A mobile app is a bit like a brick and mortar building. The building is modern when it’s first built, but over time, better building materials and methods are inevitably developed. As the years pass, you perform repairs and improvements. But there comes a time when you wonder, “Should I continue to work on this old building or just demolish it and build a new one in its place?”
A similar thought process may surround your app when adding lots of new functionalities or dramatically overhauling the application’s features and user interface (UI). Should you opt for another update or start a new app from scratch? This question can arise even when you’re planning to maintain the same app name and cater to the same user base. Plus, mobile technology evolves rapidly, so you could find yourself pondering this dilemma after just a couple years.
Often, it’s easier to start fresh instead of trying to build atop an existing app architecture. This is particularly true when you’re dealing with an older piece of technology that was created using a less efficient methodology, programming language or architecture. In the development world, it’s not uncommon to encounter older apps that leave you thinking, “Wow, if I created this today, I would/could do things very differently.” New advances in technology arise continually, meaning it’s often more costly and time consuming to update an older, poorly-optimized application. But how do you identify scenarios where starting anew may be a good course of action?
Mobile App Evaluations from a Developer’s Perspective
Less-than-ethical developers may recommend re-building an app simply as a means of turning a small project into a larger, more profitable one. This can leave clients feeling understandably wary. But there are instances where it’s genuinely preferable to start from scratch instead of performing major overhauls on an existing interface.
The first order of business is to view your app from the developer’s perspective; only then can you understand the possible benefits of starting fresh. It’s generally best to get a few opinions from different mobile developers. You’ll want to ask questions such as:
- What architecture and programming language was used to build the current app?
- Would you (the developer) use a different approach to rebuild this app today? If so, how would today’s approach differ?
- How would the new version of this app differ from the existing one in terms of functionality and user experience (UX)? Specifically, how would the new incarnation be better?
- Are there any limitations in terms of what can be achieved if we were to update the current mobile app?
Remember, the age of your app is a major factor in this equation. An app that was originally built in 2011 and only occasionally updated may be a great candidate for a rebuild, as there have been many recent changes in the mobile development world. Meanwhile, an app that was built just 18 months prior, with regular updates since its launch, may see little or no benefit from starting over.
Other Considerations When Deciding Whether to Update a Mobile App or Start Anew
There are a few additional points to think about as you decide how to proceed with your mobile app:
- Would you keep the current app’s name and branding? Or would you rebrand entirely? If the new app would be functionally similar to the original and appeal to the same user base, then maintaining the current app name may be wise, but older, “tired” branding can usually benefit from an update. If your app falls within the B2C realm, starting fresh may represent a great rebranding opportunity. However, this is not a big concern for those developing enterprise or B2B apps.
- Is adding a functionality to the current app the best course of action? Many assume it’s beneficial to simply update an existing app to include a new feature or functionality, but it’s important to consider whether the new functionality may be better suited as a stand-alone app. Think about your user base: would a majority of your current target audience find the new functionality useful and desirable? Or would you be more effective marketing the functionality or solution as a simple, stand-alone mobile app? Some app developers offer multiple variants of their apps, each with its own unique features, so that is yet another course of action to consider.
- If you could do it all over, would you choose to build the same app type? Maybe you originally built a native app for iOS, but later realized a hybrid app would have served you better. If you’re thinking about starting anew, this is a perfect opportunity to change tactics by offering a hybrid app instead of a native app or vice versa. This opportunity could serve as one vote in favor of building a new app.
- Has your app seen a major shift in its functionality, purpose or user base? Some of the best apps start out as one thing and gradually take on a different form. The original platform may not be ideal for this new mission, so if you’ve seen a major shift away from your original game plan, starting over may be smart.
- If you developed a new app, how would this impact future costs for security, data storage and updates/maintenance?
And how do those costs compare to what you would spend on your app in its current form? Newer apps are typically easier to maintain, with many featuring back-end app management interfaces that allow your company to oversee day-to-day issues without calling a mobile app developer for assistance. Security is also a major consideration. You may liken the app’s security interface to a dam. The dam can be patched repeatedly as holes arise. But even with the most rigorous maintenance and patching, you will someday reach a point where the dam’s structural integrity is diminished so that building an entirely new dam is your only viable option.
There is no easy one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to deciding whether to perform major surgery on a mobile app or develop a new application from the ground up. But working with a reputable and experienced mobile developer can eliminate much of the guesswork. At SevenTablets, we work with clients in a variety of niches and industries. We’re based in Dallas, with regional offices in Houston and Austin, but our team also works with clients from across the nation. Contact us to discuss your mobile app development project today.