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Three ways to prioritize mobile app maintenance

Mobile apps shouldn't be left by the wayside once development is over. Follow these best practices to make sure a mobile app succeeds from start to finish.

It's tempting to throw in the towel once app development is complete, but the work is hardly done. Mobile app maintenance...

is equally important, and it requires an in-depth understanding of user experience.

IT might not want to hear it, but mobile app maintenance is a long-term commitment. Here, we'll delve into the essential steps to take once app development is in the bag.

Testing, 1, 2, 3 …

Some organizations may overlook testing, but it is often considered the last step of mobile app development. Testing is essential because it identifies bugs, navigation challenges and compliance violations. The testing process should cover a wide range of elements, from functionality and performance to load testing and security.

Usability testing, in particular, examines how users respond to an app. As the importance of good user experience increases, usability testing becomes a necessity. Not only does it prevent an organization from rolling out an app that is confusing or frustrating to users, but it can save time and money in the long run by highlighting mistakes before most of the development is completed.

It's ideal to test apps on real people and real devices for the most accurate feedback. Test subjects should fall within an app's target demographic, and they should use their own personal devices so that they feel comfortable. It's also important to test on a wide array of device types. Whoever conducts the test should keep at a distance to prevent micromanaging, while giving a minimal amount of clear, concise instruction to keep users on task.

It's not always possible to test on real people, however. Fortunately, there is a wide array of testing tools to complete the task, including Appium, Calabash and Ranorex. These automated tools, which use emulators and simulators to recreate the experience of testing on particular devices and operating systems, simplify the process.

Get user feedback

With an enterprise internal mobile app in particular, IT can and should take control as the app falls into the hands of users. The process of app onboarding is a key aspect of mobile app maintenance and teaches end users about the ins and outs of using an app. It also improves the likelihood that they will use the app for the long term.

Testing is essential because it identifies bugs, navigation challenges and compliance violations.

For starters, the organization should involve both a portion of the IT team and end users in the app's design process and encourage suggestions. The organization should choose a diverse group of end users with a range of skills and experience. There should be a way for both IT and end users to express their feedback and easily participate.

IT should never roll out an app without getting feedback from real users about reliability, functionality and ease of use. And organizations should consider web-based development rather than native development due to the latter's ability to make changes more easily. There's always a good chance that end users will face issues during the app's lifespan. 

Gauge app health with metrics

Even when IT rolls out a mobile app, its work isn't finished. The ability to track app health is a vital aspect of mobile app maintenance, especially due to the autonomous nature of a mobile app. Developers generally can't access their users' devices, so one of the only ways to determine whether an app is working properly is through analytics.

Mobile app crashes are one of the most detrimental failures that an app user can encounter. Fortunately, it's relatively easy for IT to track crashes remotely; Apple and Google share basic tracking for app crashes via Xcode and Google Play Console, respectively. IT can also use third-party tools, such as Firebase and Instabug, to obtain more detailed information about an app crash; many of these products support both Apple iOS and Google Android.

Unlike app crashes, non-fatal errors don't always cause the app to stop working completely, but they can decrease an app's usability nonetheless. IT pros can track non-fatal errors with the same products that they use to track fatal errors; additionally, they should deploy an anti-corruption layer to ensure that the data from the server is structured correctly.

This was last published in July 2018

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