By Chad Mureta
A lot of app developers will see a large spike in downloads right at launch, and shortly after see these numbers slowly dwindle. The question I get asked in this situation is, “How do I continue growth?” The answer is simple, but the execution takes patience, practice, and a plan.
In order to continue growth you need to provide constant value, which means everything from creating new game characters to designing a more intuitive UI to a million things in between. But, this also means updating your app! That said, I always encourage my students to update their apps and keep iterating to get feedback, which helps boost downloads. Letting your apps collect dust is the same as letting them fail, and with the recent release of iOS 7, there is no better time than the present to update your app.
In this guide, I’ll cover 5 things you should consider before you update your app. These are thought-starters that will help you develop your update strategy and make your apps a success.
Questions to ask yourself
1. What are the latest market trends and are you capitalizing on them?
The app marketplace is directly affected by trends and pop culture. You'll notice apps hit the top charts depending on what movie is being released or what YouTube video just hit #1. Lucky for you, you can use your updates to capitalize on these trends and boost downloads.
For example, say you're releasing a photo quiz app and a certain video game or celebrity is really popular at the moment. Update your screenshots, icon, or features to follow this trend. You can add entirely new features to work with marketplace trends to stay current - I've seen weather apps follow on the tails of large storms by implementing features such as "storm tracking" or "storm updates" to jump up the charts. Here is an icon from a logo quiz game, does the man in sunglasses look familiar?
Icon Pop Quiz is a perfect example of using trends to your advantage
2. Is this a major release, bug fix, or something in between?
For each feature release, you should consider how you're going to execute the update. Most developers release updates as a major version, minor version or bug fix. However, some developers prefer to release a completely new app instead of a new version (ex: "Ball Race 2"). This really depends on your strategy and how strong your update features are.
For example, a "Photo FX 2" could increase your sales, or it could anger the original “Photo FX” users. If you are making a second app, it’s best to completely redesign and update with new features. Creating a second app can come in handy for two reasons:
1) If you priced your original app for free and feel the updates will add so much extra value that you now want to charge.
2) You can now have two different revenue streams or funnels for that demographic - whether that's two paid apps, or two freemium apps, or one free and one paid.
TiltShiftGen2 is a new paid app, but added value to users with 9 new filters and iOS7 support
3. Should you combine updates or release them when they're ready?
Updates can be large or small releases. I prefer small releases at a more consistent basis (2-3x/month) as it allows me to test my marketing and monetization strategies frequently. Large bundled updates (essentially a feature-blast) are great if you're trying to out-perform a competitor. By adding a completely new UX, you're upping the ante and hopefully converting users into raving fans.
Pros of mainly large releases:
- need to go through review process less often
- feels like a whole new UX for customers
Cons of mainly large releases:
- less opportunities to test marketing
- not always necessary for simpler apps
4. You may have heard your users, but did you listen to them?
User feedback (typically via store reviews) is a great tool to compile new feature ideas as well as user feedback about bugs. You should approach this feedback objectively and not let emotions get in the way. You’ll encounter lots of bad reviews along the way and taking every bad review to heart will be sure to drive you crazy.
Start by checking other reviews and see if this is a common issue or feature request among users. If a number of users are complaining or requesting the same thing, then you should be taking this feedback seriously. Show your customers that you care by continuing to make the experience better. They won't feel the need to download the latest and greatest competitor if you're listening to their feedback. It's easier to keep a customer than make a new one.
Next, you'll need to prioritize the complaint/request. I tend to prioritize bugs because any app that is unusable will drive users to uninstall your app in a heartbeat.
Lastly, measure the time-cost vs benefit of the complaint/request. Research your requests on other reviews, twitter, quora etc. Measure if this request has demand. There are lots of great ideas but make sure there is demand before you spend the time/money on development. The hardest part about this is learning to say NO, after all engineering resources are scarce.
5. Are you optimizing your most common update?
Bug fixes are by far the most common update. Essentially these don't change any feature, just ensure proper functionality of the app. Bug fixes or revisions will always need to happen, no matter how often you test your apps prior to launch. If you're working with a platform that requires a review process for each update, this can be a pain, however you should get the most out of these small updates by testing other elements like screenshots, icons, or different copy. You can learn more about how to test your app marketing in my last guest post .
What to remember
With every update, you have to look at it in two ways, practical updates (fixes, features) and strategic updates (following trends, improving marketing).
Even if the original reason to update is practical (i.e. there is a bug with feature A) you still need to think strategically. Get the most out of your update without wasting resources. Always do your research, follow trends and optimize your app marketing. This will help utilize updates to your advantage as well as create an amazing user experience.
To get you started I made an Update Flow Chart as visual reminder of the ways you can optimize updates.
Till next time!