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How to Ensure Your Software Update Isn’t a Massive Disaster

Developing a piece of software and releasing it to users is just the first step. Software development is never a one-time thing;instead, it is a continuous process. You have to keep the software up to date, add new features, refine existing ones, and create security patches whenever a bug or a security hole is discovered.

Updates are pushed more frequently now that they are produced in shorter sprints. Gone are the days of developing large updates over the course of a couple of months. Most development teams rely on 2-week sprints to make sure that apps and software remain up to date and exciting for the users. The shorter sprints, however, are not without their risks.

Frequent updates can easily turn into a disaster when a significant error gets pushed to the users. It is not uncommon for an app to crash when started just because an incorrect code gets accidentally pushed with the most recent update. How can we avoid this? How can we make sure that the next software update is not a massive disaster?

Coding Best Practices

One of the most fundamental things to do when trying to keep updates a positive experience for users is making sure that codes are written in accordance to a strict standard. Coding standards and best practices are your first line of defence from catastrophic errors and incorrect patches. For starters, codes need to be commented to allow for easy checking.

Code quality standards are also useful for preventing and eliminating errors that could jeopardise the security of the app. Bad coding practices are often exploited by attackers, and eliminating them is the first step towards ensuring the safety of your users. There are tools that can help you check your codes against known code quality standards.

User Feedback

The next thing you want to take into account is feedback from users. There is no such thing as updating an app for the sake of pushing an update. If it is not broken, don’t fix it. Users are the focus of the story here, so you have to make sure that every update is based on feedback from them. At the very least, you need to make sure that the most recent update solves user problems.

Pushing an update that introduces new features but doesn’t solve existing bugs or errors is asking for trouble. Not only will you be dealing with user complaints, you risk putting them off just because they get tired of the errors. Appealing new features will not get the attention that they deserve either, since users will be too busy with their complaints.

Regression Testing

Make sure the update you are pushing to users doesn’t decrease the value of the app. In other words, you want to be extra certain that the latest update does not break any existing feature or introduce new bugs. This is where performing multiple regression tests comes in handy, particularly before a major release.

Global App Testing has a very interesting article about regression tests and the benefits they offer. As a leadingfunctional testing solution, Global App Testing presents a lot of insights that will be valuable to your development cycle. You can read a copy of the article on the company’s website, plus you can learn more about how to do effective regression testing.

Selective Deployment

Segmentation is another safety measure to utilise when you are trying to push updates in a safe way. Updates don’t have to be released to the whole userbase. In fact, they shouldn’t. Rather than pushing the update to the entire user, you can test new functionalities on a handful of users and learn their feedback before staging a massive deployment.

This is a practice that even the biggest development teams still use. Instagram, for instance, regularly tests new features to select users. When they first introduced the non-chronological timeline, they listened to complaints from a variety of user groups before finally releasing the feature to all users on the platform.

Add Notes

Documentation is a key ingredient in preventing update disasters. You want to be clear about the features that get updates and how the update itself affects user experience. Simply resorting to writing bug fixes in the release note just doesn’t work anymore. Users are smarter and they want to know what kind of updates they are downloading.

Some software companies use their release notes to communicate with their users. Instead of a formal one, today’s best release notes read like a short story or a comedy bit, all while delivering valuable information about the latest release. Users love this format too and they are more likely to share about your software updates when the release notes are fun to read.

Have Contingencies

Even with rigorous testing and all preparations in place, you still need one extra measure in place to make sure that the latest update doesn’t turn into a disaster. That extra measure is rollback. You want to be certain that you can roll the latest update back if there are issues that cannot be solved immediately.

Don’t let users wait until the end of another development cycle to get the problems they face fixed. If the update doesn’t work, roll it back immediately and fix the problems later. With more apps competing for the same user segments, you cannot afford to lose the attention and affection of your users.

Do It Well

All of these measures will stop your software updates from turning into a disaster, and they are all very easy to deploy. You just need to plan for updates better and really listen to the issues faced by users. Perform thorough functional testing and run selective tests if you are updating certain parts of the app.

With all measures in place, you also get one additional benefit: the ability to trace new bugs immediately. With the codes following coding best practices and development documentations in order, fixing new bugs and keeping the software usable will be as easy as pushing the new update at the end of your development cycle.

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