Learn about the costs associated with app maintenance. What are the long term costs, how to scale your app and what to be prepared for in Iversoft's new blog!
Congratulations! You’ve just launched your new app. Weeks, months, or even years, of hard work have finally paid off. It works perfectly and it looks great. Time to pop the champagne and relax, right?
Not so fast.
While launching your app is a huge milestone, it is only the beginning. Most of the exciting work happens after.
Once your app is out in the world, it needs to be regularly maintained and updated. App Upkeep costs take many companies by surprise, but realistic budget expectations can help you avoid sticker shock.
Today, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the dollars and cents of maintaining your app.
Why App Maintenance Matters
Regularly updating your app is an absolute must. Given the costs associated with app maintenance, you may be tempted to avoid it altogether — but doing so can have serious repercussions for your app’s lifespan and customer satisfaction.
Here are seven reasons app maintenance matters:
Protect against & resolve glitches/bugs
Even if you’re not making major changes to your app, bugs and glitches will still happen. The most flawless, well-designed app can become glitchy and buggy over time due to operating system updates, device changes, and chain reactions from seemingly unrelated app updates. Regular app upkeep can prevent minor issues from getting out of hand.
Resolving bugs quickly keeps your users happy. A glitchy app will frustrate customers and can lead to bad reviews and fewer downloads. It may even cause users to completely uninstall your app.
Approximately 1 in 4 people will discard an app after a single use and 1 in 3 will do so after fewer than 11 uses. Anything that frustrates users will only make the odds worse.
In short- to keep your users, you'll need to keep your app maintained.
Ensure everything works with the latest operating system(s), libraries, & devices
Operating system and device updates are pretty self-explanatory — but what are libraries and why might updates break your app? A programming library is a collection of objects, classes, functions, and prewritten code that programmers can use to avoid reinventing the wheel with every new project.
You can think of it like a physical library, with different collections and media available to borrow. But just like with a traditional library, sometimes the available materials change – new content is added, some gets removed, and some of it stays on the shelves, but the information is outdated or problematic.
Programming libraries are constantly updated, and it’s vital to reflect these changes in your software. There are countless cases of companies that have experienced data leaks because of minor glitches in third party libraries that gave hackers access to the app's data. Regular app maintenance helps ensure that you don’t become one of them!
Security concerns aside, new versions of libraries also ensure a better user experience and fewer bugs.
Stay up-to-date with UX/UI trends
Mobile development trends are especially visible in design.
Think about the apps that were popular five or ten years ago. One thing most of them had in common was a side menu. Today, however, the side menu has fallen out of fashion. Current best practice is to put the most important features of your app in the lower bar to make the design more concise and user-friendly.
As tastes and trends change, so do the look and feel of the apps we use everyday. Regularly refresh your app’s UX and UI to keep up with users’ expectations and preferences.
New app market rules
From time to time, markets like the App Store and Google Play change their terms and conditions for publishing and selling apps. Your development team must be vigilant and release any necessary updates to meet the new requirements, or risk Apple or Google removing your app from their store.
Financial security & secure payment gateways
If your app requires payments, make sure that it also follows proper, up-to-date security protocols. Remember that your app is not only responsible for your company’s financial security, but also the financial security of all of your users. Be sure to plan how you will maintain your payment gateways, including scheduling regular security updates.
Maintain user satisfaction & goodwill
Keeping your app up-to-date helps ensure brand loyalty and user satisfaction. If you charge for your app or use a subscription model, it is particularly crucial that users feel they are getting something of value in return.
However, even free apps must keep users happy. Afterall, an unhappy user won’t be a user for very long.
With seemingly endless app options on the market, a glitchy or dated app can lead users to uninstall your app and seek out your competitors instead. Avoiding uninstalls is critical; uninstalls represent a loss of users, as well as a loss of revenue.
If your app is down for maintenance, it can result in huge revenue losses for your company. You also risk frustrating or losing users and damaging your reputation and credibility.
Our modern world demands immediate solutions, so users are more likely to turn to an alternative if your app is unavailable. Users had a reported downtime tolerance of an hour or less for approximately half of their normal or high-priority apps in 2021.
Avoid possible downtimes by ensuring regular updates, compatibility with the latest technology, and protection against hacking.
Primary Components of Maintenance
We know that maintenance is important to keep your app bug-free, your users satisfied, and your security up-to-date — but what really goes into the maintenance process, and how much is all of this going to cost? To get a realistic picture of the costs associated with regular updates, consider budgeting for the primary components of maintenance: hosting services, third-party services, app analytics, bug repair, UX/UI, and marketing.
While web hosting isn’t needed for the app itself, most apps have a web-based backend for user accounts and data storage.
