How to release your mobile app in 2024? Checklist from RedCat. Part 1.

Co-Founder

Alexandra Kazemir-Yampolska

26.06.2024

19 minutes

How to release your mobile app in 2024?Checklist from RedCat. Part 1.

From this article you’ll know

  • What is a release plan and who is the release manager
  • How Appstore and Google Play submission processes differ
  • What are the aspects of each release in mobile development
  • Understand why each release is much more expensive than it seems

Vocabulary

 

Press Kit – A treasure trove of materials (text, visuals, videos) for journalists and influencers to leverage when covering your app’s launch.

Release train –   A software development methodology that emphasizes a continuous flow of work from development to deployment. It involves fixed-length iterations where features are developed, tested, and deployed in a predictable manner.

Dogfooding – The practice of using a product internally by the development team or employees of the company that created it. This allows for early identification and resolution of bugs and usability issues before a product is released to the public.

ASO (App Store Optimization): The process of improving the visibility of a mobile app in an app store search. This is achieved by optimizing various factors such as the app title, description, keywords, and screenshots to ensure the app ranks higher in search results and is more likely to be discovered by users.

Introduction

 

The Day X has come! Finally our first release “Press submit”, open champagne, drink with a team, and next 6 months just collect your customer’s checks in pajamas. And maybe occasionally say “NO” to propositions to sell your app for 1 bln dollars from investors. Ok, this is how naivete looks like. What if we say you, that release is not a 1 day task, but rather a repetitive 3-month process for a team of 10 people on average. Which is 30 salaries by the way. Hell’a expensive! Now let’s dive into explanation “why so?”

In this article we will not focus on obvious things, there are dozens of posts about technology, market fit, and development process. Our goal is to collect all puzzles around the ritual of mobile app release plan execution. And organically find the answer why Release managers have 15-20% higher salaries than Project managers.

Product lifecycle review – real-life perspective

Guess we all have seen this picture about the product development cycle (from a very development-focused perspective). Agile or Scrum, Iterations, an endless cycle of a queue of processes.

This is how software development lifecycle is displayed on the Internet – nice and simple:

 

Product Lifecycle in Waterfall

 

But RedCat’s experience shows that it’s rather close to something like this for consecutive iterations. Also, the same applies to other company departments – Sales, Marketing, HR – they also work with iterations of different lengths.

 

Product Lifecycle in Scrum

 

And now let’s reframe it one more time on a timescale. Of course, we considered that we’re describing an imaginary SaaS, the average of all our 50 released projects.

What happens? Forget the fancy charts! Building something awesome isn’t a straight shot. The image below shows the real, messy journey of product development!

 

Product Development in Reality

 

Preconditions

 

Our dear reader, we understand you might not have a development background. However, since you found this page on the internet, we can assume you’re familiar with basic concepts like minimum viable product (MVP) development, market fit, product development stages, and intellectual property.

If you already understand the pros and cons of Scrum, other Agile methodologies, and Lean principles, that’s even better!

In the following sections, we’ll focus on the experience of a typical founder launching an imaginary SaaS mobile app. This will be an MVP developed in Ukraine with a back office located somewhere in Western Europe. The specific niche (logistics services or Arts & Entertainment) doesn’t matter for our purposes.

We’ll take the perspective of a release manager and explore other processes that can accelerate the product feedback loop.

To simplify our example, let’s assume:

  • The code is written and well-documented.
  • The team is experienced and committed to the project (developers, testers, designers).
  • Legal, accounting, operations, and a product or release manager are all on the client’s side.
  • This is a first-time app launch.

 

Legal and Operations Perspective

 

There’s a critical list of things first-time founders often overlook, but seasoned founders never do. These mainly concern governance, data storage and security, and ownership (who owns what). Let’s delve into this specific list.

 

Trademarks and Domains

 

If your company is registered and fully operational, ensure you own the rights to the following:

  • Trademark
  • Copyrights for all creative materials (logos, photos, videos, code)
  • Domain address and hosting (Important note: This should be purchased and owned by the company, not a person)

From an operations perspective, the company and its founders or C-level executives should have access and ownership of all key software products the company uses, especially when it comes to:

  • Accounting
  • HR
  • Company chat
  • Project management tools

This also applies to future software infrastructure accounts and repositories, such as AWS, Docker, and Github. While these are three key examples, the actual list might be closer to 20 integrations. In each case, at least 3 people from the company should have access and ownership.

