Mikko Seppä

By Mikko Seppä

Tech Director

mikko.seppa@vincit.fi
+358 40 151 4642

LinkedIn

Mobile operating systems are developing at a breakneck pace. With new and exciting features being launched every year, app developers need to constantly be on their toes in order to keep up. Even a company that has managed to launch the leading mobile app on the market has no grounds for complacency since the work doesn’t stop there – staying on top of the game requires continuous application maintenance.

When developing a mobile application, some thought should be given to how the app will be maintained in the long term. This blog post will give you some tips on the points you should consider when planning app maintenance. However, bear in mind that each application is different, so the things discussed below may not be applicable to every kind of app.

Know how to scale your Customer Support

When an application is released in app stores and end users get access to it, the company is bound to receive any amount of app-related feedback and support requests. Preparation is key for not getting caught off guard. Anticipate the influx of customer contacts by considering the following questions even before the application is launched:

● Who will handle Customer Support when problems arise?
● How can Customer Support be reached and when is it open?
● What are the Customer Support response times?

It’s essential to know how to scale your Customer Support correctly. Remember that the smooth operation of Customer Support requires resources and technical skills and that these go hand in hand with the features, user groups and user numbers of an app.

There may be situations where a problem can’t be fixed by simply helping the user. This is typically the case when the problem you’re trying to solve requires technical competence that your Customer Support doesn’t have. Making sure you have access to an application developer and finding out how quickly they’ll be able to offer you assistance will help you tackle any technical issues as you encounter them.

Anticipate OS changes

As mentioned earlier, changes made to a mobile operating system may require quick reaction times from the application provider. Apple and Google usually announce their upcoming changes and give developers a heads-up on their web pages. Keeping an eye on these announcements can really pay off. OS manufacturers also offer beta versions of their operating systems, which allows app developers to test their applications before their official release. If this type of testing isn’t carried out and worse comes to worst, an application may stop working altogether at some point.

When it comes to user interfaces, in particular, some changes may not render the whole application useless but nevertheless need the developers input to maintain good usability. For example, a couple of years ago when Apple released iPhone X, which had an irregular screen shape, some of iPhone’s old application versions continued working as before but left the top and bottom of the screen blank. These apps required a subsequent update to work with the phone’s notched display.

Some OS changes may not be as apparent, as they lie under the hood, so to speak. An old application version may continue working as if nothing has happened despite significant changes to the OS interfaces and programming language versions. Usually these kinds of changes cause a lot of work for developers, particularly if they pile up and lead to so-called technical debt. This is something you should avoid, so be sure to implement any changes as soon as possible.

Monitor, investigate, fix

Imagine your Customer Support receives an angry ticket: “Every time I try to do X, the app crashes!” In terms of customer satisfaction, this is the worst kind of situation since the customer is completely unable to use the feature they need. What can you do? How can these kinds of problems be solved as quickly as possible? Better still, how can they be prevented altogether?

At Vincit, we usually monitor applications by using technical solutions such as Google’s Firebase. It enables the collection of application crash data and analytics in one centralized location. In addition, it provides a good overview of the number of users and problems that may not yet be apparent. Firebase can also be configured to send email notifications of potential new problems, enabling quick updates. When investigating a problem, Firebase often offers invaluable help to developers. At its best, it can pinpoint the root of the problem in the code, significantly reducing the time the developer needs to spend investigating.

React to app store reviews

App store reviews and other feedback are important for gauging customer satisfaction. Decide in advance on who will keep an eye on the reviews and how you will respond to them. Pay attention to your tone of voice: a friendly reply to an app store review leaves a good impression. You should also decide how you will react when the reviews suggest new features to be added to the app. It’s also a good idea to name a person who will look into any app usability problems that the reviews report and to agree on turnaround times for customer support.

Automatic testing and release

Automatically run tests play a crucial role in the development of additional app features and in fixing known issues. Automatic testing helps application developers make sure that an update works as it should. This reduces the possibility of mistakes as well as the time it takes to build a release. The speediness of the process is particularly important when it comes to handling critical problems: time is of the essence when an update needs to reach the users a.s.a.p.

Forced updates

Both iOS and Android use automatic application updates which typically download any necessary updates during the night. Unfortunately, this feature can be disabled, which means that some users may not update their apps for a long time. Working with our clients, we’ve even come across application versions that have been several years old. One can safely say this situation isn’t ideal in terms of user experience.

If an application is found to have a critical issue that requires an update, there should be some other way of prompting or forcing the user to update their app. These include, for example, showing the user a notification of an available update inside their application. In some cases, it’s also possible to force an update by entirely preventing the use of an application till the update has been installed. This is sometimes done in applications that require high data security and necessitate the use of the latest application version (e.g. banking apps).

Maintaining mobile apps the easy way

When developing a mobile application, use a provider that is not only able to design and develop the product but also offers maintenance services. This will ensure availability of the knowledge and skills required for the maintenance of the product so that they can be tapped into as needed. Vincit offers all its maintenance services under Vincit DiPS. If needed, we are also able to provide our customers with a 24/7 hotline for any problem situations.

Interested in reading more about mobile applications and related topics? Download our guide on everything you always wanted to know about purchasing mobile apps (but were afraid to ask) by clicking on the link below.

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