change their minds and individually revoke access after-the-fact of certain permissions for whichever application they desire.

9. Brillo and Weave – Internet of things

Brillo and Weave offer an ecosystem for the IoT (Internet of Things), with a focus on smart homes. Brillo is an Android-based operating system, and Weave is the cross-platform communications layer that allows devices to talk to one-another. Google aims to standardize and simplify the IoT.

10. Google Photos App – Revamped

Google revamped its existing Google Photos app and now offers unlimited storage for all media. The coolest feature is the app’s “Assistant” that categorizes your media by person, location, and category.

Other notable items

  • Material design
    Materials design is here to stay. Google’s design team has improved its documentation. I/O contained several showcases of several applications excelling at material design implementations.
  • Android TV
    There was a trend of bringing apps into the living room, particularly for Android TV – games and apps.
  • No glass
    No mention of Google Glass, and no sandbox areas where visible anywhere at I/O. Other attendees were wondering the same thing.
  • Google Spotlight Stories
    Another ATAP initiative where stories are told through interactive camera-view with the use of 360 cameras.
  • Improved Polymer library
    Polymer is fairly new, but has been around for a while now. Its updated library makes it easier to build for mobile and web with pre-set elements and components, implementing material design concepts.

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What mobile and digital strategists can learn from Apple Music

Even less than two weeks since WWDC 2015, it’s nearly old news that Apple is releasing a streaming service — rather worldwide music experience — to be called Apple Music. That said, industry tastemakers have far from reached consensus on whether they welcome the new service or rather are acquiescing to one of the largest forces in progressive tech. It seems like the anticipated music service garners top headlines each day. And much can be learned from what features the new music service offers and why.

It’s different, but is it really better?

Apple Music purports it will differ from other popular music services like Spotify and Rdio by allowing users to stream any song in the iTunes library. Beyond that, users can tune into a live radio station broadcasting around the world. Sure, listeners who pursue a global experience can stream radio stations from around the world, but the experience is inconsistent. Often, and especially if they favor indie and underground artists, they are forced to rely on buggy apps developed with college radio station grant money or an online player accessed via a bookmark saved as a home screen icon. If user tastes are aligned with Beats 1 and they don’t have brand loyalty to another station, it could represent a step up.

How to create true user value

Despite what you may think about the politics of Apple Music and how they treat independent artists, tech developers and strategists have managed to combine some of the key differentiators that separate a mediocre mobile experience and an exemplary one.

Integrate to great

Like the best solutions, Apple is integrating functionality — streaming with radio with recommended playlists. According to the WWDC talk, Apple Music will “create a complete experience.”

The best software and apps distill key user functionality and present it all in a single, simple interface. Rdio and Spotify have proved the value of streaming, and Pandora sets itself apart through smart music playlists. Apple Music will combine and build on both these features.

Humanize the technology

Apple is also positioning the service as a “human answer” to mobile music. Unlike other services, Apple playlists will not be automated. They will be thoughtfully compiled by humans. The best apps give users a reason to form an emotional connection with the technology. Knowing that the playlists were curated by a listener “like them” or connecting to one of the Beats 1 DJs will allow listeners to form this connection based on more than functionality alone.

Meet users where they live — or listen

Because Apple is integrating diverse functionality, music will be accessible to users how they want it and when they want it. If users want to more passively consume music by listening to Beats 1 or take a more active role and choose songs based on their mood or whim, they can.

We continue to anticipate June 30 when the metaphorical beat drops or rather Apple Music launches.

Photo courtesy of venimo.

Talk to us more about what makes an app valuable.

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MentorMate to host June Minnesota Enterprise Mobile meetup

MentorMate is proud host this month’s Minnesota Enterprise Mobile Meetup. Network and dig into the latest developments in mobile technology with some of the best Xamarin developers in the Twin Cities.

Presented by Steve Killingbeck, the June event will highlight advanced debugging tools — Reveal, Charles, and WireShark — and techniques for mobile development. Attendees will also discuss the best use cases for Xamarin implementation.

Event quick-look

WHEN: Thursday, June 18 at 6pm

WHERE: MentorMate HQ, 3036 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis

The way of Xamarin

For Senior Software Engineer Anurag Shukla, Xamarin opens doors for developers and offers a way to streamline development.

“Xamarin allows users to write code once using Xamarin Forms and run it on iOS, Andriod and Windows phones. It uses one of the most popular languages (C#) to enable developers who to leverage the power of mobile without learning a new language.”