 

Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policy and Cookies policy

 

By including a clear and well-defined T&C, Privacy Policy, and Cookies Policy, you demonstrate your commitment to user privacy and responsible data practices.

 

Terms and Conditions

 

T&Care is a legal contract between you and your app users. They outline the rules and regulations for using your app, including limitations of liability, user conduct, and dispute resolution procedures.

Your T&C should be clear, concise, and easy for users to understand. They should cover aspects like:

  • Acceptable use of the app
  • User-generated content ownership
  • Disclaimer of Warranties
  • Termination of accounts
  • Dispute resolution process

 

Privacy policy

 

A privacy policy builds trust with users by clearly explaining how you collect, use, and share their data.

Your privacy policy should address points like:

  • Types of data collected (personal and non-personal)
  • Purposes for data collection and use
  • Data sharing practices (if any)
  • User data retention policies
  • User rights regarding their data (access, correction, deletion)

Make sure your privacy policy adheres to data privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA.

 

Cookies for web interfaces

 

While not always mandatory, a cookies policy on websites provides additional transparency regarding the use of cookies and similar tracking technologies in your app. If you use cookies, your policy should explain:

  • Types of cookies used and their purposes
  • User control over cookies (e.g., disabling cookies)
  • Link to your main privacy policy for detailed information

 

Accounting and finance

 

By the day of the first release, the monetization model should be defined, along with platform fees and taxes.

If you have in-app purchases, ensure your developers have established and tested a secure way to receive payments. Also, make sure all necessary checks, receipts, and notifications function correctly due to relevant laws.

If your app provides services in more than one country, consult with accountants about double taxation and VAT applications. In some cases, you might need to register your business in several countries to reduce fees.

 

3d-party agreements

 

Today, mobile apps integrate with an average of 13 third-party products, not including SDKs, open-source code, or third-party libraries. Otherwise, the count could easily reach 30 or 40.

Each integration introduces dependencies and potential risks, but it also serves a specific purpose. Carefully review the terms and conditions, fees, and data policies of these third-party service providers.

While uncommon, some marketing software and analytics dashboards can collect a significant amount of user behavior data, raising privacy concerns.

 

Third-Party Services and SDKs 

 

Marketing perspective

 

Competitors analysis and ASO

 

Competitor analysis is a continuous process. However, there are specific triggers that might prompt a more in-depth analysis, such as:

  • Initial check of market fit (including competitor research)
  • Pre-launch competitor research
  • Issues arising after launch that might be competitor-related
  • New laws or regulations announced

For a successful release process, one of the most important aspects is crafting compelling product descriptions. Since submission forms often have character limitations, analyzing how competitors describe their products can be very helpful.

Additionally, this analysis helps with Appstore search optimization, as it serves as a basis for:

  • App description, 
  • Category choice
  • Keywords
  • Release notes
  • Screenshot choice
  • Tagline composition

 

Social media preparations to make a BOOM

 

If you’re serious about marketing your app, your marketer should ideally be involved throughout the entire development process. However, sometimes marketing specialists are brought on board 2-3 months before launch. In this case, their focus shifts towards the release strategy and content creation, often inheriting work from the previous team.

While different apps require tailored promotion strategies (as illustrated below), some common ground exists. Our experience shows that a minimum of 3 months before launch is crucial to ensure a successful debut.

 

 

Mobile App Marketing Timeline 

 

Brand awareness is a long-term play that demands significant effort across social media, advertising, events, and online communities.

Building anticipation is key. Consider waitlists, early access programs, targeted email campaigns, prepared blog posts, and a solid social media following – all achieved before launch day.

Here’s a quick breakdown of essential tasks for your social media manager and marketing specialist, who play vital roles in your mobile app’s success:

 

Breakdown of Essential Tasks 

 

Press Kit

 

This one is easy, as this is a list of texts, visuals, and videos to be used and reused on the internet, and associated with a product upon launch. No need to explain, just check the list below. 

