AppDev Weekly – Getting Potential Customers to Tap That 'Buy Now' Button (Part 1)

On September 6, 2011

Hi all, and welcome to App Development Weekly, a weekly/bi-weekly column that I, your MobileOrchard blogger Charles, will be writing providing powerful tips and insight for firstly, creating great apps, and second of all, getting your great apps noticed. I’ll be primarily focusing on the iOS platform, but I might get into Mac development some time in the future as well.

As this is my first article that I’ll be contributing to MobileOrchard, I feel that this it’s fitting that I should discuss a few tips for the aspiring indie developers who want to create an app and make it explode on the App Store. Being an indie developer myself on the iOS platform, as well as having several years of experience in other programming languages, I’ve gathered a few things from my experience that I feel a lot of developers miss. Here they are, so you can avoid the mistakes that time and time again I have seen others make. This will be the first installment in a series of articles that I’ll be writing, focusing on how to get your potential customers to tap that beloved “Buy Now” button. Today, we’ll be covering the fact that FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT. Reader, read on to find out how to build a strong reputation for yourself on the App Store, and strike potential customers with a good first impression of your app.

Reputation is built from impressions, and we’ve all heard that first impressions are important. The first impression that the potential buyer of your app will consist of three things: The app name, your name (or your company’s name), and most importantly, the app icon. When they’re flipping through the scores of apps all showcased in rows on the App Store, how do you make your app stand out?

First thing, your (or your company’s) name. If you’ve already registered yourself as an app developer, then there’s really nothing more you can do here, as your name will stay the same for as long as you are using that developer account. Really, this isn’t all that important, and the truth is, if you have a solid app that has been marketed well then you could go by “StoopiidAppz” on the App Store and there would still be a swarm of people purchasing your app. But just keep in mind that your name is your reputation; it’s how people recognize you on the App Store. Pat of the reason why developers such as Gameloft and Electronic Arts have such high app sales is because they are known for the great gaming experience that their apps bring. Each app they release is featured by a multitude of app review websites and mobile gaming websites, because we know that they won’t let us down with a poor title. With steady 4-5 star ratings by hundreds, their reputation is really one crucial reason that their apps are as successful as they are.

Secondly, your app name. Finding a name that stands out from the general crowd is difficult. Your app name must be short, so it does not run off into the dot dot dots that Apple has replaced your lovely name with because it’s too long. It must also be insightful, providing the customer with a sense of what exactly your app will do. It must be interesting, creative, or even a bit mysterious. There are probably a few hundred apps that you can find if you search the word “flashlight,” but unless you place in the top couple of them, you’re not going to get found. Your app title must be all, or at least a majority of these things, so that you can entice people to raise their finger and tap into the app for more information. My suggestion is, develop your app first, then think of a name. The longer you give yourself to come up with a decent name for your app, the better the name will turn out to be.

Finally, the app icon. This is, without a doubt, the most crucial thing that customers when look at when considering to find out more about your app. Many indie devs out there who have issues with getting their app noticed most likely do not have an app icon that will attract people to their app. If you’re a developer and not a graphic designer, and are willing to invest some money into your app, I would actually suggest that you pay a professional to design the icon; it really makes a big difference. Besides that, here are some tips that you should keep in mind when designing an app icon:

  • Don’t put too many words in your icon. If you’re designing a flashlight app, don’t make your icon a solid background with the words “Flashlight.” People look for the purpose that your app serves in the title of the app, not the app icon. Putting the words “lite” or “free” is okay if you’re releasing a lite version of your app, though.
  • Don’t use the automatic emboss effects in your app icon. Truly, it’s done too much and gets in the way of the detail that you really need in your app icon (more on that in the next tip.)
  • Put a lot of detail into your app icon. While it’s true that it’s only 57×57 or 114×114 pixels, you’ll find that a lot of the pro app developers have an incredible amount of detail in the app icon, putting in their efforts to maximize the effect of every pixel. Just because the icon looks small doesn’t mean that you can’t make it look amazing.
  • Don’t throw something together. The LAST THING you want is a great app with a sloppy app icon. Truth is, people judge by looks. And you’re not going to get very many looks into your app if you have a messy app icon that was put together in ten minutes.

If you’re familiar with app development already, you’ll know that although the app icon is only 57×57 or 114×114 pixels (depending on if retina display is supported on your device or not) Apple actually requires you to provide them with a 512×512 pixel app icon as well. The way I usually approach the design of the icon is by sketching on a piece of computer paper, where it’s easier to see and control what exactly you’re doing. Do some thumbnail sketches of various possible designs for the icon, then pick one that you like and make some more detailed, larger drawings of it. Add color using colored pencils or something, then prepare to design it using Photoshop or Fireworks or your other preferred image editing software.

Even if you’re going to hire a pro to design your app icon, you should still make some sketches to give them an idea of what you’re looking for. App icon design is really a bigger deal that what some people make it. It should be a process that takes days or weeks, not just an hour or something like that.

Remember, first impressions count. The first impressions you’re app is going to get consists of your (or your company’s) name, your app name, and most importantly, the app icon. Time, creativity, and thought should go into all three of these things. The whole idea is to get potential customers to tap into your app, so they can get more information and (if you do things right) tap that “Buy Now” button. Next in the series, optimizing your app description and screenshots.