Developing Perspective

#50: ‘Hacking’ the App Store


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective. Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing

00:00:05   news of note in iOS development, Apple and the like. I'm your host, David Smith. I'm

00:00:08   an independent iOS developer based in Herne, Virginia. Developing Perspective is never

00:00:12   longer than 15 minutes and is recorded a couple times a week. This is Show Number 50 and today

00:00:16   is Wednesday, May 30th.

00:00:17   All right, so first, just a little note. At the end of the show, you may have noticed

00:00:21   there's a little sound effect. And it's a little bit of a contest that I've been running

00:00:25   that I don't think I actually mentioned on the show, I just mentioned on Twitter. But

00:00:28   But if you can identify correctly what sound is played at the end of the show, just @mention me on Twitter @_DavidSmith, I'd be happy to send you some promo codes for all my apps.

00:00:39   Just kind of a fun little contest. So just keep that in mind, hear it at the end.

00:00:43   Alright, so the first thing I was going to mention today is yesterday the WWDC app was launched as well as the schedule was released.

00:00:51   And this is an important thing if you're getting ready to go to WWDC to be starting to be aware of, starting to think about.

00:00:57   At this point it's not especially useful because probably almost a third to a half of the sessions aren't announced yet.

00:01:04   And in case you aren't aware, that typically means that's something that's going to be new, that is unannounced, and that will be announced at the keynote.

00:01:11   And then sometime Monday evening or so, those things will tend to be made clear to exactly what's going to fill in those spots.

00:01:19   spots. So what I did, and what I think a lot of, I think I've heard of a lot of other people

00:01:23   do, is there's a concept in your WWDC schedule, if you're an attendee, to go in and favorite

00:01:28   certain sessions. And what I do is I go in and I'll favorite all of the to-be-announced

00:01:34   sessions, and then on whatever, Monday night, Tuesday, when they're actually available,

00:01:40   I'll go through and I can see very easily what's the new stuff, what are the new sessions

00:01:44   that I'm probably most interested in going to, because if it's something dealing with

00:01:48   an existing topic, I either probably know it or went to it last year or so on, and so

00:01:52   it kind of helps me focus in on really the new stuff, the stuff that I'm only going to

00:01:56   get at WWDC, and the stuff that's kind of really special in that way. So just a little

00:02:00   tip and a hint, if you're going to DubDub, that's what I recommend. Definitely get the

00:02:04   app. It's nothing amazing, but it's definitely a very useful tool when you're at DubDub to

00:02:08   be able to take a look at. All right, and next, and this is kind of going to be the

00:02:13   main topic for today's show is an interesting article from a couple of months ago, but I

00:02:19   recently only just read it. I was couch-champing my Instapaper backlog over the Memorial Day

00:02:23   holiday. Interestingly enough, I used the Kindle to do that, and so there's a great

00:02:28   mechanism. I'll have a post on my website that I'll link in the show notes about how

00:02:31   you can read Instapaper on a Kindle, and I found that to be a great way to spend the

00:02:34   weekend because I was disconnected from my phone, my email, and all those things. I was

00:02:38   able to relax, and I could just sit there and plow through my Instapaper queue and just

00:02:42   archive tons of articles and get through them.

00:02:44   I came across this one on the 4-hour workweek,

00:02:47   which if you're not familiar with,

00:02:48   the 4-hour workweek or the 4-hour body, it's sort of this ongoing

00:02:54   series of a little bit

00:02:56   cheesy and disingenuous

00:02:59   hacking

00:03:02   philosophy. It's the blog and

00:03:05   the books of Tim Ferriss. He's a little bit

00:03:09   infamous for

00:03:11   overly simplifying in many ways what you...

00:03:15   ways in which you can... it's like, oh, ad foreboding can just work four hours a week

00:03:18   and make millions of dollars and you can outsource everything and

00:03:21   so on. It's one of those things where

00:03:23   it sort of works, but in reality it's not especially

00:03:26   repeatable. You know, it's kind of like if you're watching an infomercial and it's, you know,

00:03:30   individual results may vary or results not typical. It's like that kind of stuff.