Oh, yes, it requires a UI/UI designer to work 40-80 hours to prepare all that, that’s a great and wise investment.

 

Press Kit

 

Offline presence

 

So, get your sales team ready, take all founders and meet as many people as possible! Works as a miracle, proven method to find first clients and early adopters. And investors.

By offline presence, we mean that 3 months before launch the Frontline team starts investing time in:

  • Conferences
  • Work with local communities
  • Talk to business clubs and groups where their clients are
  • Make enigmatic announcing ads offline
  • Visits partners
  • Meetings with investors, VCs, incubators and accelerators
  • Attends or participates in Shows, podcasts, etc.

READY TO LAUNCH YOUR APP IN 2024?

Our specialists are ready to help you with tailored strategies for your app launch. Have specific concerns or queries? We’re here to provide the answers you need.

Product perspective

 

Before an app’s first release, the team should have a clear understanding of what success means. It’s also beneficial to choose a set of product metrics and establish corresponding goals with minimum, expected, and desired outcomes.

Collecting data and analyzing written customer feedback takes time. The product manager can prepare relevant tables and forms to prioritize future fixes, feature development backlogs, and minor improvements.

Metrics and KPIs

 

Let’s dive into the most used metrics for mobile apps 

User Acquisition:

  • Downloads
  • Install Rate
  • Cost per Install 

User Engagement:

  • Daily/Monthly Active Users (DAU/MAU)
  • Session Length
  • Session Depth (in screens)

User Retention:

  • Retention Rate: Percentage of users who return to your app after a certain period (e.g., one week, one month).
  • Churn Rate: Percentage of users who uninstall your app or stop using it actively.

Monetization (if applicable):

  • Average Revenue Per User (ARPU)
  • In-App Purchase Conversion Rate

Here’s a helpful tip: gain insights into industry norms. This might involve befriending competitors (professionally, of course) or purchasing data from third-party providers like AppAnnie or SensorTower. Talking to relevant people in your niche offline can also reveal valuable business domain insights.

RedCat wouldn’t leave you hanging without a real-life example. With the kind permission of one of our clients, we’re sharing a table that demonstrates what actually happens during an app launch. This data is from the fourth month post-launch.

 

Metrics and KPIs

 

Alpha testing, Invite-only beta testing and Dogfooding

 

“In this particular article, we will consider these two methods to be pre-launch product calibrations. Still, the same metrics apply to all three ways to collect feedback.

For those who heard the term ‘dogfooding’ for the first time, here’s an explanation: Employees within your company use the app regularly as intended users would. This can include developers, product managers, marketing teams, and even executives. What’s the cost? Provide them with paid functionality for free and collect feedback for different packages.

Now, dogfooding is conducted during and after alpha testing, and before and during beta tests. It’s valuable because it offers early insights similar to real-user feedback.

Once you have your table with metrics ready during the dogfooding stage, move on to alpha and UAT (user-acceptance testing) – a minimum of 3 months prior to launch.

Alpha Testing: Conducted entirely within your organization. Testers are typically developers, colleagues, or a designated internal testing team.

Once developers make sure that critical functionality works and interfaces are not buggy, proceed to invite-only beta testing. Select a group of external users, 50+ people. This could include potential customers, loyal users from previous products, or industry influencers. Let them ‘decide the destiny’ of the product. If 30% of people report the same issue, it’s a red flag for a potential pivot.

Release notes

 

This is a regular thing done with each release. There are 1 or two ways release notes are announced to the audience. In a description of the version, there’s a text describing

  • New features
  • Bugfixes and performance improvements
  • UI/UX improvements

Another way, actually is an additional one, engaging, but expensive. It’s when release notes content is duplicated as an onboarding animation when a user updates the app version and launches the app. Something like a screen recording combined with accent placement, 5-8 seconds long, with ability to skip it, or without it. 

App Support L2 and L3

 

If you expect more than 100 daily users of the app, it’s a good tone to have L2 immediate support, and L3 tech support all ears. 

L1 and partially L2  nowadays can be handled with AI – here is our article related to this, with interesting documents inside. 

