Will Froelich

The App Store

Will Froelich

Developer, Designer in Los Angeles, CA

{ "title": "The App Store", "data": "03/15/2014", "excerpt": "I guess I don't really understand the App Store" }

Apple's App Store™ is this bizarre battleground where some faceless (assuming a human) passes judgment on your work with complete disregard for your business.

You almost get the feeling that if Apple could survive without any third party development, they would do it.

How much more until it's ready?

With any business these days, you are in a constant stuggle of deciding when done is actually done. The typical waterfall design method would include lots of time spent planning, designing, building, tearing down, repeating; all before a user ever touches your product.

That's a pretty hard way to develop your product. So you think, I'll just work it all out with beta testers. After you run through the headache of getting your pre-release app actually running on a user's iDevice, you finally get some feedback. You're now testing if your app is useful and dollar signs start floating around your head like Scrooge McDuck —

But Wait!

Distribution is the real problem

Take a walk down hypothetical lane with me for a second.

Let's say you have a great idea for an app. It could have ten or so nice features, that you speculate, users would be delighted by. In an effort to be lean, you decide that one killer feature would be enough to delight and you spend the next few weeks just knocking that feature out of the park. Anyone you show loves it; further, they get really excited when you walk them through the next few features and ultimately, the end game.

You submit your app; beaming as you push "Upload".

You wait … And then a little more waiting.

Seriously. You're still waiting.

Application is in Review !!!

Finally. And by finally, I mean about seven days. Well, whatever, at least it's finally —

Application has been rejected! 2.12: Apps that are not very useful …

Faceless reviewer #238929839 has determinded your application is not very useful. That's about all you're gonna get unless you want to push the appeal button and wait a few more days for a human (again, I'm just assuming) to give you a typed (Read: not copy/pasted) rejection. I've personally appealed five times on various applications. Zero change of decisions later, I don't really bother appealing.

So now you're stuck with a question

Can you afford to build more of this app without knowing there is any demand?

If you are building this in your spare time and nobody is getting paid; probably. The real problem here is that even if you got your app through; it's nearly impossible to get people to actually look at it.

If you follow the tech industry much, you've certainly seen smoke test landing pages. Often, they are devoid of any information and just have a fancy icon and box for your email address. I suppose they are hoping for early adopters to be so scared of missing out that they will give up their email address to be in the know.

Sometimes you'll get a little more though. You'll get a full product walkthough. The value proposition. Screenshots. A hip fella actually using it all while some non descript indie track is playing in the background. Coffee shops are in there somewhere too.

These pages are usually built before, or even in place of building the app itself. That's not an actual problem as a landing page demand can certainly tell you something. But,

There is a difference between testing the idea, and testing if someone will actually download your idea

The airgap between a value prop and an installed application is pretty gnarly. It's one of the hard parts of the app development puzzle to solve. Worse, Apple won't even let you start refining that gap until you are on version three. Quick iteration doesn't seem to be in their playbook, and that's a shame because I believe this is where some of the most interesting ideas we see come from.

Apple's App Store Guidlines state in section 2.9 "Apps that are "beta", "demo", "trial", or "test" versions will be rejected". That's a fun one to swallow when you consider things they themselves have released or even when compared to other apps that are on the store (Note: You cannot reference any app on the store when trying to get your app approved.)

In an effort not to leave this thought in complete despair, I have a few ideas:

Apple is in a weird position where they are one of the most exciting games in town. When there is money to be made, developers will still wade through this process, no matter how bad it is. That doesn't mean they are earning any goodwill with the developer community. Microsoft spent years "being evil" which gave them the bad rap they have since spent lots of money fixing.

The whole iOS development program feels like it was thought about all the way up to distribution and then outsourced.