App Maintenance Costs and How to Reduce Them
The application development lifecycle consists of the planning, development, deployment and maintenance phases. Each of these phases is associated with certain costs and expenses.
Before the start of application development, every entrepreneur is faced with the task of choosing the most suitable price contract: time and materials or fixed price.
In the development stage, it is essential to consider the salaries and wages of the app development team.
The deployment phase includes the cost of installing and configuring servers, databases and other hardware or cloud infrastructure required to host and deploy the application.
The final, but no less important, phase is the support and maintenance of the application. This is an ongoing process, so its cost is measured in dollars per month. Business owners often underestimate how costly this phase can be.
Few realize that the journey of a mobile application does not end with its release. In fact, this is just the beginning of a long and thorny road, as even the best-designed apps struggle with bugs and crashes after launch.
After a successful app release, entrepreneurs usually deal with a new question: what does app maintenance look like and how much does it cost?
What Is Application Maintenance?
Application maintenance is the ongoing activities that help keep an application running smoothly and up to date after it has been developed and deployed. It includes tasks such as monitoring, troubleshooting, updates and improvements to ensure that the application remains functional, secure and in line with the evolving needs of users and the technology landscape.
Why is application maintenance so important? Here are some statistics that will help us find the answer. New applications appear all the time: Around 3,700 apps are approved and published in the Google Play Store every day, and over 770 in the AppStore. At the same time, Apple and Google regularly remove low-quality apps from their stores.
No entrepreneur wants their app to be on the list of those removed from the stores. Therefore, they should remember that the success of their app depends not only on development, but also on maintenance. To ensure the continued success of the app, they need to constantly improve and scale their app.
What Are the Risks of Not Supporting Applications?
Poor app maintenance can lead to various risks and negative consequences. Let's take a look at some of them:
- Poor application maintenance can lead to user frustration and dissatisfaction. If users encounter problems or bugs in an app and there is no support to resolve their issues, it can lead to a poor user experience, negative reviews and lower user retention. Even worse, apps with annoying bugs or glitches often encourage users to hit the uninstall button. That is the worst scenario for any app owner, isn't it?
- Without proper support, applications may not receive necessary updates, bug fixes, or feature enhancements. This can lead to decreased functionality or performance issues over time. As technology evolves and new operating systems or devices are introduced, unsupported applications may become unreliable and outdated. As a result, Apple and Google can eventually remove them from their stores.
- Applications that are not regularly maintained and updated are more susceptible to security vulnerabilities. Cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving, and without adequate support, an application may become an easy target for malicious activities. What are the consequences of this? The most unpleasant: data leakage, unauthorized access or compromise of user information.
- Ignoring application support in the early stages can lead to accumulating technical debt. Neglected issues can pile up, making it more challenging and costly to address them in the future. Resolving a backlog of unresolved issues and implementing necessary updates can require more time, effort, and resources than regular, proactive maintenance.
- Lack of support and maintenance can prevent an application from taking advantage of new opportunities or addressing emerging market needs. Without regular updates and enhancements, the application may lose relevance, fail to meet changing user expectations, and miss out on potential business growth or competitive advantages.
Types of App Maintenance Services
Obviously, not a single application owner wants their product to face the negative consequences listed above. To avoid this, they need to learn about the basic types of app maintenance. This will give them an idea of what actions to take in specific situations.
This type of maintenance focuses on resolving issues and fixing bugs that are discovered in the application. It includes identifying and fixing software defects, bugs, crashes or other issues that affect the functionality or performance of the app.
Its aim is to identify and fix potential issues before they cause significant problems. It involves regular inspections, monitoring, and performance optimization to prevent future problems and ensure the app's stability and reliability.
This type of maintenance involves modifying the application to accommodate changes in the environment or technology. It includes making updates to the app to ensure its compatibility with new operating systems, devices, software frameworks, or external dependencies.
It focuses on enhancing the application's functionality, performance, and user experience based on user feedback and evolving requirements. It includes adding new features, improving existing features, optimizing performance, and enhancing the overall usability of the app.
Scalability and Performance Optimization
As an application grows and attracts more users, it may require optimization to handle increased traffic and maintain optimal performance. This type of maintenance involves scaling the application infrastructure, optimizing database queries, and improving overall system performance to accommodate growing user demands.
This type of maintenance involves implementing measures to protect the application from potential security threats and vulnerabilities. It includes regular security assessments, patch management, encryption, access control, and other security-related practices to ensure the application's resilience against attacks.
Some applications need to comply with specific regulations or industry standards. Compliance maintenance involves making updates and modifications to the app to adhere to legal requirements, security standards, data privacy regulations, or any other compliance obligations.
It focuses on managing and optimizing the application's database. It includes database backups, data integrity checks, performance tuning, and database schema modifications to ensure efficient and reliable data storage for the application. All this sounds quite complicated even for experienced entrepreneurs. But there is no need to panic. Professional developers have the expertise to guarantee the smooth operation and optimal performance of a database system.