Now, L3 – your tech team. The easiest way is to discuss double payment for overtime and have them ready to work extended hours, up to 10-12 hours per day for the first 2-4 weeks after release. At least one pair of back-end and front-end developers is nice to have in a “ready“ position.

The trick here is to understand clearly where L2 ends and L3 begins.  So training before release is important. Even better if you have it written down as a specific instruction. Love roleplay and workshops are pretty helpful methods to prevent unnecessary conflicts in a team. The cool idea is to collect everyone, and the first 30 minutes spend on reading their instructions, and immediately proceed to roleplay, just as Amazon C-levels work with new issues. 

Dev perspective

UNPOPULAR OPININON:
If you have a proper budget, it does make sense to invest in STANDARD things in your app first, then unique features, and then prioritize the rest.

Let us explain what development processes we mean exactly under this approach. As a side effect, it will prevent numerous release headaches.

If the budget is sufficient and the team is mature, it makes sense to invest in:

  • Scalable and clear architecture
  • CI/CD and branching rules
  • Unit testing coverage on critical features (authorization, payments)
  • Performance optimization (use best-serving languages and frameworks, or the ones you know perfectly)
  • Design. Design. Design.
  • List of marketing tools to integrate with

For sure, almost every product is unique, but users are demanding today. They go crazy and uninstall apps where standard things are done poorly.

Code and Feature Flags

 

If your product is going to be developed, there are certain practices worth implementing from the beginning to simplify and speed up each release by 15-20%.

Code management is a term describing practices like collaboration using Git (version control system), naming conventions, feature flags, and a backup approach. Here, the word ‘backup’ is the most important. If you can take just one idea from this article, it’s ”BACKUPS”!

Feature flags, also known as toggles, are switches for specific features. This is a helpful tool for storing, activating, and testing different user experiences, especially for dynamic products like e-commerce or seasonal apps.

Keep in mind that toggles can be categorized (because there will be a lot of them), but their use can make the product more complex. This, in turn, extends the learning curve for new developers. At the same time, feature toggles allow you to modify system behavior without code interventions.

Summary: The more dynamic a product is, the more it needs feature flags.

Testing methods

 

When discussing the first release, there are two types of testing (out of nearly 10) that should be prioritized and automated as much as possible. Other methods exist, but clear priorities are crucial before release. If something goes wrong during integration testing or unit testing, the quality engineering team must not only raise a high-severity, high-priority flag but also suggest postponing the release.

Here’s why these two methods are so important:

  • Unit testing checks the application’s functional ability to perform key actions (authorize, add items to cart, pay).
  • Integration testing validates the app’s ability to work with all third-party services it depends on.

These two tests embodied in scripts should be like a daily warmup and pre-sleep stretching routine – an automatic habit.

 

Testing Methods

 

CI/CD and mobile DevOps

 

This is where the most ROI from development optimization occurs. It’s the ability to quickly build an app, automatically name it, deploy it to test or production servers, test it, and fix any issues. All this is encompassed by CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery) – CI for integrating new code and CD for deployment to servers.

Sounds cool and easy, right? Not quite. This is the most technically complex part. You might want to research Docker, Kubernetes, containers, and container orchestration to understand the differences.

Regular DevOps and Mobile DevOps share the same core principles: collaboration, automation, and continuous delivery. However, Mobile DevOps caters specifically to the challenges of mobile app development due to a few key differences:

  • Submission and approval process
  • More frequent updates
  • A wider variety of devices in use
  • Another set of outer integrations

Infrastructure and accounts ownership

 

Code can be passed as a simple archive, but infrastructure – never. That’s why experienced developers have horror flashbacks from the word ‘migration.’

One of the most common (and stupid) mistakes is becoming dependent on your vendors because you use their infrastructure. In a professional work environment, all contracted developers should work within your infrastructure.

