Saturday, July 12, 2014

Android and iOS - Marketing Your App

How to deal with journalists

You might find that a journalist is closer than you think. Scour your network of friends and find out if anyone works for an online magazine, a newspaper or a PR agency. You never know who might be willing to lend a hand.

Modern news media is not an essential gatekeeper for your app to be seen. We have had apps that were picked up by the national and international press and, although sales have definitely spiked asa result of such media coverage, these spikes are nowhere near what you might see if you’re featured on iTunes, or reviewed favourably in a popular tech blog. Our advice is to avoid wasting your time with the major newspapers and magazines: Even if they featured your app it would probably do your ego more good (or bad!) than sales. You would probably be better off focusing your efforts on more targeted outlets such as blogs and Twitter.

To get coverage from a blog, write politely to the site editor, or the features editor if the blog has a section that deals specifically with apps. State very clearly (in no more than three or four short sentences) what your app does, its purpose, and why the blog should find it relevant to their readers. Imagine the world’s most bored, cynical, depressed person reading your email – this almost exactly describes over 80% of journalists – how do you make them perk up?

So: In clear English get to the point quickly, then send the email. The rest is in the hands of Lady Luck. Here is a list of some great blogs to pitch your app to:
• Engadget
• Gizmodo
• Daring Fireball
• The Verge
• Recombu
• Wired
• Macrumors

Using YouTube as promotional tool

A few years ago an advert would cost you tens of thousands of pounds to make, and hundreds of thousands of pounds to air on television. Luckily, today television is free - Well, the only version of television that counts is free: It’s called YouTube.

We spent zero pounds making the advert for Alice for the iPad, and at the time of writing, it has almost 2 million hits and shifted over half-a-million apps. To get that number of viewers on a TV advert, you would have to spend millions of dollars. We did it with zero. And you can too.

Making a video

A picture is worth a thousand words; a video displays 60 pictures and upwards a second. So a 30 second video is worth approximately eight billion words. This will save you a lot of writing. Take a look at some existing app promo videos.

Take a look at Alice for the iPad:
Nursery Rhymes with Storytime:

Chris Stevens shot both of these videos personally. The Alice for the iPad video cost nothing to make, the Nursery Rhymes with Storytime video cost £200 - and all of that was the cost of hiring the male actor. The set was borrowed, the people were friends, the light was all natural. These two videos demonstrate the enormous potential of near-zero-budget film-making to promote your app. If you have no idea how to shoot a video, find a friend who does, or trawl vimeo for amateur film-makers whose work you like, and make them a small cash offer.

Finally, don’t make the mistake of publishing a video that is more than about 30-seconds. Generally everyone’s attention is so fried from constant exposure to MTV-style programming, that you will completely lose your audience with a longer promo.

If you can’t pack your app idea into a 30-seconds video, then you’ve overcomplicated your app. Take another look at previous post to make it concise.

Good luck with your app. It’s a brave new world out there, and I’m glad to have you be a part of it!

Android and iOS - Submitting your app - Part 4

Android and iOS - Submitting your app - Part 3

Keeping up-to-date with sales statistics

There are great resources to keep yourself up to date with how your app is doing. Here are just a few:

Pricing techniques

It’s important to be aware that if you have ten people in a room, 8 of them have no interest beyond keeping
their job secure, one is there to criticise everything they see, and then, there’s you. So, most of the room
is going to be against anything that is either
A) new
B) risky.

Since A tends to equal B, you might as well ignore the opinion of everyone in any corporate environment. Ask yourself how a manager got into the position they did?
Most likely by not messing up.

But innovators mess up a lot on the way to success. You will hear a lot of different theories about pricing strategies, but time and time again we have seen newcomers deal with app pricing in new ways, and often against the grain of established theories. If there is one consistency at the moment, it is this:

App designers tend to price low and make profit through sheer volume. Games, in particular, have settled around a 99 cent price point because this has become lodged in the consumer vernacular: Users don’t want to risk more than this on a new game.

