App Craft 101: How to Build an App People (and the App Store) Will Actually Embrace

October 23, 2018


Do you know what the scariest part of mobile app development is? Submitting your app to the Apple App Store. Apple is well known for the high standards it upholds for each of its products. And the App Store is no different.

30% of submissions are outright rejected from the App Store, usually due to reasons that could have been addressed during development and design. While Apple does supply specific guidelines to increase your chances of submission success, there are still numerous nuances that iPad and iPhone developers should be aware of.

Let's examine three essential elements you need to ensure your app will pass the App Store's evaluation process and become a hit with users.

Everlasting Value

Will your app still be useful in one year? How about five years from now? Too often, developers focus on producing cloned versions of existing apps, hoping to instantly cash in on their success. Instead, they should concentrate on creating long-term value through original app design and objective improvements for features currently in the space.

One of Apple's most important clauses is to 'Create Lasting Value.' While seemingly obscure, it does raise some important points: Does your app have longevity? Does it improve upon the competition? These are important questions to answer; they'll ultimately determine your success.

For the questions above, look no further than the App Store itself. It's home to over a million apps. Chances are good that someone has put out a product similar to your idea. But that's okay — as long as your unique implementation is better, you'll ensure you have staying power.

Here's how Apple's developer blog explains it: "Before creating your app, take a look at the apps in your category on the App Store and consider how you can provide an even better user experience." The secret isn't to create an original solution to a problem, but rather, to create a better solution to a problem than the current offerings.

UI and UX That Users Actually Love to Use

This next point should come as no surprise. After all, if your app isn't easy or intuitive to operate, who would want to actually utilize it? Apple has exceptionally high standards for UX and UI. It's what allowed the company to stand out from competitors like Microsoft in the 80s, and it's still one of their main differentiators today.

If you build and design an app that users love to use, then it's safe to assume that the App Store evaluators and testers (who are also human) will love it as well. The trick is to find a sweet spot between simplicity and sophistication. Being too simple or too complex can both lead to your app getting rejected.

Strike a fine balance that keeps your app easy to use but provides enough valuable features that your users will enjoy. The best way to do this is to start simple and add features selectively based on market analysis, prototype testing, and constant feedback. Great mobile games are prime examples; while they can be complex and have depth, their UI never bombards users with too many options or actions at once.

Check out Apple's official list of UI Design Do's and Don'ts for more guidance. For now, here are a few rules of thumb that every iPhone app developer should abide by:

  1. Only apply labels to buttons if absolutely necessary.
  2. Limit available user actions to four on any particular screen or prompt.
  3. Forgo unnecessarily ornate graphics and decorations. Instead, separate screen elements on a grid with flat colors.
  4. Leverage mockup tools to create prototypes that you can test with actual people. Refine according to patterns in the feedback.

Develop Distinct Branding

As mentioned before, there are over a million apps in Apple's App Store. So competition isn't only fierce, it's crowded. To stand out from the noise, your branding must be as unique as your value proposition. It's no wonder that each of the top apps right now has their own distinct voice and style.

Never underestimate the importance of developing a strong branding identity. Stay consistent in your overall messaging by paying attention to details like color palette and interface copy. This goes for peripheral material like your social media presence as well. Each interaction with your audience should feel candid and in-character.

Generic messages that sound like they came from robots is the fastest way to lose users. On the other hand, hand-crafted, personalized branding shows potential users that you care. And in turn, they'll start to care about what you're doing.

Ready for App Store Success?

Apple's app review process can seem stringent and mysterious. Sometimes, apps are rejected for a surface-level problem, like too many buttons on the settings screen. Other times, a rejection alludes to a deeper issue with the app that requires more time to address and improve.

Take this constructive criticism to heart. And always strive to adhere to the essential elements we've discussed. This will make your final product a stronger contender once it reaches the App Store and will eventually lead to people embracing your app idea.

For more information about app store optimization, visit Gummicube here. Contact Dogtown Media to learn how we can help with the mobile app development and design process.

Marc Fischer HeadshotMarc Fischer is the CEO and co-founder of Dogtown Media, a mobile technology studio based in Venice, California and Montevideo, Uruguay. His company has been recognized as one of the Top Mobile App Developers globally (Clutch Research) and ranked #271 on the INC 500 list of Fastest Growing Companies in America. Marc has over a decade of experience designing, developing, and launching digital products for VC funded startups and Fortune 500's; including Red Bull, Google, CitiBank, and the United Nations.



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