Going live with a mobile app: Part 3 – Launching a mobile application

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In the second part of this series I discussed developing a mobile application and choosing a backend platform and building for various network conditions. In this post I will dive into some considerations when launching a mobile application.

Mobile app audiences are a notoriously fickle bunch and a poor first impression often results in a very harsh app store review that will negatively impact your apps growth. When an app store rating can make or break your application you have to be diligent in making sure every user has a stellar experience. The best way to do this is thoroughly test your mobile experience and load testing your backend to ensure you can handle peak traffic.

The key to a successful launch is great planning and testing. Launching mobile applications are significantly more difficult than the common web application. Not only is the audience more fickle, but you also have to adhere to third-party processes and procedures. Thorough quality assurance, crash and error reporting, load testing, and proactive production monitoring are essential to launching a successful mobile application.

Launch consideration: Testing native applications across mobile devices

Testing mobile applications is notoriously difficult due to the vast number of devices. There are a few services that make this easier for engineers. I have seen a few strategies for testing mobile devices – usually you go to Amazon and buy the top twenty devices for Android and iOS and manually test your application across every device manually. Mobile device labs of this sort are quite expensive to setup and maintain and often require some level of automation to be productive. Alternatives to setting up your own mobile lab is to use a mobile app testing platform like TheBetaFamily. They offer an easy way to test your native application across many different devices and audiences with ease.

Launch consideration: Capacity planning and load testing

Capacity planning is key to the successful launch of any web application (or mobile backend). If you want to understand what can go wrong look no further than the failure to launch of healthcare.gov. Understanding your limits and potential capacity is a requirement for planning how much traffic you can handle. Making an educated assumption about potential growth and you can come up with a plan for how many concurrent users you might need to support.

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Once you understand your maximum concurrent users you can test your backend infrastructure to be sure your mobile experience doesn’t suffer. There are quite a few tools available to help you load test and evaluate the scalability of your backend platform. Apica, Soasta, and Blazemeter offer services that allow you to simulate your mobile application being used at high levels of concurrency.

Launch consideration: Beta testing

Beta testing is the last quality assurance step before you can make your app generally available. Testflight, HockeyApp, and Ubertesters allow you to distribute your application for testing to a select group of users. When it comes to beta testing the more users you can convince to give feedback and the larger distribution of devices the better. These beta testing and distribution tools enable you to easily gather feedback early on about what isn’t working in your application and save you from the embarrassment of negative app store reviews due to obvious problems. A/B testing is also a great way to find out which flows work best as part of your beta testing experience. This is an essential step to a successful launch – the more beta testers you can find the better.

Launch consideration: Hard launch or Soft launch?

Once you have beta tested and decided you have a great application that is battle tested for production you need to decide how to launch. The real question is hard launch or soft launch. The traditional hard launch is straightforward. Your app is approved in the app store and you go live. There are a few different strategies for soft launches of major applications. The most common is to soft launch outside of your primary market. If you are planning to release in the USA you can easily pick another region with similar characteristics like Canada, Australia, or the United Kingdom. The benefit of soft launching in a secondary market means you can validate assumptions earlier and beta testing your key audience. Soft launching can validate product/market fit, app experience, usability, and app/game/social mechanics. The result is your first experience with your key demographic will be based on the data you learned from your sample audience. The end result will be a much more polished and proven app experience.

Launch consideration: App store submission process

The application submission process varies greatly depending on the app store. This is where you get to sell your application with a marketing description, search keywords, and screenshots of your app in action. You can specify pricing and what regions/markets you want your app to be available in.

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With Apple it is customary to wait up to two weeks for Apple to review your application and approve it for production. Apple routinely rejects applications for being low quality, using unsupported APIs, and for not following design guidelines. Google on the other hand offers a streamlined release process that takes less than one hour, but doesn’t offer the first line of protection that Apple provides by not allowing apps with obvious flaws.

Mobile insights with AppDynamics

With AppDynamics for Mobile, you get complete visibility into the end user experience across mobile and web with the end user experience dashboard. Get a better understanding of your audience and where to focus development efforts with analytics on device, carriers, OS, and application versions:

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In the next post in this series I will dive into monitoring a production mobile app and the various tools that are available. As always, please feel free to comment if you think I have missed something or if you have a request for content in an upcoming post.

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