Beginners guide to mobile app development

Beginners Guide to Mobile App Development

Applications Are “Products” We Sell

The problem is that too often we, as app developers/publishers, don’t treat our apps as real products and end up producing the equivalent of a “white package” for our apps. We use weeks or months of hard work to build the inside of our applications but barely spend any time presenting our apps in a meaningful way on the outside. It’s actually hard to work an app a long time and still keep a fresh look on how people will see it.

The problem is that our app can be the best in the world, it won’t get many downloads if its presence in the app stores doesn’t convince people to download it. Similar to choosing cereals, the process of choosing apps to download is most of the time very fast. Users take few seconds to glance at each app. Use a confusing icon or a not self explanatory first screenshot and you will have lost their attention.

As an exercise, go back to your app portfolio and for each app ask someone who doesn’t know your apps and who can be honest with you to tell you more about each app. Can this person explains you what your app does just from looking at how it’s presented in the app store? Are the app icon, first app screenshot, app name enough to convince them?

mobile apps

5 Tips to Treat Apps as Products

One of my goals when I release a new application is to use all the app store assets to clearly explain what my app does and how people will benefit from downloading it. Below are 5 tips to let you do the same:

app development tips

1 –  Create a great looking icon

The app icon gives the first impression so make sure it’s designed well. If possible design one that helps people understand what your apps’ main goal (a check mark for a to do list for example). The use of flashy colors also helps your app stand out. If you’re like me and don’t know how to design app icons then spend few hundred dollars to pay a professional. You can find  freelance graphic designers on sites like eLance or oDesk or pay a service like 99 Design to have an icon designed for you.

Note: If you end up choosing to hire a graphic designer, pick someone who has created app icons before. This will save you a lot of time and money as you won’t have to explain which icon size and name you need for your app.

2 – Add a short description to your app name

Adding a short sentence to explain what your app does at the end of your app name helps in 2 ways. First it clarifies why people should download your app. Second, it makes your app more “findable” on the app stores as each word in your app name is used by Apple and Google as a keyword.

For example, the website Hotels.com has tons of customers around the world to book hotel rooms online. The company also has an application on the Apple store. They could have just called it “Hotels.com” but instead they picked this longer name:

“Hotels.com – Hotel Booking and last minute hotel deals”

The longer app name is helpful to people who don’t know about this app yet as they’ll know what they can do with this app. The app will also be part of the search results if someone searches for “hotel booking”, “hotel deals”, “lsat minute hotel deals” as those keywords are in the app name.

One suggestion though is to not make your app name too long. Apple allows you to enter 255 characters but I find super long app names ugly and not user friendly. Long app name also have a higher chance of being rejected by Apple.

If you look on Google Play, the app name is following the same format but is shorter:

“Hotels.com – Hotel Reservation”

The reason for a shorter name is the fact that Google Play allows 30 characters for the app name only so it’s more restricted.

3 – Use self explanatory screenshots or add text to explain the app benefits

All app screenshots are important to present your app as a product but your first is even more key as it will be the first one people see when they search for apps. So make sure that you put your most convincing screenshot first (this also means that you don’t want to use your splash page as a first screenshot no matter how gorgeous it looks).

The reality is that for most apps, showing regular screenshots on how the app looks inside is not clear and convincing enough. Instead you’re often better off adding few words on the screenshots to explain the different “benefits” of the app.

By adding benefits on the top of each screenshot, they are creating a more convincing product than by just showing how the app looks inside.

4 –  Hook users within the first few lines of your app description

This step is last because most people don’t read app descriptions before downloading an app. If they do it’s after looking at everything else (icon, app name, screenshots, …). That being said they those persons are probably on the fence and are seeking more info to download your app or not. For this reason, you need to do your best to convince them at the beginning of the app description, not at the end. If your app has been featured on the store or got good reviews on the web, mention it on top. You can also add short sentences to promote your app benefits and reasons why people love it. In any case, be short and to the point.

5 – Test your changes with real people

Once you’ve done all or any of the 5 changes above, it’s time to test their impact. Show your app’s new look in the app store to people who don’t know about your app and ask them to:

  • Describe what your app does before downloading it
  • If any element is not clear or matching the rest (app icon, name, screenshot, description,…)
  • If they would be interested to download it
  • If they have recommendations to better present the app

Talking to real people should help you see if the “product” you have in the app store is clearly understood or needs refinement.

Go ahead and use those 5 steps to better present your apps.

Feel free to use the comments below to share the outcome or suggest other tips.