Building an app is an extensive process. From a fresh idea to a marketable product, the journey is filled with ups and downs. So, when you (hopefully) build that successful app, the last thing you want is for it to hit a dead end.
But all too often, that’s exactly what happens. It may seem like a good problem to have—so much growth, you can barely handle it. After all, that means there is a ton of demand for your app. But if your app isn’t built to handle that demand, then it’s doomed from the outset.
Can your app serve thousands…or even hundreds of thousands of users? When will it start to break? This is the importance of scalability.
What is app scalability?
Scalability is the ability of your app to handle a growing number of customers, clients and/or users. It also pertains to the ability of your current or future developer to maintain the app. If your application isn’t scalable, adding new features can cause gridlock—the code is too convoluted and new features can be a nightmare to incorporate.
What are the benefits of a scalable app?
When you account for scalability from the start, you lay the groundwork for growth—and avoid pitfalls of hitting a dead end and falling behind demand. Here are some other benefits:
-Maintain a good user experience for your app over thousands of users
Viral marketing can result in instant success—and a huge influx of traffic. But it’s usually a bit unpredictable. If your app is scalable, then you can accommodate this rapid growth with zero downtime—and without sacrificing user experience. When it comes to your marketing campaign, you can be confident about your app’s reliability.
-Take advantage of holidays and other events (Olympics, Christmas, Black Friday, etc.) when app usage increases
You can scale up and offer special deals for the holidays and other events—or, just be well-prepared for a quick increase in traffic. Scaling for a “Christmas” type moment can be frightening—you’re forced to confront the design decisions you made in the early stages of the app. If your app has hidden weaknesses, a massive new group of users will reveal them.
-You won’t be tied to the original developer
You won’t be held hostage by code so intricate that it can only be maintained by the developer who created it. You’ll be flexible, and able to hand off the project to other developers if necessary.
-More potential for growth, a higher ROI, and more positive user feedback
Your app has a ton of potential if you give it room to grow. Scaling helps you find kinks and problems in your app before thousands of users give you negative reviews. You can fix the problems progressively and set the stage for great user feedback.
How to determine if your app is scalable
The best way to determine if your app is scalable—before it gets thousands of users—is to test it. The purpose of scalability testing is to identify major workloads and mitigate bottlenecks that can impede your app’s scalability. In order to make a truly scalable application, it is crucial to rigorously and regularly test it for scalability problems.
Imagine taking a car to market without testing its durability, performance, brakes, and its ability to take tight turns. What if the safety features weren’t good enough to protect people in accidents? What if the engine doesn’t start on the showroom floor? Your brand would be tarnished.
Applications are the same way. Even if your customers want all the benefits of using your app, they’ll be turned away by simple scalability and performance issues.
Load testing is the process of putting a demand on an app and measuring its response. No matter how many tests you run, load testing is really the only one way to determine if your software can handle the actual demands your thousands (or millions!) of end users will place on it.
A load test allows you to measure response times, throughput rates, and resources utilized, and to identify your app’s breaking point. In load testing, you set criteria to ensure releases of a product meet certain conditions (like the number of users they can support) while delivering a specific response time.
Performance testing refers to testing done to analyze and improve your app’s performance. This test focuses on optimizing resource consumption by analyzing data collected during testing.
Scalability testing refers to performance testing centered around understanding the scalability of an application. The goal is to determine the breaking point when the application stops scaling, and find the reason for it.
Plan to scale from the beginning
Planning to scale is a good business strategy. Design your app so it can grow by a factor of one thousand— or one million—if it needs to. Ask yourself these questions to get started:
- How many people will realistically use the app in the next 6-12 months?
- What kind of data do you plan on creating?
- How long can all your customers fit on one server?
- What can you do when you have more customers or data than that?
Planning to scale is both about building the technology to accommodate growth and informing business decisions. Account for past growth patterns and expected growth rate, and determine the potential technological limits you’ll encounter.
Scalability is crucial for your app’s success. When your app is scalable, it can accommodate growth, provide a good user experience for new users, and give you a better ROI. If you want to serve thousands or even millions with your app, you need to plan for it from the beginning.
But don’t wait until your app is serving all those users—test it right from the beginning with loading tests, performance tests, and scalability tests.
Are you building a scalable application? Scaling an existing app? What challenges have you faced so far? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know!
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