You’ve conceptualized, designed, developed and released an app into the wild. You’ve given it a comfortable home in both app stores, and you’re ready to watch it grow into a tool users in your target audiences can’t live without. You’re done. Onto the next big idea, right?
Wrong. Releasing an app into the public marketplace is just the beginning of the upkeep your app needs to thrive, amass users and satisfy their needs. Prolonging the life of a solution doesn’t start with a release management process after your app goes live. The conversations and planning must begin even before the first line of code is written.
Why do smart businesses plan on post-launch app maintenance? Continuation engineering, as it’s often called, serves three main functions: product enhancement, prevention and expense management.
Time doesn’t stand still after apps launch. User needs, interests and opportunities continue to evolve. Makers of the technology can’t stand still either.
1. Who Is Responsible for Coordinating the Post-launch Release Management Process?
Keep pace with the market and optimize the experience around market trends, interactions, user feedback and user expectations that have become normative since launch. Brands who miss out, can be sure competitors won’t. Rather than relying on individual department heads or managers to organize, select one leader to take responsibility and coordinate all supporting release management process efforts. The continuation engineering point person should:
- Recommend technical and experiential product enhancements
- Roadmap release cycles
- Watch for iOS and Android update information
- Coordinate update testing against the beta software prior to the OS release
2. Who Is Checking Crash and Performance Analytics?
Anecdotally, crashes are the number one drivers of bad user feedback. Laboratory testing conditions are helpful to catch the issues related to uses by the largest sample pool, but edge cases are bound to arise after your solution is released. Working with a team already familiar with your app decreases the ramp-up time between crash and fix.
Software can be continually improved. Some improvements enhance the experience and interactions. Other initiatives as part of the release management process respond to security vulnerabilities, weaknesses in the software, code deprecation notices or annual OS updates. Having a maintenance strategy in place will help you identify and address vulnerabilities before they cause damage to your solution’s reputation, experience or security.
3. How Will You Monitor and Manage Public Perception?
Teams with a plan in place to manage user feedback and bug fixes are well on their way to avoiding the PR nightmare that can befall a busy brand that releases an app and moves on leaving their users with no recourse but to shout challenges over social media.
Businesses must have a deep grasp of their target users to effectively and economically manage public perception. Monitoring all forum sites for potential brand mentions isn’t realistic. Instead, identify the most likely forums where users will interact. Pay special attention to these. Other alert systems can be set up through channels like Google Alerts, social media monitoring or content monitoring tools including Buzzsumo.
4. Who Will Respond to Feedback Left in the App Store?
Is this another responsibility shouldered by the continuation point person, or is the responsibility offloaded to an external firm or department with experience in crisis management or user empathy? Many teams choose to involve marketing in consumer-facing interactions.
5. How Can Users Contact the Product Team with Questions or Issues?
While monitoring can be implemented post launch, building a helpline, email or other two-way communication functionality between users and the support they may need must be physically built into the app. Timeliness is another consideration for teams to factor.
- How responsive is your brand?
- Is user support provided 24/7, by next business day or as able by a member of the help or product teams?How often will user issues be accommodated in app updates?
6. One Year After You’ve Launched Your App, What Devices and Browsers Will You Continue to Support?
How does that number change after three years? By level-setting and proactively establishing protocols before launch, the team can expand functionality to new devices according to plan and in predictable increments providing roadmap intelligence to the business and saving money. Teams that reactively make these decisions and establish these processes post-launch risk higher cost, especially if speed-to-market becomes a factor.
Decisions about supported operating systems impact development decisions, the breadth of initial testing along with regression testing as new features are added post launch. Discussions like these can also help determine whether teams decide to pursue a risk-based or automated quality assurance strategy up and downstream, further impacting the cost of development.
7. How Much User Traffic Do You Predict in the First Few Months Post-Launch?
Make sure your server configuration matches the goals of your app. By defining the expected user traffic during the build, the team can make smart decisions about where and how associated data is hosted.
- Does the product team expect to house a large quantity of records in the database?
- Will content from your app also be published to the web?
- What functionalities will be of most interest to users?
The answers to these questions will influence the size and security of the server configuration. Realistically estimate your team’s abilities. Decisions made early in planning the release management process impact the cost to support your app over time. Teams who choose to maintain their own servers should expect to complete maintenance and check for security updates at least quarterly.