How much Maintenance does a Mobile App Need?

31 Dec 2014

So you just got a new mobile app developed and you want to know what's next. You spent so much time and resources developing it, shouldn't it be good to go? Well, that depends on your goals. If you have the app as a stop gap measure until your next thing comes along, then it might not need any work until the more permanent solution comes along. If, however, you are looking to keep improving and use it freqently, then you will probably need a maintenance plan in place.

What should a maintenance plan include? I will cover what can go into a maintenance plan and what you might want to budget for, depending on your needs.

Security Updates

This is the bare minimum that you need for a maintenance plan. It covers issues if bugs are found and helps keep your app secure so user data or information isn't compromised. This means spending a couple hours a month or a few hours a quarter updating pieces as changes to software come out. The benefit of having this plan is that you don't have to keep track of it because you are paying a development team to think about it. It saves you time in learning about the software and trying to keep up with it in addition to your normal workload.

Every app will need security updates, so this is one piece not to leave out when shopping for a quote.

Ongoing Design and Development

If this app is part of your company's workflow or plays a key part in your marketing strategy, you will want to keep updating and adding to it. This means continuing to evaluate on your design, features and other add-ons like integrations as they become available. If you notice that a new software has made it possible to integrate and your users often have that software in conjunction with yours, you might consider making integration possible for other developers.

How much time and resources will it take?

As far as time is concerned, it definitely depends. You can probably spend anywhere from 15-30 hours a month on development for an active app. If you are choosing to stretch the process out and add features less often, you can shoot for 10-15 hours a month. Experienced programmers will take less time working on your app and will cost more, but if you plan on keeping the app active and making regular updates, it's worth it.

Keep in mind my estimate is for smaller, ongoing projects. If you only need security updates, that will take a few hours a month depending on what needs upgrading and fixing. This is typically not constant and will fluctuate, about 5-10 hours a month or more if you have something more complicated.

Does it depend on the platform I used to develop the app?

If your app is just on Android or iOS, then it will definitely cut down on the time needed to maintain it. These days, most apps are in both places, so that's not really a relevant question. The question on time depends on what platforms you used to develop the app.

  1. One platform for both apps - the maintenance required for this means keeping up the one code base in the single platform as well as the separate pieces needed to customize the apps for iOS and Android. It does take less time since you aren't dealing with two separate code databases, but it depends on how much customization you have for each specific platform. Some single platform sofware requires a little extra effort and is often difficult to work with, specifically Xamarin. This is something to think about when using one platform for two solutions.
  2. Develop separately - If you do this, it requires maintaining separate code bases, which can take more time to edit. If you have truly separate and custom apps that are tailored to each device, it is easier to do this option because any other choice will take too much time.
  3. Point and click - these apps take very little time to maintain if they are basic and don't contain many custom elements. Once you add custom elements, things get difficult because you are stretching the platform beyond its capabilities. It might be better to choose a different option that allows for customization and flexibility.

Overall, there is not a lot of difference in time spent, it just really boils down to preferences and the level of customization you have in your app that will take time to maintain.

What's the Verdict?

While we don't advocate for adding features to your app just to add features and spend money, software always needs updating because it is always getting better. We are passionate about the user experience, so we always like to keep improving our apps. It also ensures a better return on your investment if you keep investing in improvements because software becomes obsolete relatively quickly if you don't.

photo by superfamous