4 Ways to Increase Your iOS App Release Cadence

Increasing your iOS app’s release cadence is a proven way to build a dedicated user base in this competitive marketplace. We have some practical tips for you to speed up your app’s delivery cycle.

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It’s no secret that successful iOS applications have the potential to be enormously lucrative for the organizations that build and deliver them. In fact, Apple recently reported that developers have now earned more than $260 billion in App Store revenue.

However, in order to realize great success in this highly competitive space, teams need to build a dedicated and engaged user-base. One of the most reliable ways to achieve this is through regular and error-free releases of your application that deliver new and exciting features that users love. Below, we’ll look at four key elements you can incorporate into your development life-cycle in order to increase your release cadence while avoiding costly errors.

#1: Incorporate CI into your Development Life Cycle

First and foremost, if you haven’t yet embraced continuous integration (CI), this is where you will want to start. It is well-established that products supported by CI release more updates than those that do not embrace CI best practices. The reduction in time spent hunting and fixing bugs accounts for this increase in development speed, as it is more time-consuming to fix bugs than it is to test newly written code before committing it, thereby avoiding the bugs in the first place.

CI for iOS and macOS is unique in that it needs to be carried out on certified Mac hardware, which can be difficult to maintain and expensive to purchase. MacStadium offers the widest variety of cloud-based, virtualized, and bare metal, Intel, and M1-based macOS hosts to execute your CI workflow.

#2: Embrace Ephemeral Build Environments

Once you’ve decided to do CI, you’ll have to decide whether you want the servers that execute your test suite to stay up indefinitely (static), or whether you’d rather have a fresh server for each execution of your CI processes (ephemeral).

The advantage of a static system is the ease of deployment. It is a far less complex system, and can usually be deployed by a skilled developer in a matter of hours. The disadvantage is that because the server is left up for job after job, it needs to be returned to its original state between jobs in order for the test results to be trustworthy. So, in the end, although there is less work to stand up the system initially, there is ongoing work to make sure that the test environment is always returned to the same state between jobs.

Avoiding the burden of this ongoing scripting requirement is what drives most teams to opt for an ephemeral system or one in which a fresh build environment is spun up for each test run. Virtualization of the build machines is the industry standard approach here, and MacStadium is the industry leader in the realm of virtualizing macOS.

#3: Iron out Flaky Tests

In order for your CI processes to work as effectively and efficiently as possible, you’ll want to ensure that your test results themselves are trustworthy. You’ll want to flag any tests that sometimes pass and sometimes fail, and dig into the underlying cause. When writing unit tests, it is good practice to try to avoid dependencies between tests such that they need to run in a particular order to pass.

A common culprit here is the system having somehow been modified by the execution of test “x” such that test “y” will appear to magically pass, but only if “x” runs first in a potentially inconsistent sequence. Teams with a strong testing mentality often institute rules like a test needing to have passed three times before its associated code can be introduced into the codebase for the first time, in order to catch inconsistent results before they are buried below additional commits and result in bugs.

#4: Reduce Build Time

Tests that take hours to run mean that your developers are away from the complex logic they are testing for at least as long. You can speed your delivery cadence by catering to the needs of your engineers – explicitly by reducing blockers, such as long test queues, which will also keep your devs happy. This often means even further reduced delivery times. By incorporating strategies like parallel testing, you can reduce the time your CI suite needs to run by dividing the work such that independent portions run at the same time in parallel build environments.

TL;DR

Increasing your iOS app release cadence will go a long way toward building an active and dedicated user base. Above we covered how incorporating continuous integration into your development life-cycle and optimizing it with some practical steps can reduce your development time and drive faster releases that your users will love.