December 4, 2013

The art of mobile app updates

Written By Martin Sandhu

It’s easy to view mobile app updates as a necessary evil, a means to fix bugs, update OS integration and make design and usability tweaks. Whilst these are all vital to the success of an app, updates can be used for much more than that.

Strategic and tactical mobile app updates can have a huge impact on the usage of your app and the wider business. Notable changes and additions to your application can prove to be a solid marketing tactic, which is already working for some well-know names.

Update notifications
Most operating systems give users some sort of alert or notification as to when an app needs to be updated or has automatically been updated. This small, seemingly insignificant function can increase the uptake in usage of your app by a substantial figure. Mobile device users now have so many apps on their phone that it’s easy for yours to get forgotten about and left in a random folder somewhere. Such an alert acts as a simple reminder to the user that your app is still there, even if it is hidden away in the depths!

A drip-feed approach
Just like companies will release new models of products regularly, which offer updated features and functions, apps should do the same.

When it comes to building your app, you probably have hundreds of ideas about what you’d like it to do and ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…, but in the early stages of a mobile app, many of these things are simply not justifiable. Even if they are, it’s worth holding some back for future updates. Building up a base of users and proving the app viability is likely to give you more budget to do the things you really want to do, well and will give you a chance to iron out any issues or bugs first.

The Facebook app is a great example of this drip-feed approach, so too is the BBC iPlayer app – beginning with simply being able to watch programmes through a wi-fi connection, to being able to download them to be watched offline, to adding radio programmes into the mix.

PR opportunity
App updates are also a great PR opportunity, giving you the chance to reach a much wider audience than usual. This will only work when the update is something unique or ground-breaking – a small functional change that the rest of your industry did three weeks ago won’t cut it.

Earlier this week the Sky+ app was updated to allow users to download TV programmes remotely, garnering some significant press coverage for the app and no doubt an update in both app downloads and usage.