David Noy is CMO of Ginger Software, a language learning and productivity boosting software for ESL and native English speakers.
Running a successful software startup is a challenging prospect, requiring constant attention to shifts in technology, industry trends, and user commentary.
Common mistakes such as rushing into early deployment before your product is ready are tempting and often costly. Proper timing when it comes to releases is crucial, and for software startups, remaining ahead of the competition — and fully satisfying your customer base — requires the constant release of new versions of your product or software.
So how do you produce updated and innovative releases of your product to maintain your place in the market — and do so effectively?
Keep pace with current technology
One of the biggest challenges for software companies is the constantly advancing state of both hardware and operating system software. But there are several things you can do to alleviate the pressures of keeping up with technology:
Do not hardcode your services into each and every app.
Instead, develop a robust server side API which all of your current and future apps can use. This can also help you collaborate with potential app development partners at later stages.
If you are building for the cloud, make sure your solution is scalable and built with architecture to maintain user growth.
It should also be built to handle potential usage peaks, which can happen during major events, such as new releases and new coverage.
Don’t take cross-platform solutions too far.
Developing a single code base for Web applications to run on multiple browsers can save great effort. However, Web-based development is not the solution for everything.
Choose your platforms carefully and optimize for user experience. When developing for mobile or desktop, consider using a native solution to better meet users’ expectations for an outstanding user experience.
Plan your updates carefully
It is always best to create a forecast for version releases. The most common time for bugs and compatibility issues to crop up is just after new operating systems or browser versions are released.
You should anticipate these new releases and plan your own to coincide with them, ensuring a smooth user experience devoid of compatibility issues. A smooth user experience translates into reliability, which is one of the best ways to stay ahead of your competition.
Cognitively speaking, your user develops a relationship with your app, and you need to take this into consideration when you plan an update. As in any relationship, the user may tire of your interface and start looking at other apps, so you have to make sure you keep the excitement high and the passion alive.
At Ginger, we try to constantly increase user excitement by providing new ways to engage with the product and offering new services to get users excited over and over again. A simple act as a new Android keyboard app features can reignite the passion of using something existing, but makes users feel like they’re experiencing something new.
Resist the urge to race
While it may be tempting to keep constant tabs on your competition, avoid doing so with the intention of staying ahead of them, as this creates the danger of imitation. Never imitate; innovate.
If you are trying to catch up with the competition, there will always be someone faster than you. Focus on finding new and improved ways to help your users and you will maintain your lead naturally.
You should be as aware of your industry as you are of your users’ needs. Feel the pulse of the market – trends do not happen within a day or two; they grow gradually until their impact cannot be ignored.
Make sure you are positioned well enough to pick up on those trends and prepare beforehand. Trade shows, conferences, and industry reports are all useful resources to help you stay plugged in.
Listen to your users
It is crucial to gain a deep understanding of your userbase. Know what makes them tick, how and why they use technology, and even the aesthetics they prefer.
You are building a virtual experience for them, and if it is an experience they enjoy, they will stay loyal to your platform rather than look elsewhere.
User feedback is a critical factor in driving software changes and updates. Your software is a product, and all products exist to improve the life of the consumer.
When your users feel you fail to improve their life or suggest better ways for you to do so, you must respond quickly or risk losing them to a competitor.
Not every piece of feedback is helpful, but when a group of users make the same comment, this can be translated into useful information for your next update. Surveys, beta testers, focus groups, embedded polls, and feedback options on download sites are all useful mechanisms for gathering feedback data.
At Ginger, we have found the best ways to stay ahead of the competition are through keeping up with technology, planning our updates carefully, and staying in touch with our userbase.
This is much more productive than constantly trying to race to be the best. Companies who pull away from the pack to forge their own path can plan their releases with innovation and creativity driving them forward.
What do you think? What are the most important things to take into consideration when you plan a new software release?