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​​Building an efficient smart home app update strategy

​​Building an efficient smart home app update strategy

The smart home landscape is growing and evolving. It's natural to think about how this constant forward movement will affect your company's smart home platform. In short, you'll need to make updates to the software.

There's a catch: Frequent smart home app updates make users feel less empowered and more frustrated. The National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) published a survey of smart home owners in 2021 that found conflicting feelings about updates, namely:

Smart home providers may be stoking that frustration by pushing numerous updates that only make minor changes to software. The opposite approach — meaningful and infrequent updates that add substantial value — is more in line with what users want.

With a strategic approach to user-centric app updates, you can transform the process to drive satisfaction and loyalty.

Rethinking the "update early, update often" approach

It's tempting to equate software updates with progress and innovation and to therefore push for more frequent changes. In the case of systems that consumers interact with every day, however, this progression of updates can induce fatigue in users and undermine the idea that your product is polished and complete — especially if they introduce bugs.

In the smart home space, it can pay to shelve the "update early, update often" mindset and pivot toward releasing meaningful updates. These are patches that offer tangible value to the user experience, changing the system for the better rather than making incremental adjustments.

Note that this shift toward large updates is not an immutable rule. Maintenance patches and bug fixes may still be necessary between major releases, making sure the systems are secure and reliable. Finding the right balance for your users should be a strategic priority.

A few specific considerations go into creating an approach to updates your users will appreciate. These prominently include communicating with your audience and minimizing the downtime caused by changes to the software.

Communicating updates effectively

Releasing updates is an essential part of operating a software platform, which means you can't reduce users' fatigue by simply stopping your release strategy. Since not releasing updates isn't an option, shifting the way you discuss and promote these updates is your best bet when it comes to changing perceptions.

Clear, concise notes accompanying each new update aren't a formality — they're your main way of showing off the value of the included features and fixes. It can pay to see release notes and related disclosures as advertising, mini marketing campaigns for your new features.

The following are some communication strategies worth trying:

Release notes highlighting key improvements

Release notes are often generic, simply stating that the software received "bug fixes and improvements." By being more specific and telling the story of how your product has improved, you can better promote its value.

Release notes best practices include:

In-app tutorials or walkthroughs for new features

Rather than assuming users can figure out new features on their own — or would want to do so — you can offer helpful guides to make sure they get the most out of these releases.

Some useful content tactics around new features include:

For example, when you add a new energy monitoring dashboard to your smart home platform, it can come with a pop-up tour of key functionality or a video demonstrating how to set goals within the system.

Proactive user communication about potential disruptions

Users are less likely to feel inconvenienced or upset when a new update rolls out if they've received advance warning.

You can earn trust if you take the time to:

A useful notification for your users could say "We'll be updating our system on Tuesday evening. Your smart home system will be temporarily offline, but be back up and running by Wednesday morning!"

Users should also be able to reply to messages. This gives them a forum to ask follow-up questions and voice their opinions. Information gathered from these conversations can help you refine your update strategy.

Minimizing downtime and ensuring rollback options

Your update strategy needs to go beyond the basics of releasing new features and communicating their nature. It's also important to build a workflow that will enable you to make non-disruptive, efficient app updates, maximizing the stability and availability of your app.

Why does downtime minimization matter so much?

Smart home platforms are an especially sensitive category of technology in terms of stability and performance. These solutions are parts of users' lives, and your connection with your audience can hinge on your ability to provide uptime and reliability.

Minimizing app downtime is especially important for reasons including:

Learning strategies to minimize downtime

Since maximizing uptime is so important, it's worth attacking the issue through multiple, highly developed strategies. These include additions to the development lifecycle as well as considerations after updates have been released.

These approaches include:

Addressing these issues head-on helps your brand establish a reliable, positive reputation. Becoming known as a company that always looks after the smart home user experience is highly beneficial in the vertical.

Building a culture of continuous improvement

Your company culture should incorporate updates and advancement at a base level, treating this as a core value rather than an afterthought. An update strategy should never be a "set and forget" endeavor. Rather, there should be a commitment to collaboration, adaptation and listening to your users' feedback.

When the product, design and engineering teams are accustomed to working together, it's easier to build a strong update strategy, one that incorporates input from all these groups. Once such a plan is in place, it should be subject to frequent reviews and revisions. These refreshes can come from changes in your needs, as well as direct customer feedback.

Build your smart home platform for the future

Creating a culture of meaningful updates, user-centricity, communication and iteration is a worthy goal. User satisfaction, retention rates and overall product success are all at stake. It doesn't happen overnight, however.

To achieve this evolved approach to smart home changes, it pays to work with industry experts who have dealt with similar scenarios before and can offer a valuable perspective. The Transcenda team can provide the exact level and type of support you need from advice to consultation and hands-on development collaboration.

Transcenda's experience in smart home technology is extensive, including development and release management support for the Savant Cync app and support for Savant Pro, August and Yale. To find out what our experts can contribute to your smart home update strategy, contact us.

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