Let’s talk about the sometimes stated notion of software, or a mobile app, being “done”.

(read to the end to find out what is done)

Thinking of a mobile app, or any software, as ‘build once, enjoy forever’ is a slippery slope. In short, it’s dangerous.


Yes. Here’s why…

1) It causes companies to underestimate their budget

The investment of time and money you’ll make to bring version one of your mobile app to life is only part of the total cost equation.

Here are some other things that need a budget:


Ongoing maintenance is an essential part of ensuring that your app continues to function as expected over time.

For example, yearly when Apple releases a new version of iOS, your developer must ensure the new operating system won’t introduce bugs into your app.

Security updates are also a critical part of ongoing maintenance. As are things like hosting for your database and APIs.

Feature Enhancements:

In addition to maintenance, there are also feature updates and enhancements that will happen over a span of months or years.

Imagine if Apple released the original iPhone with iOS 1, called it “done” – then kicked up their heals, dismissed all their developers, and proceeded to coast for a few years. Silly right?

Total cost = (V1 + V2 + V3…) + maintenance

Here’s another reason why “Done” is dangerous…

2) It encourages short-term thinking

If we think a software project will be “done” after it’s launched, we are not only at risk of failing to allocate the necessary budget for ongoing maintenance and improvements, we are also at risk of making short-term decisions.

This can play out a number of different ways. I’ll illustrate one of these with an example.

Recently (though this wasn’t the first time) we at Big Fish Digital were contacted by a company that had hired a freelance developer to create their mobile app. When they went back to hire the developer for a round of updates, the developer said he isn’t interested in long term work.

If companies start their projects with a long term vision, rather than a vision of “done”, they would be asking developers, from the start, if they are able and willing to handle ongoing maintenance of their product.

3) Your brand is at stake

Going back to the Apple and iOS example…Apple is where they are today as a company because they never stop innovating. Apple doesn’t create an iPhone, iPad or connected device, and say that version one is ‘good enough‘.

Nor should your company.

“This app hasn’t been updated in 2 years” is not a confidence-instilling message to send your audience. Especially for today’s tech savvy generation(s).

Here’s what we need to do instead:

Fantasize about your version 2. Seek user feedback before and after version 1 is launched. Listen to what they like, what they don’t like, and what they actually use.

Think of a version as done. But your mobile app is never really done.


This article was originally published on the Big Fish Digital blog (Software is Never Really “Done”). Reprinted with permission.