Top 10 tips for releasing an app update

iOS 7

With the new iOS 7 release app developers need to careful when updating their app to avoid user rejecting any “radically” new user experience changes.

1. Tell users about it

Users who love your app will not appreciate unexpected changes. Let them know early that you are working on new features. Put it on your website. Tweet about it. Add it to your facebook page. Write up a blog and let them know when the change is coming. Even a simple statement like “We are working on some changes to the app. Stay tuned.” will suffice.

Tell users what is coming. Let your users know what changes you have in mind. Describe the changes in detail and explain how they will impact your customers. If you want to avoid comments like: “This app is broken” then explain upfront “We have redesigned the way favorites work … and this is how it will help you…”

2. Take time for user testing.

Test early, often and over a longer period of time. Establish a group of beta testers that represents your user base. Choose users who have used your old app and some users who haven’t. Then let them test the app over four weeks or longer. Check the immediate feedback and see what the differences are between users of your old app and new users to measure “resistance to change (old app users)” and “real improvements (new users’ feedback)”. Measure the long term feedback to see what the expected acceptance will be. Use testflight (http://testflightapp.com) to send out beta versions and to measure user behaviour.

3. Update or new app?

Sometimes it is time to “redesign your app from ground up” which will result in – pretty much – a new app. If it looks like a new app and feels like a new app then release it as a new app. Releasing it as an update will make people angry and it will be hard to recover from a flood of bad reviews. If you changes are really just an update then release as an update.

4. Migrate user data.
An app update should “never ever” delete bookmarks or user preferences. Go through the effort to migrate user data to the update app.

5. Don’t forget performance testing.

A radical change to your app will require the best possible user experience to convince the user that the change is actually better. If your app relies on servers then make sure they can withstand the peak load that is associated with the app update. Within the first 24 hours after the update becomes available in the AppStore you will experience the highest load on your servers. If they go down your will be swamped with bad reviews. Load test your servers, load test them again under even bigger load and then test them one more time.

6. Let users switch between the old and the new app.

If you have decided to release the “radical” change as a new app then let users play around with the new app without the need to give up the old app. Give our users a choice and let them migrate the new app in their own time. Never force an “epic update” onto the user – they will rightly respond with a 1-star review. Users who give your new app a try will be more likely to appreciate change and will reward you with 5-star reviews.

7. Provide support.

Even if users accept your update there may be a need to ask questions. Let them ask you questions. Respond promptly. Have tutorial videos ready on YouTube or Vimeo. Tweet tips and tricks and have instructions on your blog or website.

8. Take feedback seriously.

A percentage of users will have issues with the changes. Let them voice their concerns. Let them send emails from within the app and make sure you receive the email and respond to it. Publish on your website or blog how you will consider the feedback. A message like this will do: “We have been listening to our users and will add this feature to the next update…”
This will close the loop and you now can start working on the next update incorporating the users’ feedback.

9. Submit with care.

When you are submitting an app to the Apple AppStore then you should be aware of the following pitfalls that are specific to the Apple AppStore:

Once your new app version is in the AppStore you cannot revert to the previous app version. There is no mercy if your app is buggy or your servers don’t hold up then there is no way to roll-back the app version.

A crucial fix will take many days before it shows up in the AppStore. If your update was a flop and you need to release another update be aware of the time added by Apple’s review process. You may try to request an expedited app review (https://developer.apple.com/appstore/contact/appreviewteam/index.html) to speed things up but it is not guaranteed.

10. Control the release date.

Don’t let the app to be automatically be released when it is approved. Consider to manually release it yourself. This is an option when you submit your app update to iTunes Connect. This way to can ensure that all your infrastructure is ready for the load on your servers when the app goes live.

Make sure you describe your changes well when you submit the update via iTunes Connect so your users know what they get with the update.

When you submit your update add as many screen shots of your app as you can. An app with only one screen shot in the AppStore is communicating “sloppiness”.

Follow those 10 tips and make sure your users will keep loving your apps.

One more thing:

The best strategy is to release very small changes, frequently. As users will accept small changes at a time this will ensure that you can collect valuable feedback by listening to your user’s feedback in the app review section of the AppStore. Users will let you know what they like and don’t like. A small change will allow a user to be more precise with the feedback and not just generally bash your app.

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