00:03:34   And he had this article about,

00:03:35   you know, how can you can build an app empire? Can you create the next Instagram?

00:03:40   and it's an interesting read, but I think there are a couple of points in it

00:03:44   that I thought were really interesting, and I'll get to those in a minute, but first it's

00:03:47   kind of

00:03:48   the concept of what this guy's doing, and this is kind of walking through

00:03:52   the experience of a guy, Chad Moretta,

00:03:54   who is apparently a very successful app developer, who's made millions of

00:03:59   dollars in the App Store, and all that wonderful stuff.

00:04:02   But the thing that I was looking at, I mean, he's made his money by making apps

00:04:06   that I'm not sure I would necessarily want to make.

00:04:09   you know it's kind of the

00:04:11   you know the security screen or emoji app or those kinds of things you know it's

00:04:16   like I always feel uncomfortable if I was making my primary focus

00:04:21   my primary income from an app

00:04:22   who's you know the top of its description is you know this app is for entertainment

00:04:25   purposes only and doesn't actually do anything

00:04:28   uh... that seems a little disingenuous to be you know making your income from

00:04:32   something that you're kind of

00:04:34   is starting off with

00:04:35   deception you're starting off with something that you're

00:04:38   doesn't actually do what you're kind of

00:04:40   marketing yourself to do even by saying hey it's actually doesn't actually do

00:04:44   anything

00:04:45   uh... but you know

00:04:47   it is a main he's making his money he's in the app store that's been a that's

00:04:50   sort of his business

00:04:51   and so i think i think if you can read in the article

00:04:54   definitely not as a like a prescription here's how you can make lots of money

00:04:58   just you know make all these sort of scammy apps in the store and make

00:05:01   millions maybe well but that's not my recommendation

00:05:04   but he mentioned a couple of things in this process that i thought were worth

00:05:08   kind of pulling out and evaluating that I think apply generally to any app, any way

00:05:12   of developing. And first is he talks about how when he is starting off with an app or

00:05:18   starting off with a concept or kind of working on something new, what he often will do is

00:05:22   go in and look at the charts. And this is something I find myself doing all the time

00:05:28   is you just sit there going through the charts and seeing what's popular, seeing what's interesting,

00:05:31   seeing what's new stuff is sort of coming out. And this is especially important if you

00:05:37   existing apps in a particular category to keep an eye on what sort of is growing up

00:05:41   in that category. So I have an app in Lifestyle, my recipe manager and audiobooks is a book

00:05:46   app. And so I'm very aware of what's going on in those two categories because my rank

00:05:51   in that category is very important to my income. You know, it's a lot of what makes people

00:05:57   sort of buy my app and see it for the first time is that it's ranked well in this category,

00:06:03   if not overall. And so it's important to keep an eye on those. And this is something that

00:06:08   I think he emphasizes well, is that that really helps you see where the market is, how the

00:06:13   market is responding, what's going well, what's successful, and things you should be aware

00:06:18   of.

00:06:19   You want to be in an old school parlance, it's kind of like where people would subscribe

00:06:23   to industry journals, and it's these things where people are talking about where the market's

00:06:28   going, where the industry's going. And the amazing thing about the App Store is you can

00:06:31   do that kind of an analysis in real time for free.

00:06:35   Just you just go in the App Store, and it's probably easiest to do this in iTunes,

00:06:38   because you can have a bit more control and can see more things at a time.

00:06:41   And you just sit there, and you just play around in iTunes,

00:06:43   and just get a sense of things.

00:06:44   You know, read some of the reviews of your competitors.

00:06:46   Read some of the reviews of other apps that are doing well,

00:06:50   and seeing what people like, what people don't.

00:06:52   It's kind of an interesting and effective, I think,

00:06:54   way to sort of stay on top of the App Store as a whole.

