Until now, an outdated or half-baked app could be left sitting around, collecting a slow trickle of downloads even after its developers stopped pushing out updates. But that digital norm is about to change, as Apple recently announced its intention to clean up the App Store by evaluating and removing apps that fail to meet quality standards.
If you’ve received notice from Apple that your app is at risk -- or if you just haven’t been diligent with your updates -- don’t fret! Now is the perfect opportunity to tackle those updates and stay relevant while taking advantage of some of the newest iOS technology.
Roll out the updates.
Apple wants its users to love using their phones, and that means the apps they download need to function at a high level. To ensure that experience, Apple is purging the apps that no longer function as intended since repeated iOS changes left them behind.
Updates keep apps running smoothly. If Apple releases iOS 10.2, you either have to update the functionality of your app or deal with the inevitable bugs that pop up as the OS outpaces the software. And, over time, that chasm grows. The difference between 10.1 and 10.2 might be small, but the gap between 8.2 and 10.2 is enormous.
What does this mean for you and your development team? It means you now have an opportunity to reclaim some ground you might have given up ages ago with your app’s user base and functionality. That Instagram imitation from three years ago might have been hot at the time, but guess what? Instagram isn’t the same as it was in 2013, and neither are user expectations of how photo apps should operate. If you haven’t updated your app, not only is your product behind the times, but your understanding of current trends and user needs is also probably lacking.
But if your app is on the chopping block and you’re not seeing the download or review results you want, you might not be doomed. In fact, you may just need to refresh your app -- and your understanding of the need it fills.
Freshening up your app
What new technologies have come out since you last overhauled your app? Could 3D Touch functionality make it more intuitive? What about Touch ID or a sticker pack to boost social capabilities? Fixing bugs is a big part of an update, but the real improvements come through added functionality.
1. Do ad hoc testing.
First things first. Open your app on the most recent device with the latest OS and put it through its paces. You won’t discover everything in one go, but it will give you a good idea of what your users experience. Companies such as Colligo depend on UX testing to iterate quickly and ensure they stay in touch with user needs.
The more testing you perform, the more you'll begin to notice patterns in your software wherein the same features are the most prone to errors. In the early stages, though, there will be an element of randomness to where and how you focus your testing. Comparing how a certain feature operates on various devices, from a phone to a tablet to a browser, is a good place to start.
2. Dig deeper using Xcode.
Have development open the app in Apple's Xcode to look at specific error logs. This will allow you to find many root issues that ad hoc testing would not. This action will also help you get to the heart of any functionality problems and take advantage of crash reports you should be collecting.
Xcode performs much of the work for you, categorizing and grouping every crash report users send to Apple and neatly laying out the common flaws that consistently cause your software to fail.
3. Check out the competition.
Once your app works properly, take a peek at your neighbor’s paper. What are competitors doing to keep their apps relevant? What features have they added, and how are they taking advantage of OS advancements? Be shameless about using whatever ideas you can gather to get your app noticed and downloaded. Learn from your competitors through their successes and mistakes so you don’t have to learn the hard way.
Many app developers coordinate their updates around major marketing pushes, which can be your cue to dive into their apps and see for yourself what adjustments they're making to their offerings. You can also monitor competitors' placement on the "New and Updated" list in the App Store and time your own updates accordingly.
Don’t let a good app fall by the wayside because of a few OS updates. Instead, be glad Apple has forced you to give your project some much-needed love and take the opportunity to retool and revitalize your approach. Your app -- and your devoted customers -- will thank you for it.