Because hosting is a recurring service, it requires recurring funding on a monthly or annual basis. When budgeting for hosting services, you need to consider CPU memory, the media types that the server supports, and other services offered by the hosting provider.
What else should you consider when it comes to hosting services?
- Scalability is key. How many users will be using the application server simultaneously, and how will it need to grow over time as you gain more users?
- Think about size. How much space is available? Can users upload large files, or multiple files, that take up a lot of space?
- Don’t forget about backups. What if there is a power outage in a major data centre? Will your app still run?
At the time of writing, servers can cost from $20 to $60 per month. In general, the more services offered, the higher the cost.
The backend of your app will also have certificates that need to be renewed yearly. Developers will need to take the time to generate and install these certificates regularly to keep your users’ data secure.
Third-party services with recurring payments
There will be recurring payments associated with your app’s third-party services. These services can include things like servers, push notifications, instant messaging, content management, and maps.
Many third party services seem low cost or free at first glance, but look out for extra fees and expenses — especially as you acquire more users.
For example, push notifications are often free for the first million, but if you have a large user base you’ll want to consider scaling up. Similarly, Payment gateways are usually free up front but have transaction and usage fees that can add up quickly. If you are using Apple or Google Pay for in-app purchases, expect to hand over an even larger cut. Other third-party services, such as maps, will depend on the number of loads and routes needed for your specific application.
Analytics are your most valuable tool for maintenance and updating your app.
They tell you if your app is performing well. Analytics also tell you what features of your app are being used and provide detailed information on crashes and errors.
At Iversoft, we usually recommend using a free service called Firebase Analytics. While there is no cost associated with the service itself, the time and effort involved in monitoring and responding to crashes, bug reports, app reviews, and security issues (not to mention monitoring backend performance and maintaining backups of user data) can definitely add up!
Bug hunting & repair
Bugs and glitches happen to even the most meticulously built apps. Server updates, hosting upgrades, device changes, and operating system upgrades can all cause issues for your app.
The cost of detecting bugs and repairing them can vary widely depending on the type of issue and the time required to fix it — but expenses can add up quickly. By most estimates, the minimum cost of editing one line of code is around $50.
While there are steps you can take to limit glitches, they’re largely inevitable, so always keep room in your budget to address unexpected bugs
Improving user experience (UX)
User experience can make or break an app’s success. It’s a huge category that covers everything from design updates and resolving issues, to adding new features and content.
Many first-time app creators overlook the importance of regularly maintaining and improving user experience, but this is one area where you shouldn’t skimp out. Nothing will disenchant a user more than an app that is confusing or difficult to navigate, even if it is otherwise perfect.
You’ll also want to fine tune the flow of your app to optimize conversions. This is especially important for apps with paid subscriptions, or when you want users to interact with the app in a certain way that correlates to user retention.
Additionally, integrating user feedback shows you listen to your users, which generates brand loyalty. While it may seem like a subtle way to engage an audience engagement, nothing endears a user to your brand like making them feel heard. Seeing a problem a user flagged actually get addressed creates a sense of quality customer service — which leads to customer satisfaction.
You’ve built a fantastic app that is going to change lives — great! But how do you get people to actually use it? Before users can install your app, they have to know it exists. Unless you plan to rely solely on word of mouth, marketing costs money.
A great marketing strategy can make or break your app’s success, and probably won’t be covered by your development team.
Because it isn’t directly related to the technical side of app development, creators often forget to budget for marketing. When you’re planning your budget, consider the cost of the initial marketing campaign, as well as ongoing marketing.
Remember that updating your app also helps your marketing. That icon on their screen is a little bit of advertising real estate that your users view every time they pick up their phone. Keeping your app top of mind helps create a kind of marketing feedback cycle.
Estimating Maintenance Costs
Standard practice in the software industry is to budget about 15-20% of the original cost of developing the app per year for maintenance. That means that if your app costs $100,000 to build, you should set aside about $20,000 annually for upkeep.
What’s interesting about this estimate is that there doesn’t appear to be any hard data to back it up. In part, this may be due to the changing nature of industry rates and project complexity. While it may work as a baseline, keep in mind that it’s likely a bare minimum. It would probably only cover standard bug fixes and necessary updates.
It won’t cover major upgrades or added features. Any value-adding updates will cost you extra. Depending on your needs and goals, you may need to budget up to 50% of the original development cost annually on maintenance.
However, only your development team can give you an accurate estimate of your annual maintenance costs. Consider hiring developers using a dedicated team model to ensure a seamless transition from initial development to ongoing maintenance.
First-time creators often overlook the importance of maintaining their app, but regular upkeep is crucial. By considering the costs associated with maintenance early, you can avoid a nasty case of sticker shock when it comes time to fix a bug or update your payment gateway.
Need an estimate on how much it will cost to develop and maintain your app? Have a great idea, but not sure where to start? Let us know!