00:06:59   And then the next thing he says that I thought was an interesting point is when he's designing

00:07:03   an app, he gets to a point where he is sort of fully specced out and designed it before

00:07:09   he starts coding, because he's not a coder. He's outsourcing all this process.

00:07:12   But he said an interesting thing, that you have to consider your design to be final before

00:07:16   you can begin the coding phase. And I think there's a bit of truth and a bit

00:07:20   of a lie in that. I think there's a lot of truth there of it

00:07:24   is important to scope out what it is you're trying to ship and kind of keeping to that,

00:07:29   especially for a new app, especially for something where you're just trying to get something

00:07:32   out the door, it's better, I think, to ship a smaller, more polished version of something

00:07:38   than something that kind of starts rambling on and growing and growing in a way that doesn't

00:07:44   necessarily help the user, but you're just kind of, "Oh, what if I did this? Oh, what

00:07:48   if I did this?" Any time you say to yourself, "Oh, what if?" That's probably something you

00:07:52   want to throw in a to-do list. That's something you want to throw--you definitely want to

00:07:55   to capture all those. But don't let that prevent you from shipping by getting stuck in the

00:08:00   phase of just constantly iterating and you'll never actually get there. Or it'll take much

00:08:03   longer and you may end up finding that all these things that you thought would be cool,

00:08:08   users don't care about. It's far better to ship with a feature missing and have people

00:08:12   be like, "Oh, I'd love this app better if it did X." It's like, "I wish this, my audiobook

00:08:18   app, it's like for a while, it's like, oh, I really want to be able to have a sleep timer

00:08:21   because I listen to audiobooks while I fall asleep." And so it would be great to have

00:08:25   sleep time. It's like, perfect. That's a great feature for us to add. When we add it in,

00:08:29   people look at it like, "Ooh, he's updating his app. He's responding to us." Those are

00:08:33   all positive things.

00:08:34   And so that's just something to keep in mind, that you kind of want to focus in on your

00:08:38   design, not getting to the point of like pixel perfect Photoshop mock-ups before you write

00:08:43   a lot of code. I'm very much a code-driven developer. I code up almost everything first,

00:08:48   in terms of I'll start with a really vague outline of my code in Xcode that I can play

00:08:53   with and iterate on within that. So I'm not saying like going crazy down that way of like

00:08:57   your design has to be final. But being very good on scope I think is really important.

00:09:01   And then he asked, he was talking about testing. And so, you know, putting your app in front

00:09:06   of different people and having them walk through, you know, sort of walk through the app, see

00:09:11   how they respond to it. And this is something I do a lot. I think what he says too is it's

00:09:14   important to not over sort of prep people for that. You want to just give them the app

00:09:20   and say, hey, what do you think?

00:09:22   And just have them play with it.

00:09:24   Because you'll get a much better reaction, I think,

00:09:26   or a much more honest reaction than if you're

00:09:28   coaching them through it.

00:09:29   It's not really a true user experience.

00:09:31   And he had a couple of questions that I thought

00:09:33   were actually very insightful.

00:09:35   He's asking questions like, is the user confused?

00:09:38   Are they stuck?

00:09:39   Are they complaining?

00:09:40   Are they using the app in the way you intended?

00:09:42   And that is often something that you'll

00:09:44   be totally shocked that you're so used to in your testing

00:09:46   cycle of using something exactly the same way.

00:09:48   It's like, well, I open a login, then I hit this button,

00:09:51   then this button, and I start listening.

00:09:53   Or I do this, this, and this.

00:09:54   And you'll find that users may, in fact, be doing totally other

00:09:57   things.

00:09:58   It's important to keep that in mind.

00:09:59   And you may be pleasantly surprised or horribly

00:10:03   surprised if they're using these paths through the app that

00:10:06   are inefficient or not great and that you may need

00:10:09   to do some optimization for.

00:10:11   Are they finding bugs?

00:10:12   And then are they having fun?

00:10:14   And are they making suggestions?

00:10:15   Or are they just bored with it?

