In a recent survey that we conducted with over 2000 clients that we have worked with over the last decade, we were surprised with the lack of awareness regarding app maintenance. About 80% of these customers have mobile and web apps for their business and the rest 20% are in the process of getting their apps developed.

In the chart here we can see that out of over 1200 technology customers almost 55% believe that either they don’t need maintenance or they are more willing to allocate a budget for app marketing and ASO than maintaining their application. Now, let’s get one thing clear. There is no doubt that a business needs to invest in app marketing in order to compete with the rising competition. However, if you’re not ready to upgrade, maintain or modernize your applications then your marketing efforts will start to fail in the long run, no matter how much you invest in it. 

However, we knew we had to narrow this down further. So we went ahead and did another brief study from our entire technology lead database to filter out the most common questions that prospect customers looking for technology solutions have enquired about over the past decade.

Based on the summary, we found the following 3 questions to be the most frequently asked about when discussing their application or development needs. 

  • How much would it (App Maintenance) cost?
  • What do you include in Application Maintenance?
  • Why do I need to keep paying for maintenance? Can’t it be all fixed in one go?

Hence, when we combine the results of both these studies, we know this is not as much a question about customer willingness to invest, but rather a question of awareness about the subject. 

So without further ado, let’s dive in.

What is App Maintenance and Why You need it?

App maintenance, be it for mobile apps, web apps or PWAs, is a recurring maintenance service dedicated to improvement and optimal performance of your application. It includes but is not limited to:

  • Performance monitoring and optimization
  • Quality assessment and bug fixes
  • Troubleshooting 
  • Modification of legacy systems
  • Upgrades and Modernization

And in some cases, customer support (this primarily depends on the nature of the app and is offered on-demand basis)

Based on the understanding of what app maintenance involves it is suffice to say that it is recommended to be done on regular basis rather than a one-time activity. Let me give you an example. We all know that the smartphone users are on the rise ever since its advent. This encourages Mobile App stores like Google Play Store and Apple Store to launch and monetize new apps every year thereby increasing their revenue. 

In a study by Statista on Worldwide App Revenue from 2014 to 2023, the gross revenue generated from applications alone is pitted at $581 Billion, steadily rising to $935 Billion by 2023. This phenomenal growth has only been possible for the 2 App store giants by keeping their stores up to date with the latest builds of applications and ensuring nothing obsolete even by a couple of older build versions is not offered to retain customer interest and longevity in mind.

Source: Pexels

So even if you develop and then upgrade your app once in a lifetime or maybe even once a year then chances are your app will vanish from the market sooner than you realize. In 2016 alone, Apple’s App store removed over 50K apps from their store because they were out dated or not updated as per contemporary norms. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I had an App for my business, I’d definitely not want to be on that list.

While these figures and consequences might look scary, the healthier alternative to avoid all this is to plan and invest in maintenance and periodic upgradation of your apps. While it may be easier said than done, let’s try and see if we can find that sweet spot to understand how much you should actually invest in maintenance and how you can optimize it.

Things to Consider While Evaluating Cost

Before we get down to calculating the actual cost, let’s explore some of the broad components that need to be considered when budgeting for your application maintenance service. There could be more checkpoints to evaluate in this process, however, we’ve kept it broad bearing in mind that no matter what type of app or business you run, these pointers would need to be considered when you’re calculating the cost. Besides, this checklist can also arm you with better information that you can refer to while evaluating your app maintenance service vendor.

1. Platform and Technology 

The very first thing that will determine your maintenance cost will be the platform and technology of your app. broadly speaking; there are 3 types of apps that are predominant from the technology standpoint. Native, Hybrid & Web apps. Now, I won’t go into the details of each of these types as that can become an extensive topic in itself but also because here, we are focusing mostly on post-development maintenance of an app.

From maintenance standpoint, more often than not, a native app’s platform or technology upgrade and maintenance costs more as compared to hybrid or web apps. This is especially in the case of native applications that are available for both Android and IOS. Due to the restrictions of native builds, you essentially need to perform similar performance enhancements and tweaks twice for both the builds thereby significantly increasing your cost. 

Hybrid Apps are more common these days and take less time and effort to maintain due to its cross-platform compatibility.

2. Security

Most applications that offer in-app purchases or any other form of financial transactions, need to constantly update their security features and modules. Security is one of the most important features when it comes to maintenance due to the continuous rise of cyber-attacks. Customers are mostly skeptical about doing online transactions and keeping your security protocols updated is your way of ensuring they continue to use your app.
 