For Anurag, the platform encourages developers to think ahead.

“It forces developers to properly organize the code in shareable and non-sharable components. Overall Xamarin is a good tool to practice proper object orientation.”

Join this meetup.

Photo courtesy of venimo.

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How to build apps people really need

I’ve been blessed over the past twenty-odd years in the digital field to work with countless idea men and women. The early days of dot com from 1995-2000 were frankly pretty incredible. Everyone believed they were going to change the world, and you know what? Many of them did. Then the greedsters showed up, and the whole ball unraveled.

In those early Internet days, it took more than an idea to make a business. It took a lot of programming horsepower. There were no stacks, to speak of. The code base to build upon was non-existent. And let’s face it, even hooking up a database to HTML was “new.”

Today, everybody and their mom has an idea for an app, the freshly-minted “web page.” I love it. I love ingenuity, and I won’t be one of those to get in anyone’s way. But if we learned one thing from the dot com and other micro-eras of emergence in digital, it’s that the world isn’t looking for another app like they were web pages in the early days. (Literally, people would ask me, “Give me a web page to visit!”)

Success in the app marketplace doesn’t begin with code. Success is earned by those idea people who see a need in the consumer’s life, can create an experience that solves a problem (imagined or otherwise), and will be used persistently. My experience has shown me that coding chops alone doesn’t solve problems. Having a keen sense of awareness for how a person navigates their daily life, then imaging a better way of doing so is the killer idea.

Think of it this way. Steve Jobs needed his Steve Wozniak. Or better put, Steve Wozniak needed Steve Jobs. The one without the other wouldn’t have created the world’s most valuable company. They were each other’s right and left brain.

The risks associated with creating a new application are astonishingly low these days. The arc between an idea and execution can be measured in a 12 pack of Coke and a free evening. But building a sustainable business ain’t so. A successful company requires a selfless commitment to understanding your consumer, adapting your ideas to their lives, and recognizing that no consumer will do any extra work to make your idea come to life. They’re not obligated to you. You are to them.

So if you’re serious about creating applications — as a start-up or for your company — you will save yourself a heap of pain and agony by staying laser focused on how you are creating value and richness to your consumers’ lives, even before the first line of code is put to screen.

Photo courtesy emojoez.

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Race toward the connected home

Remember when the color would wear from a light switch or home control panel lever from years of use. They’re gone, or — they could be if manufacturers and technologists work together to synch home products with apps that give consumers a greater measure of control over functionality via their mobile devices.

This idea of synchronicity between residential devices or systems and consumer control is known as the connected home, one component of the growing “Internet of Things.”

In a report forecasting growth of demand for the “connected home,” BI Intelligence predicts shipments of related devices will increase at a compound annual rate of 67% over the next five years. According to the report, that’s faster than even tablet or smartphone growth.

To reach this ideal, we can’t look to app developers to create technology platforms that make use of the limited functionality available in systems currently. We must look further up the funnel to manufacturers. When manufacturers adjust systems and devices to render them more compatible with control via mobile devices, only then can a truly connected home become a reality.

The truth is, manufacturers are not moving as quickly toward wide scale acceptance of the connected home. My message to these lagging adopters, “If you don’t act and begin integration with changing products and systems to fit within the connected home, your competition will.”

Simply providing the automation of processes isn’t enough. The solutions manufacturers offer consumers must truly add value. A connected home needs a connected interface. Specifically what’s lacking is being able to integrate the automation of household functions access through one centralized view on users’ smart devices.

To accomplish the integration of this functionality developers must have a common set of integration principles. Without it, we’re left with 20 apps all available to use in controlling household processes but no motivation to open a single one.

The report predicts that home energy equipment, safety devices and security systems will drive growth in the connected home category first — including products like smoke detectors and thermostats. These devices will serve as a gateway to greater end user adoption.

Growth in devices to serve the connected home is exciting and all but unavoidable. BI Intelligence estimates $61 billion in revenue will be attributed to connected home product sales this year alone.

Consumers purchase products that provide them the most value, whether that value be provided in cost savings or mobile functionality. These predictions suggest that more and more end users are prioritizing high degrees of connectivity and the ability to adjust systems or components in their home anytime — even miles away.

Manufacturers who have not yet begun to adapt or strategize to bring your business in line with the connected home trend ask yourself these questions:

  1. If consumers value connectivity, where do your products or systems fit in? How can they be integrated with mobile control of their functionality?
  2. Are you building solutions that meet consumer needs and differentiate your products as a manufacturer that will grow your market share over the long term?
  3. Do you understand who your clients really are? Is your digital or product strategy aligned with the end consumer?