00:10:18   those are kind of interesting things to see when someone just sits down with it.

00:10:21   I mean, there's 300,000 apps in the App Store.

00:10:23   Anyone with any amount of experience has probably seen hundreds,

00:10:26   if not thousands, of those.

00:10:27   So you're kind of seeing, will this hold their attention?

00:10:30   Is this interesting?

00:10:31   And then the next thing I wanted to talk about-- and this was something that I

00:10:34   thought was particularly insightful, and this is one thing that I think,

00:10:38   personally, is a takeaway that I'll be implementing myself--

00:10:41   is he talked about the importance of tweaking your marketing materials

00:10:46   in the App Store in a measured and insightful way.

00:10:52   And so, for example, he's talking about how playing with your keywords and not being stuck

00:10:57   with the static set of them is probably a wise thing to do.

00:10:59   So if you're not familiar, you get 100 characters to put keywords into your app, which allows

00:11:05   you to-- there are search terms that will help people discover your app.

00:11:10   And what he talks about is he found that he added the term "phone," for example, to one

00:11:15   of his apps, and it increased his income by about three times just by adding that keyword,

00:11:22   which is not necessarily repeatable. It's not like if we all add foam that's going to

00:11:25   happen, but it's playing with and trying to see how other people are trying to discover

00:11:32   it because discoverability is such a big problem in the app store. There's so many apps, there's

00:11:36   just hundreds of thousands of them, that if you can craft your keywords so that you're

00:11:41   focusing users into exactly what it is that you're trying to, you know, what your app's

00:11:45   trying to accomplish, you'll likely do much better.

00:11:47   And it talks about an interesting survey someone did that said that most 80% of searches in

00:11:52   the App Store are related to functionality rather than name. And so it's not necessarily

00:11:57   that people are looking for, you know, your app particularly. If you are, then that's

00:12:02   great. You know, they'll put in your trademark, kind of, you know, your actual app name and

00:12:05   find it. But more often, they're going to be talking about functionality. And this is,

00:12:10   I think I've been sort of failing on is I'm not necessarily tweaking and adjusting and

00:12:15   honing in my keyword set to really help people who are searching for functionality or for

00:12:21   experience.

00:12:22   So it may not necessarily be...

00:12:25   To say an audiobooks app, one of my big ones, is maybe I'm like...

00:12:31   Since I've been thinking about it, it's like, "Maybe I need to...

00:12:32   Rather than just focusing on its functionality, well, it's an audiobook, you can listen, books

00:12:36   on tape, these kinds of keywords.

00:12:39   things about, you know, like long car trip or, you know, flight or those kinds of things

00:12:45   that are not necessarily, you know, bored on plane. Like there are potentially kind

00:12:49   of keywords and phrases that people may search for that are very relevant to what I'm, my

00:12:53   app accomplishes and this problem it solves, but aren't necessarily things that I would

00:12:58   put into the keywords the way I think about them now. Well, right now they're all descriptive.

00:13:04   Like they're all very kind of just like pseudonyms for the title, which may not actually be the

00:13:08   best way to approach that.

00:13:10   So anyway, that's just an interesting article.

00:13:12   Like I said, it's worth a read, I'd say.

00:13:15   I don't recommend his conclusions in terms of the way

00:13:19   in the apps that he builds.

00:13:20   But it's definitely an interesting place to start.

00:13:22   And there's some really good little nuggets that--

00:13:24   he's obviously made a lot of money and has been successful

00:13:26   in the store.

00:13:27   So it would be a bit silly to say that there's nothing to

00:13:30   learn from that.

00:13:32   All right, that's today's show.

00:13:33   Hope you enjoyed it.

00:13:34   As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns,

00:13:36   complaints. Hit me up on Twitter. I'm _DavidSmith. And the Twitter feed for this podcast is DevPerspective,

00:13:44   D-E-V, Perspective. And otherwise, I hope you have a good week. Happy coding and I will

00:13:48   talk to you later. Bye.

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