But what is this infrastructure we’re discussing in the case of mobile development? Here’s a list of the most commonly used tools and platforms:

Cloud Providers: Services like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) provide a scalable and reliable infrastructure for mobile apps. These services can include:

  • Databases
  • Servers
  • Analytics Services( Firebase Analytics, Flurry).
  • Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)

Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS): Firebase, Kinvey, or AWS Amplify

Version Control Systems (VCS):  Git

Development Tools and Build Pipelines:

  • Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) Pipelines: Automate app builds, testing, and deployment. (e.g., Jenkins, CircleCI)
  • Build Automation Tools: Gradle (Android) or Xcodebuild (iOS)

A situation, when the release manager realizes that ownership of all of that is out of his legal control, may cause delays in releases and tons of conflicts. IP and all these accounts’ ownership is something that shall be the first thing written in the contract.

Submission procedure

 

Appstore flow

 

The online platform for submitting iOS apps to the Apple App Store is called AppStore CCOnnect. Developers need an Apple developer account to access App Store Connect, which is 99 USD/year.

Submission Process Involves providing information about your app, such as:

  • App name, description, and screenshots
  • Category and keywords
  • Age rating and content information
  • App binary file (build of your iOS app)

Apple reviews all submitted apps MANUALLY to ensure they meet their App Store Review Guidelines before publication. The guidelines are fair and worth reading – link is here.

Personal Impression on the submission process: Apple’s submission flow won’t allow you to proceed to the next step until you correctly fill in the information on the previous step. It’s simple and clear, constructed in a human-proof way.

Lessons Learned from App Store Rejections: Based on our experience with app rejections, here are some key takeaways:

  • Don’t stand between Apple and their wish to make money.
  • Be clear in your wording, Apple reviewers are suspicious, and if they have a choice, the choice will be a rejection.
  • Reviewers are people, it may take 3 to 4 attempts to submit even the most simple app.
  • Usually, rejection reasons are fair and valid.

GooglePlay adventures

 

If you handle Apple Connect – Google Play Console most likely is to be handled even faster.

But just a few points:

  • The submission flow is a labyrinth and usually takes more time.
  • The review process is  much more automated
  • Google trusts you more than Apple.

What materials to prepare:

  • App name, description, and screenshots
  • Category and keywords
  • Content rating information
  • App binary file (build of your Android app)

Key takeaways

Marathon, Not a Sprint

 

A successful launch is a well-orchestrated 3-month marathon, requiring a team of 10 and a significant investment of nerves and literally all-day communication.

We’re not talking basic coding here. We’re diving deep into the intricate planning and execution of the release itself. This meticulous process explains the hefty price tag and why that release manager deserves every penny – their role is far more critical than a typical project manager.

Pre-Launch Preparations in Operations

 

Imagine scrambling to register a trademark or realizing your privacy policy is riddled with holes – right before launch. Yikes! Legal and operational essentials like trademarks, data security, and user agreements, Marketing strategies like competitor analysis and App Store Optimization (ASO) along with product readiness considerations like user metrics and rigorous testing – all shall be kept in mind and controlled day to day before during, and after release.

Automation is Your Friend

 

Gone are the days of manual, error-prone deployments. Clear communication and ownership are paramount. We emphasize the importance of defining infrastructure and account ownership within contracts to avoid delays and finger-pointing during the critical release window.

Conclusion

 

Remember, a successful launch is a well-oiled machine. By adopting these key takeaways, you’ll transform your mobile app launch from a chaotic scramble to a smooth, efficient operation, leaving you free to celebrate a well-deserved victory.

By the way, there will be a second part of this article, devoted to hot fixes and product pivots and work with user feedback.

A final word from RedCat

 

Launching your mobile app can be exhilarating, but the technical climb to the peak can feel daunting. Here at RedCat, we’ve helped over 50 apps conquer those technical hurdles. We’ll be your expert climbing partner, providing a clear roadmap and a crack team to tackle everything from app development and testing to navigating app store submissions. Forget the last-minute coding scramble – we’ll handle the software side so you can focus on the summit celebration: seeing your app become a user favorite.

This is just the first camp on your app’s journey! We help our Partners to integrate seamlessly with external services and ensure their apps are technically sound for the long haul.

From concept to launch, we’re with you. RedCat’s agile development approach helps startups like yours bring innovative ideas to market quickly. Let’s discuss how we can turn your vision into reality.

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