The fortunate thing is: Even a moderately successful game will make a very impressive amount of money because there are so many smartphone users out there. Distimo is a great place to get pricing data from, so that you keep up with the latest trends.

Strategies for dealing with rejection from an app marketplace.

If your app is rejected from any mobile store, you will receive information on why it was rejected. Often this is fairly cryptically worded, and you may find yourself disagreeing with the reasons specified. My advice is to avoid getting into a lengthy, and extremely slow, argument with Google or Apple. Instead, do everything you can to address the concerns. You can often find clever ways of working around issues without changing the core mechanisms in your app. The most common reasons for rejection include your app crashing the device; your app infringing copyright on a major brand name; your app demeaning a public figure; your app violating privacy; your app using an undocumented feature of the device.

These are just a few reasons why your app might be rejected, but, in most cases, your app will pass just fine. It’s important to consider, right at the beginning of the design stage, whether you think your app is in any way controversial. It’s rarely worth wasting months creating software that the major app stores will refuse to sell.

Read Back - Android and iOS - Submitting your app - Part 1

Android and iOS - Submitting your app - Part 3

Go back - Android and iOS - Submitting your app - Part 2

The Apple submission process

Once your app is created, the programmer will submit a ‘final build’ of the software to you. A ‘final build’ is the last version of the software before you decide it is ready for release. At this point, you must login to iTunes Connect and let Apple know that you are ready to submit a ‘binary’. This is a simple process of entering a description and clicking a button. At this point, you can use the Xcode software to upload your app to Apple’s review system. Once this is done, Apple’s team of reviewers will soon begin poring over your app, testing some basic functionality and determining that it meets their submission criteria.

The most common reason for an app being rejected by Apple is that it crashes the device. This might seem like a very simple problem, but you would be surprised how many apps get rejected for this reason. Test your app thoroughly on different iPhone and iPad devices, as well as the latest iteration of the iOS software. We have found graphics processing quirks that are unique to certain versions of hardware - and, although these are rare, the last thing you want is your app’s comment section filled with abuse from angry users.

When your app is approved, you will receive notification from Apple and – depending on what you specified at the time of submitting your app – it will be available on the store immediately, or on the date you determined. Once it’s live on the store, sit back and hold tight, it’s time to watch the money roll in.

The Android submission process

Publishing your application on Google Play involves a few simple steps. First, you must create the graphics that will sit alongside the download link for your app on Google Play. Then you can open up the Google Play Developer Console and select the publishing options, enter details for your app, and upload all this information, together with your app ‘binary’ to Google’s servers.

Google, as with Apple, recommends that you create attractive screenshots to accompany your app on Google Play. You can pack the listing for your app with screenshots, videos, graphics, and text. Google Play
has a minimum requirement of two screenshots of your app, together with a high-res application icon.

Getting featured

In my experience, there are only two ways to get featured on the app store. Either be a giant corporation like Disney or Random House, or The BBC, or make an app that is so great that Apple notice its brilliance and decide to promote you in a highly-desirable banner advert in iTunes. This is the holy grail of endorsements and will bring you many thousands of downloads in the space of a few hours. However, I know lots of people who got featured as banner apps, but because their app was not strong enough, sales quickly trickled away. The aim is to be brilliant, get featured, and sustain sales.

There is no special trick to getting featured, and it’s rather like being at school - just keep working hard and hopefully the teacher (Apple) will notice your work and pin it to the wall. Good luck.

Tips and tricks to improve store rankings

There used to be a variety of ways to improve app store rankings. In fact, at the beginning of the app revolution, developers discovered that they could rise up through the charts simply by submitting as many updates as possible. Each time they submitted a new update, their app would rise to the top of the ‘New releases’ list and they’d see an increase in sales.

More recently, developers have stolen credit card numbers and used these to artificially increase the download rate of their app. This encouraged other, legitimate customers, to assume the app was great, and download it themselves. This practise was quickly halted by the major app stores.

The most recent trick has been to rip off an existing app idea and give it a similar name. While this behaviour has been clamped down on in the Apple App Store, the Google Play store is still wide open to this kind of abuse.