Answer these questions and you will begin to set your products apart bringing them in line with the changing tides of consumer needs. But, you will also position your brand to be viewed as a technology-first provider and consumer advisor — worth more than any short term dip in sales during the transition process.

Ultimately, users want a connected home that will give them the feeling of confidence that their loved ones are safe and secure even when they can’t be there to monitor smoke detectors and carbon monoxide levels.

Have questions about designing or building apps to serve the connected home? Talk with us. MentorMate advocates and supports manufacturers with the foresight to think ahead and work towards solutions for safe, secure and integrated homes.

Image courtesy of Denys Prykhodov.

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Do mobile devices like smartphones enable adventure or inhibit genuine experiences?

Today’s the day. You’ve closed your laptop, un–plugged your headphones and latched your work bag closed. The open road is calling. Grab your gear — whatever that gear is — just don’t forget your phone.

In today’s hyper-connected world, that sequence is a common one. There’s no doubt the ubiquity of smartphones has changed our conception about what exploring means and what we need to experience it fully.

Now if we veer off course, we can quickly call up a navigation app and get our bearings. We don’t have to rely on our memories to recall a particular outlook, trail or restaurant. We can sort through a seemingly endless stream of photos to find it. The question becomes, “Are we better off?”

Whether you bike, ride or moto, touring with a mobile device can either be your biggest ally or your greatest impediment to enjoying the complete experience.

My wife and I ride Harleys. Each year Sturgis becomes a mecca of sorts for the more steeled and powered brand advocates. Cyclists ride from across the country to take part in a weeklong celebration of travel and the great American bike. This ride to Sturgis from Minneapolis captures the benefits and pitfalls of touring with your mobile device.

The benefits

Constant smartphone access allows you to easily plan a route and find restaurants on or off the beaten path. If we experience inclement weather, shelter is just a quick search away. Worse yet, if you encounter injured or broken-down riders, assistance is nearly immediate. A tow truck or emergency response team are a dial away.

Best app for navigation: Google Maps

Mobile devices also give you the opportunity to augment your planned route and embrace serendipity along the way.

If you crave indian food, you can find it. If you need a respite from the August heat, a keyword search brings up a dozen overlooks you can add to your route before continuing on.

Best app to find quick restaurant ideas: Trip Advisor

The pitfalls

The boons of traveling with a mobile device are plenty but so is the potential for mobile tech to maintain hyper-connection with work or friends causing disruptions on your trip. Say you do climb to the top of that overlook you found. You can see over the horizon for miles. Then — your phone begins to ring. I can’t imagine a more intrusive tech disruption.

Now, say your phone remains silent, and you’re able to fully appreciate the scenery. You reach for your phone to take a picture. Stop, and think, “How are our memories of traveling impacted by your ability to quickly capture a visual from the experience?” Can your smartphone really capture the glow of a sunset? Maybe. But, snapping the picture might also prevent you from appreciating the moment in it’s entirety.

Sharable experiences

There’s another layer to consider when touring with mobile. The ability to share your adventure via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or the suite of other available social channels. The question then becomes.

Is your adventure personal or social? Is sharing about your experience as important as actually experiencing it?

Modern-day explorers will continue to grapple with these questions and more as mobile technology continues to develop and offer greater functionality coupled with the ability to render quickly even in remote locations.

My rule of thumb is this: Never let your smartphone become a crutch, but do use it as a resource to guide you and enrich the experience.

For thousands of years, people explored without smart devices. Mobile tech affords more options now. Smartphones render travel safer. But the question becomes, is traveling with a mobile phone truly better? Does experiencing events with mobile tech in hand diminish or increase the experience? Are the memories gained more complete, or do you miss the moment altogether?

Talk to us more about creating mobile and digital experiences that add value.

Photo credit: Alphaspirit, Shutterstock

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Considering Apple Watch? You should totally buy a Rolex.

Last week you read about the slick design and high integration the Apple Watch enables with your other smart devices. That’s all fine. It’s great even. But, is it really worth the price? Let’s explore.

My take? If you’re considering buying the shiny, new Apple Watch — the deluxe “Apple Watch Edition” — you should really consider buying a Rolex instead.