Another reason why security updates should be frequent is because of the constant updates in security modules that essentially outdate the previous builds to stay one step ahead from the grasps of cyber-attackers. 
 

3. Performance Optimizations

During your routine app maintenance, the developers are testing your apps overall performance, speed, and usability to ensure your app is able to compete with the latest trends and performance benchmarks prevalent in the industry. With so much competition out there, your application can easily start lagging behind thereby increasing your churn rate.

Performance optimization also depends on the type of application you have. A simple reading or information application may not need as frequent updates as banking or gaming apps would.
 

4. Features & UI Updates

While your business may not need regular updates for features, you should still stay on top of the user interface and design trends that are trending in the market. Remember, applications are made for user engagement and the longer you can entice your customer the better your retention rate would be. At the same time, we need to understand the target customers better to ensure we are keeping your UI/UX layout up to date so as to better serve them.
 
Sometimes simple things like changing the home screen or sign-in screen of your application can make a difference and improve your overall retention rate.
 

5. App Modernization

In case you have an application that has been available in the market for over 5 years or more and despite regular maintenance and upgrades you are not able to sustain your user base then you might need to consult a technology expert or app development company, who can perform a tech audit of your application from ground up and recommend possibilities and upgrades depending on the nature and performance of your app. Ideally, in these cases the best solution is to rebuild the app or modernize it based on latest trends as it is more cost effective and technology efficient.
 
While app modernization might cost more than your regular maintenance, in the long run a modernized app would cost less to operate and maintain. So this is more of a long-term goal that you ideally would want to consider rather than thinking about the immediate investments.

Calculating the Cost

By now I hope you have grasped a fair bit of understanding on why you need to regularly maintain your apps and what are the consideration points that take up the major cost of maintaining the app. Now, when we talk about calculating the cost of any application maintenance, there is no fixed rule or formula that can be applied here because of the number of variables that go into the final cost as we saw above.

However, a general industry thumb-rule is about 20-30% of your actual app development cost should be allocated annually for the maintenance of the said app. This rule is not applicable for App modernization or rebuilding apps as they involve a different process for cost calculations.

A 2017 study of 102 development agencies across the US conducted by Clutch went onto reveal that on an average app maintenance during the first 1-2 years is about 25-50% of the development cost and then decreasing year on year down to 15-20% as well.

This however doesn’t mean it’s an absolute and set in stone. This is why when customers ask us regarding the cost that they should budget out for app maintenance we usually evaluate their application in different analysis phases to understand the scope and need before suggesting the cost.

Source: Clutch

Now that you know how you can budget your maintenance cost for applications, there is still one question that I’m sure that would be tickling your mind. 

How to Select the Right App Maintenance Company

If you frequent any company directories or listing sites you’ll come across over 10,000 companies alone in the US who are providing app development and maintenance services. However, in reality only a handful of these companies are actually capable of providing the right solution and services. To make things easy, here is another checklist that you can use for evaluating the right service partner for your app.

1. Experience

No matter which industry you belong to or frequent to as a consumer, you are subconsciously guided to select a business that has a name, reputation and experience of working on similar projects related to your needs. One size definitely doesn’t fit them all. When evaluating a company be sure to check how many years they have been in business and how many projects have they delivered during those years to get a sense of their capability. You can simply ask them these questions when speaking to them over a discovery call and any company with the right set of experience would be more than happy to share their profile and expertise with you.

2. Expertise & Skills

When you’re satisfied with their experience, you can take a look at the type of projects that they have delivered in the past. Companies that have the right skillset and expertize can help you showcase their project strengths and provide you with information that others will not be able to. Expertize and skillset of the team would at the end determine the success and failure of your project.

3. Cost

When evaluating the cost, keep in mind the aforementioned points to help you understand the average price range your app maintenance could cost you. However, when interviewing a company discuss the elements they would include in the maintenance and serviceability of your app before making your decision. This is because there could be additional requirements or facilities that the company could be offering for a slightly more cost than you anticipated. Evaluate the list of features and then you can compare them with other companies that you’ve shortlisted, weigh the pros and cons and then it’s easy to go with the right partner.
Let’s hope this article has helped shed some light to some of the most important aspects of app maintenance. However, we understand there could be more questions that you may have and we encourage users to ask as many questions as possible. Feel free to call us on our toll free line (888) 271-1530 or drop a message on our website. Check out our technology expertize today and see how we can help you.
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