How Much Does App Maintenance Cost?
Application development is a costly endeavor. Moreover, additional costs often arise during the maintenance stages, which can reach 50% of the total development cost during the first year. In subsequent years, this figure usually drops to 15-25%.
A general guideline is to allocate 20% of the initial development cost to maintenance. For example, if the development cost of your app was $100,000, you can expect to spend about $20,000 per year on maintenance.
Now let's look at a couple of examples to prove that app maintenance is an expensive process.
- Suppose you work with a developer whose hourly rate is 50 dollars. He finds an error in your code and estimates that it will take him 3 hours to fix it. But if there are ten bugs per month, that means it will cost about $1500 per month to fix them. And that's just corrective maintenance!
- Let's imagine that the owner of an app has decided to make some changes to the user interface. To do this, he needs a UI/UX designer whose hourly rate, for example, is 35 dollars. According to preliminary calculations, it will take the designer about a week to create a new design. So, we multiply 8 hours a day by $35 for 7 days, and we get $1,960. That's just the design! The app owner still needs back-end and front-end developers to bring the design to life, make changes and update the app. And all this is just the cost of a one-time perfective maintenance.
Factors Affecting App Maintenance Cost
- Type of support. The cost of support depends on whether the app owners need to add new features or just maintain the solution and issue regular updates. In any case, they should discuss their goals and preferences, timeline and complexity with the developers, who will prepare a cost estimate based on this data.
- Number of hours. The price of a project usually depends on how many hours it takes a team to develop an app. Therefore, the development team first estimates the number of features and enhancements, then calculates the time required and prepares a cost estimate for the project.
- Team size. The more people needed to maintain the app, the higher the costs will be. If app owners need to release a small update, they'll likely need one or more developers. And if they want to rebuild a page completely or develop a new feature, a UI/UX designer will be added to the team.
How to Reduce Application Maintenance Cost?
Luckily, there are certain ways to reduce app development cost and maintenance cost. Let's dive into this topic and discuss some of them!
Choosing the Right Development Platform
Nowadays, a business owner can choose a native or hybrid development platform for their app.
Native apps are developed for a specific platform and target either Android or iOS users. If a business owner wants to focus on users of both platforms, they should be prepared to develop two separate apps, one for the Google Play Store and one for the Apple App Store. As each of these platforms has completely different standards, different programming languages are used to meet them.
Hybrid apps combine elements of native and web applications. They are designed to be compatible with multiple platforms and allow developers to write the code once and use it on different operating systems. Hybrid applications have the advantage of being cross-platform, which makes them both cost-efficient and easy to maintain. By combining multiple functions into one platform, the costs associated with app development and management are significantly reduced.
Designing for Maintainability
During the development phase, developers should focus on ease of maintenance when designing the application. This includes writing clean and modular code, following best practices in programming and using design patterns that promote code reusability. Well-structured code is easier to understand, debug and maintain, which reduces the time and effort required for future maintenance.
Adding Only Required Features
Users generally do not use all the features of an application. Therefore, app owners should only invest in the features that are best utilized by users. This helps developers reduce the time it takes to add new features and reduce the cost of maintaining the app.
Therefore, app owners should first study the users' problems, then analyze them and add only those features to the app that are useful to the users. There is always an option to update the app later and add more features depending on user feedback.
Regular Bug Monitoring and Tracking
It's important to implement a bug tracking system to capture and prioritize reported issues effectively. This allows them to track and address bugs in a systematic manner, ensuring they don't accumulate or lead to more significant problems over time. Regularly reviewing and addressing reported bugs can help prevent them from becoming persistent and costly maintenance tasks.
Paying Down Technical Debt
Technical debt is something that will need to be fixed after the product is released. The problem is that technical debt can accumulate, increasing the risks. The truth is that no one can completely avoid technical debt. However, developers must pay it off - by going back and considering the trade-offs they made to achieve a specific goal.
Any app owner should maintain thorough and up-to-date documentation for the application, including system architecture, codebase, and any relevant processes or workflows. This documentation serves as a valuable resource for future maintenance, allowing new team members or external support to understand and work on the application more efficiently.
Developing and launching a successful application is half the success. The key is to maintain the application to a high standard, thereby extending its lifespan. This is not an easy task, as developers will constantly improve the app by fixing defects, bugs, errors, crashes, and other issues that affect the functionality or performance of the application. Adding new features and optimizing performance should also be kept in mind.
As a software development and consulting company with over 20 years of experience, the Cyfrania team not only develops applications, but also helps maintain, modernize and improve their performance. In addition, we utilize various ways to reduce application maintenance costs, which makes our customers happy. If you need professional help improving and maintaining your app or want a quick app maintenance cost estimate, let's get in touch!