An Exercise of Finding The Perfect App

Apple’s old slogan, “There’s an App for that” reinforces the concept that people download apps to solve problems.   There’s about 1.2 million apps in the app store. The Apple App store is an amazing distribution system.  If your app was featured on Good Morning America, you can literally get millions of downloads in hours.  The question is, how does the public find your app in the huge sea we call the app store?  This post is an exercise in selecting an app from the app store which I hope will open your eyes on the factors that influence how apps are selected.

App Search Optimization (ASO):  ASO is probably the biggest factor for your app to get found.  For more details, please read my previous post.   So for this exercise, I’m going to search the Apple App Store for “Periodic Table.”  I counted almost 300 apps that came up under these search terms.  No one has the time to look at every app and decide what’s best.  Here’s a screenshot of the top 30.  Realistically, people will only look at the top results and rarely look below the surface.   Here are the top 18 apps that come up in the search.

Free vs. Paid:  It’s just human nature; would you pay to get an app when you can download another for free?  For our clients, I recommend that they make their app free and try to figure out how to monetize it by other means (like in-app purchase, advertising, etc.).    For this exercise, I personally would immediately eliminate the paid apps from my search.

The Icon:  In this study, “How People Use the iPhone,” one of the findings is that people will download an app based solely on the icon.  To illustrate the importance of the icon, a major app game developer will create 40 app icons and then bring in a focus group to help them select the app icon.    In our exercise, I personally would eliminate 8 of the apps due to what I consider poor icons. 

Screenshots:  So what’s left?  I would quickly scan out the top 3 apps with the icons that I like and look at the screenshots.  If you’re searching for an app from your iPhone, the search also includes a screenshot of the app.  Here are the screenshots for our exercise.  What would you pick?  I personally would pick the app on the far left, “Quick Periodic Table” solely on the screenshot.

Other Factors

Reviews:   If a user has more time, they might spend time checking out the reviews.  I, personally, only look at reviews if it’s a paid app.  Note that reviews are also one of the factors in ASO.

Brand:  The brand of your company will help.  People go with what they know and are familiar with.  In our exercise, the Bill Nye Science Guy Disney app will catch the eye of parents of small children just based on the brand of Bill Nye and Disney alone.

Videos:  A new feature of the Apple App Store  is they now allow developers to post a video promoting their app.  The videos can be seen when you’re doing a search for your iPhone and replaces the screenshot.  It’s pretty powerful.  In our example, the paid app, “Elements by Theodore Gray” has a well done video intro that’s pretty compelling.

Final Thoughts:  Admittedly, the choices I made during this exercise were subjective.  However, I hope you get the point of the exercise which is simply that how your app is viewed on the app store will determine if people will download it.