Take a look at the tech gadget world right now. Consumers typically hang on to smartphones for two years on average, due to a variety of reasons:

  • Cell phone carriers usually have two-year contracts
  • The technology is outdated in two-years
  • Technology is fragile, shatter your phone screen and your experience decreases dramatically
  • Battery life decreases and usability decreases

Apply that same concept to the Apple Watch, and we can predict that version one of the Apple Watch will last you about two years maximum.

Apple typically produces a much better product on their second try, just take a look at the history of iPods, iPhones, and iPads.

We can also make a fairly accurate prediction that Apple will improve the way bands attach to watch bases in the next 2-4 iterations, so there is no guarantee that you can keep replacing the watch face while keeping the same band over the next 5-10 years you commit to wearing the watch. (If any of the Apple Watch bands even last you 5-10 years taking daily wear into account, I will eat my hat.)

Let’s take a look at the lifetime cost of a Rolex versus the Apple Watch with a few assumptions:

  • The lifetime of a Rolex is 20 years, and we’re going to buy a $30,000 Rolex watch, because, why not?  (And if you keep maintaining your watch, it will last a few lifetimes for a quality timepiece.)
  • You will plan on replacing your Apple Watch every two years.
Purchase Cost Total cost over 20 years Cost per year
Rolex $30,000 $30,000 $1,500*
Apple Watch Edition $12,000 $120,000 $6,000
Apple Watch Sport $350 $3,500 $175

*You can hand it down to your children’s children, and your cost per year is comparable to getting an Apple Watch Sport right now!

If you do end up buying the Rolex, I just saved you $90,000. You’re welcome.

Now if you went and invested this money…

Purchase 8% Return over 20 years
Rolex $139,829*
Apple Watch Edition $352,469
Apple Watch Sport $10,280

*Or you can invest your $30k and get about $66million in 100 years…. hmm, $66 million versus a Rolex….

If you are still considering purchasing the Apple Watch Edition… can I borrow have some money?

Talk to us more about the ROI for the tech development you’re considering.

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3 reasons to release another version of your app

You launched your app. Congratulations! It’s approved in the Apple and Google Play stores. With each passing hour the download count continues to ratchet upwards. Does that mean you’re done? Think again. Apps require constant and proactive maintenance to maintain peak functionality. Here are three reasons to release continued versions of your app.

Major platform events

Much like a golfer’s swing or a runner’s gait, apps need continued attention to keep pace with software updates and avoid seeming stale.

Maintaining your app shows your users that you aren’t just an innovator, you are informed and actively understand the expectations of the tech landscape.

When a new update or technology becomes available, users expect business as usual at a minimum. They need to continue using the apps they rely on to stay organized and productive. Ideally, apps should be updated to take advantage of new OS features as soon as possible.

User engagement

Releasing new functionality is a great way to keep your users engaged. As soon as you can provide more value to an existing app, send the new release for review and continue modifying it with subsequent releases. The release of Apple Watch illustrates how an app developer can adapt to major platform events to increase user engagement:

When Apple Watch was first released, it didn’t support my favorite calendar app, Sunrise. At that moment, I decided to switch back to Apple’s native calendar.

Users are motivated by convenience and ease-of-use. I was too.

In a world where new app options are born each day, maintaining your app is critical to preserve the following you need to be profitable or justify continued development. On the other hand, Wunderlist was ready for the Apple Watch on day one. I was reminded why I like Wunderlist in the first place — its simple interface and high degree of usability.

Bug fixes

Users expect continuity in the apps they use even in light of major platform changes. They also expect apps to work without noticeable lag or deficiency. Functionality that doesn’t render properly or perform as expected will give your base one more reason to switch. It’s a good idea to use a framework like Crashlytics or HockeyApp to observe and measure bugs in your app. Then adopt a regular release cycle to ensure that they’re fixed in a timely manner.

Release cycle

Maintenance and feature additions should be continuous, but it’s also important to find a rhythm. It is possible to annoy users with releases delivered too frequently. Create a cycle that fits the flexibility of your team. There is no reason to release changes more than once a week. A two-week update cycle fits the needs of most apps.

Continued releases will allow you to stay ahead of the competitive curve and support new platforms right away.

When users upgrade their operating systems and cannot load their favorite apps, it sends a disturbing message: The developers of their app are not engaged – or worse – don’t care enough to keep the technology current.

Remember, each release should be more stable than your last. Users may not always notice the little things you do fix, but they’re very aware when things don’t work.

Learn how progressive releases can boost engagement for your app. Talk with us.

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