The lifecycle of an application

I’ve started developing web-applications since 2008 and worked on web-applications from all different sizes. From start-ups to well arrived applications. I’ve learned a lot and gained experience with developing, managing, growing, evolving and supporting those applications.

In this post I want to tell you what I’ve learned about the lifecycle of an application from a technical view. This might be useful information for assessing your application and determining the next steps for your application.

Usually applications go through the most of these phases. New applications will start with the plan phase, existing applications could be in any other phase. This is describes the lifecycle of a commercial application.


Before starting the development of an application, you need to create a plan. The level of detail of the plan could differ, based on the available knowledge about the requirements and target audience.

When you want to build a better product then currently existing, you are able to do a lot of research and already have a lot of knowledge about the requirements for the product.

When you are going to offer a complete new solution, there’s less competition to study and less knowledge about the requirements.

The plan needs to contain information about the target audience, the revenue model and the requirements for your application (probably using something like the MoSCoW method).

When the plan is ready, it’s time to introduce the application.

Introduce the application

The first phase to success for your application is to introduce the application to your target audience. In this phase you won’t have anything to sell yet, so don’t expect to make a profit right now.

Usually this means you want to develop and release a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) as soon as possible. The MVP is required to benchmark your application with the target audience.

By doing this you gain more detailed information about the needs of your target audience by collecting valuable feedback. This information is the input for the plan for the next phase: growing your application.

Grow the application

At this phase, the MVP is released and customers are already using your application. You start earning some money and by talking to your customers you gained valuable information.

It’s time to step back and update your plan with the information gained by the usage of your application and the feedback of the current customers.

The plan is for the development of the next version of your application. That version will enable the growth of your application to be more mature, reliable and valuable for your customers.

Optimize the application

After growing your application, the customers are using your application and are happy to use it. There’s no more low hanging fruit, so it’s time to plan the optimization of your application.

Based on the customer feedback, usage information and product vision you plan the further development of the application.

You should ask yourself: what can be done to increase the value of your application? This can be achieved by expanding, fixing and/or improving existing features. For example: by improving the UX, redesign the application, improve existing workflows, etc.

Adopt to new demands

After or during the optimization phase, it could be possible the application needs to adopt to new demands. The target audience might have changed and/or the demands of the target audience have changed.

That’s why its time to plan to adopt the application to the new target audience or demands.

The better the application is able to adopt, the less likely it is the next phase will be reached. For example: a native Windows application which is starting to have several good web-based alternatives with iOS and Android apps, might need to adopt to this or otherwise will loose customers to the competition.

When not being able or wanting to adopt, sooner or later your application will get to the next phase.

Retire the application

When your application is unable to adopt or grow, but the adoption or growth is required to keep financing or developing your application, you should retire the application.

Every month you keep running your application under these unfavorable conditions could cost you money, customers and/or your reputation. This is one of the most difficult steps to take and means you will have to shutdown your application.

When not making this decision or doing it too late, lowers the change to a successful successor (because you no longer have customers or money to invest).

The success of your application

During these phases, you should measure the success of your application. The measurements are up to you, as long as you have a proper indication of the success.

In the graph above, I’ve given an indication of the success of your application during these phases or the success you should target during this application. Your mileages might vary.


There’s not a single way you should manage your application. So please don’t use this post as a guideline or a fact. I’ve wrote this to share my experiences and it might be just a trigger to think a bit more or different about your application.

Do you have any questions or comments? Feel free to talk to me on Twitter.