‘Bug fix’ is not an update. Develop your app voice.

bug fixes

As someone who deals regularly in apps, I’ve seen quite a few in my day.

I’ve dealt with my share of crappy apps.

That were buggy and jankalicious.

Jankalicious: the condition of being inferior or dilapidated.

Chock full of unnecessary features and functions.

Or just downright useless.

On the flip side, I’ve beheld loads of well designed apps.

That seamlessly blend form with function.

Buttons and navigation built with adult humans in mind.

And not wee-fingered halflings.

And don’t require a PhD or savant to figure out how to use them.

But both good and bad apps have something in common.

Every once in a while, they require a fix.

Or an update to improve speed or performance.

Or a tweak to make them more compatible with an updated OS.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the counter in the top right corner of the App Store icon on your iPhone.

app update iPhone

Alerting you to updates available for the apps you’re rocking.

If you’re like me, you ‘Update All’ without thinking about it.

The behavior is so rote by now, that most of us don’t read the ‘What’s New’ copy accompanying any of these releases.

We take it for granted that we need whatever the update is.

So we download it.

We’re not going to spend the precious few seconds required to read what the update is actually for.

Before my Jailbreak, I’d ‘update all’ without a moment’s hesitation.

I typically ignored the ‘What’s New’ text, which (should have) spelled out what was bundled in the update.

Usually, it was some generic ‘Bug fixes’ language that gave no further info about the nature and extent of the fix.

But since it was a fix…

Today, though, I broke with tradition and read the ‘What’s New’ section.

I wanted to see what tinkering was taking place under the hood.

There were three updates: HopStop (Transit Directions for iPhone), Square (Register) and Basecamp (Official App).

I was curious to see which of these brands used their update to provide comprehensive information about how their app was being improved or what exactly it was they had fixed.

And who was just faking the funk.

app updates iPhone 5

HopStop was, by far, the most informative.

Not only did they tell me exactly what was new, but also that I’d need to upgrade to iOS 6+ in order to take advantage of the new features.

HopStop app update

Basecamp was the next most informative.

Their ‘What’s New’ update informed me about support for Basecamp Classic (it’s about time!), and had a few quick blurbs about the specific bug fixes included in the version.

Basecamp Official App update

Square the least informative.

Their’s was the bland ‘various bug fixes.’

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Square, you make me sick.

Square Register update.

Most brands are like Square and completely miss the opportunity to truly inform their users about what’s going on.

Their’s is usually a cut-and-paste job of some developer’s uninsightful version-controlled update republished to their users.

It’s rubbish.

Now, when I see ‘Bug fixes’ as an update, I automatically think ‘lazy brand’.

Best practices dictates that when there’s an update to your app, you provide the salient details of that update to your users.

‘Bug fixes’ is simply too generic to be useful.

If a user was experiencing a bug with your app and got that update, there would be no way for them to determine whether your ‘Bug fix’ was the one they’d observed or something entirely different.

More importantly, it completely flubs the chance to connect with the user and turn them into informed brand evangelists.

So <brand who uses ‘Various bug fixes’ to describe updates to your app> know that you’re doing yourself a grave disservice by not providing more substantive updates.

Don’t your users deserve more?

Note: I’ve got to give credit to one of my pseudonymous colleagues, Mr. Kate Moss, who urged me to write this point to address something we routinely observe.


Filed under Uncategorized

2 responses to “‘Bug fix’ is not an update. Develop your app voice.

  1. Yes and No.

    As a software developer it solely depends if the bug fixes were intentional or not. Albeit, the variety of software developers are fixing bugs intentionally when spotted and can remember.

    For me, when I go through a code base and see tons of problems I fix them without even thinking twice. At the end of the day, I really don’t remember what I have or haven’t changed. All I know and remember is that I made it better somehow.

    Of course, even with a good versioning tool like Git, the bug fix messages can be vague. Which is why Git versioning works so well in that it shows WHICH lines of code have been modified. Sadly, most “paid app” developers don’t use Git and opt for another versioning tool on a private server somewhere.

    Which for any other developers that are reading this, you don’t have to sacrifice your beloved Github if you wan’t private versioning features. Yes, you can pay a premium at Github, or you can simply download the open source alternative called Gitlab ( http://gitlab.org/ ).


    • Levi, your input bears comment. It’s true, from time to time, developers are, in fact, making various bug fixes that are deminimis. Perhaps they’re glitches found during ad hoc testing, that are so minor it doesn’t really warrant an in-depth comment. However, I still think any update requiring a native submission, should be accompanied by some descriptive language identifying the nature of the bug fix, however minor.

      As it relates to version tracking, that’s where you’re the expert. I’m not a software developer, so my understanding of the best practices of version control is that of a casual observer. But if there is a way to track versions and identify the differences between them, I’m all for it!


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