The simple truth is: You can’t really use tricks to improve app store ranking, and if the store owners catch on, there is a good chance they might kick you out. The best tips or trick for getting you app to rise through the charts is this: Make a great app.

Read Next - Android and iOS - Submitting your app - Part 4

Android and iOS - Submitting your app - Part 2

Go back - Android and iOS - Submitting your app - Part 1

Your app icon

Designing an app icon is a very personal process and the value of a great icon can’t be overstated. The main reason that the casual masses will be attracted to your app is the icon.

The first rule of app icons is this: Never use words. You already have the name of your app clearly posted. It’s printed right beside it. Icon is short for iconographic - meaning a picture that contains a meaning. If you include words, not only do you confuse the icon, but the effort is completely redundant. Obviously, some
successful apps do include text in their icon, but it’s in spite of this, rather than because of this, that they have become successful. The image you should use in the icon should, ideally, be purely graphical, not typographical.

Keep your icon designs simple. If you try and pack in too much information, the design will become cluttered and upsetting. You only have a few pixels to convey the main purpose of your app. If you use this space to explain too much, you’ll end up explaining nothing. The best icons come from a process of determining what it is that your app does, the one thing that your app does, and reducing this to its clearest, most obvious, graphical sign.

Let’s take a look at one app icon.

What does this app do?

Take a wild guess? You got it, right?

It takes photos. It is, in fact, the icon for Instagram, the popular photo software for Android and iOS. How about this app icon?

Could you work it out? It’s some sort of a game, clearly, the frog looks bold and friendly, and most people would be curious to know more.

This is the icon for the popular game Cut The Rope. If you’ve played the game, you’ll know that it involves slicing ropes with your finger. You can see how this icon conveys a huge amount of detail about the action involved in the app. If you can, make your app icon describe an action.

As with so many elements of design, there is a wide scope for innovation and invention.

Take the ideas I’ve described here and don’t be afraid to break the rules once in a while.

Read Next - Android and iOS - Submitting your app - Part 3

Android and iOS - Submitting your app - Part 1

How to name your app

First impressions are significant in everyday life, but even more so in the crowded mobile app stores. Impulse purchases drive a huge chunk of app sales, and naming your app the right way is the first step to grabbing the attention of a casual browser. The app store is packed with apps: Consider just how difficult it is to stand out, or pick an app name that hasn’t already been taken. For example, let’s take a look at what happens when you search for a simple calculator app on the iTunes store:

There are several thousand hits for the word ‘calculator’. Which do you pick?

It’s tempting to take advantage of existing app-prefixes and give your app an name like Auto-something or
Insta-something or, for a game, Angry-something. Let’s take a look at just a tiny glimpse of the apps that use ‘angry’ in their title.

Clearly these designers are attempting to cash-in on the success of the smash-hit app Angry Birds:

Sometimes this cynical effort works: People might buy your app by accident. But why clutter the world by so blatantly recycling the ideas of old. If you believe in your app, you should give it a name that comes from your heart. Begin by thinking about two words that might best describe your app and see what happens if you combine them. Consider also, TweetBot - a combination of Tweet and Robot.

It’s also often helpful if you make clear, or at least strongly hint, at what your app does. The more abstract you get, the harder it is to get the casual mobile user to pay attention. It’s also a good idea to pick a name that people can say out loud without wondering if they’re pronouncing it correctly. Nobody likes social humiliation, so don’t invite the possibility. Also, be wary of peculiar spelling conventions - all uppercase characters, or starting the app name with a lower case character and other odd variations is just not good manners.

Check to see if your app name is available as a .com domain on the internet. This will help people to find it. If it’s not available, this is not a disaster - but, make sure that the domain is not being used by a similar business or service. They may sue you.

Finally, don’t use more than 11-12 characters in your app name - and if you use more than 10, check that the whole of your app name appears under the icon on mobile phones. The UI on Android and iOS has a habit of truncating long app names, so you end up with part of the app name cut- off. This looks ridiculous and unprofessional.

Read Next - Android and iOS - Submitting your app - Part 2