You should be considering how to launch your app in the app store from the first moment you have an idea for it. Don’t leave it to the last minute, or – worse – entertain it as an after-thought. Publishing to the store is an integral part of the development of any app; so you need to get it right.
Part of this is about designing the app itself, while other elements are about good marketing or sales principles. The key is to consider every aspect of an app store launch and ensure you plan for them: make your app the best it can be by building in all the necessary functionality – and also all the necessary compatibility with the various stores’ rules and preferences.
The app stores deliberately guard their users, putting in place controls so that bad apps cannot make it to the market. That means there are inevitably hoops for you to jump through – but equally, if you do your homework, it should be relatively easy to get your app launched.
With all this in mind, then, here are the key principles you should be following to launch your app in the app store:
This might sound basic, but it’s no less important for that. Your app needs to solve a problem for its users. It needs to offer a simple way to perform a regular task. And it needs to be easy to use. If it doesn’t tick these boxes, it will not be a success – and how you launch it will not matter.
Your app is a tool to achieve an effect. Think of the effect as your real goal, rather than the app itself, and you’ll be half-way already to sanity-checking your idea: if the effect of an app is to solve a problem you have, you’re in business.
Of course, the problem your app solves isn’t necessarily yours. What you really need to be sure of is that it is a problem many people share. The absence of an app to achieve a certain end might be a sign that an app may not be required: perhaps no one wants to achieve the end! This is where market research comes in.
Use Google tools such as Keyword Planner to understand what search terms people are using; do your own research via questionnaires online or on social media; use third-party tools such as AppAnnie to track peoples’ app needs. Understand your audience and then build an app that works for them. On launch, the app store will then give you a ready-made channel to reach them.
Of course, it’s possible that someone has reached that audience first. If an app already exists that fulfils the need you’ve identified, get to know it: what are its strengths, and what are its weaknesses? How can you improve or expand upon these?
Read other apps’ reviews. Browse other stores and platforms: where does the app not already have a profile? Apps are no different, in other words, to any other venture: your offering needs to go beyond anything else already in the marketplace if it is to succeed. Get to know that marketplace very well before you enter it.
Now – at last! – you can get to building the actual app. This phase has several launch-focused requirements, but the first stage is among the most critical: make a mock-up of your app. This prototype will give you a sense of where everything needs to go, how it looks, and what needs to be done.
Once this reference point is in place, create a striking graphic design to contain and present your functionality: audiences respond to high-quality aesthetics, so don’t overlook this. Equally, ensure that, under-the-hood, your code conforms to your stores’ standards: for iOS, this means using Xcode and Swift. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Give the stores what they want – they will reward you.
Once all that is done, the work is still not over: you still need to launch it. This requires a strategy. For example, you should publish your app’s landing page way before you’ve built your app – because to do so helps you gauge response and engage in promotion from very early on.
This can be a one-page website with a subscription button to capture interested users’ information. From here, you’re already building an audience – and a beta testing team! – way before launch. Once you have your Apple Developer Program membership, an AppStore Connect and Xcode, you can upload an app relatively easily – but if no one knows you’ve done so, or the app hasn’t been user-tested first, what does that matter?
That’s where optimisation comes in, too: include the keywords you discovered were so important on Google or AppAnnie in your app’s title and descriptions on the store. Give new users – as well as the ones you’ve already engaged – every chance to find it.
None of this is rocket science. But it’s all critical. Do your research, design carefully, and launch advisedly: those are our tips for launching an app in the app store!