The rise of popularity in Apple’s mobile devices has in turn seen a rise in applications available on the platform. In July 2008 there were only 800 apps available for download compared to over 800,000 today, and yet the iOS 6 update which rolled out the current App Store interface demonstrated that they have made little effort in allowing their customers to easily find such a vast number of apps.
Apple feel that their consumers should only be exposed to a small number of apps, the upshot of this narrow-minded approach is that only 25 developers generate 50% of the entire App Store revenue. The only way to discover apps that don’t get featured is to search for the specific application name, using a search tool which is not intelligent enough to spot misspellings.
Discoverability. It’s a hot topic right now - gone were the days when an indie developer could create a simple game and naturally appear in the top charts, and in turn make a living from it. In order to generate any initial growth, particularly for an indie game developer, various and often controversial techniques are not only used, but have become commonplace such as mass paid downloads and bought positive reviews. This approach isn’t sexy, and as developers we certainly don’t want to butcher the beautiful products we create by using grey hat marketing.
Advertising companies such as FAAD, App-o-day, and App Gratis are cashing in on Apple’s discoverability shortcomings - new and useful apps simply don’t get seen by their customers. This has left a sour taste in Apple’s mouth which is clearly evident since App Gratis had their app pulled from the store. Contrary to what App Gratis’ CEO says, these business models do not improve the App Store for the consumer, instead the big budget companies force their sub-par featured products into the hands of customers that find them lacking, squashing the real innovators that have little-to-no budget to market their incredible apps.
These marketing companies also have a single point of failure, at any time Apple could decide to pull, for example, App-O-day from the App Store, as soon as that happens the business will rack up tremendous debts and fail. Relying on the co-operation of a gatekeeper is obviously a fragile business model, instead risk should be spread, but accomplishing this is hard.
At the end of the day, we are tip-toeing around, nobody really knows the rules.
If only Apple were consistent and efficient in enforcing and adhering to their own guidelines. In the past I have been the victim of Apple’s review team, each time I have submitted a new update or a completely fresh product I hold my breath and hope the application is approved. Reviews usually take about 10 days, and if an app is rejected then it could take substantially longer to fix just to please the reviewer.
The guidelines that Apple provide developers are simply that. Guidelines, and not strict rules. They are frequently misinterpreted by all parties and are constantly changing.
For me, all I want to do is create apps that genuine customers will love, why has Apple lost interest in supporting the wider developer community and turned their attention to the elite?
I have struggled with these constraints first-hand, and I believe a better discoverability platform is possible that isn’t intrusive to Apple’s approach, and benefits app developers that range from indie hobbyists to large corporations, but most significantly - consumers.
My company has decided to tackle this huge problem, we are calling the platform MORE - right now we are brainstorming ideas, and we would love your input. Please tweet or email us with any thoughts you may have.
If you are like us and believe app store discoverability could be greatly improved, sign up to morediscovery.com to get early access.
I have been a web designer from a young age, 13 to be exact, but it was only recently that I decided to take the dive into learning Objective-C, Cocoa, and creating iOS applications, in fact it’s only been since September. Today I have just submitted my very first app to Apple. Whilst I have always wanted to develop mobile apps, I was too engrossed in my freelance work to give it the time it deserves - until I was given a challenge.
I got an email from a long-time client of mine at the beginning of September. Someone who is incredibly driven and has had huge success with digital products from a remarkably young age - Ted Nash.
Ted felt that he wanted to bring his entrepreneurial visions to the next level, rebrand his company Venevi Enterprises to Liquid 5, and bring me in as co-founder and CTO. I couldn’t believe it at first, what a fantastic opportunity!
The plan was to focus entirely on developing iOS apps, at least for now, so without missing a beat I bought a couple of books and got my head down.
Time slips by when you don’t have a real goal, and a goal that other people are expecting you to make. This might not be the case for everyone, but to let someone down professionally is not an option for me - so I spent the remainder of my summer break from University with one clear objective; to learn enough to create an iOS app.
By the end of September, I had completed reading Big Nerd Ranch’s Objective-C book which is a fantastic introduction to the syntax, and gives you just enough to start on their iOS programming book. Ted told me that we were going to meet 3 investors to discuss the possibility of raising funding (I will write about this experience soon). The investors were wary of my technical ability, understandably so, and asked me how long it would take me to develop an app.
This was the question I was most nervous they would ask me about - I had no experience developing apps, and trying to estimate a delivery date on a project that could potentially be too complex for my current understanding of platform was frightening.
I thought 6 weeks sounded reasonable, but I essentially plucked the figure out of the air, I was still one-third of the way through my first iOS book! We ended the meeting on a high and everyone was feeling very excited about the opportunity.
With anything you learn quickly, mistakes will be made, but these mistakes will give you a better understanding of the language. Zed Shaw’s Learn C The Hard Way demonstrates this wonderfully. The series is designed specifically for you to break code, google the problem, dig through the documentation, and get a true understanding of the problem, and why the solution actually works.
Sites like StackOverflow.com not only have great answers to a problem, but have a great discussion on the matter. It is worth spending time reading the conversation to the problem you are trying to solve, so you can solidify your knowledge.
It’s easy to read a programming book from cover-to-cover, analyse the code, and not waste time writing it out. This is a toxic approach, often intermediate developers who have a good knowledge of a different language will do this, because they already have a grasp on the core concepts, but not of the syntax.
There’s only one way to learn syntax, and that’s to code it out yourself. Seriously - making a conscious effort to write out every line of code in the book will dramatically improve your memory of the syntax.
Finally, each new class or protocol you come across when reading an iOS book, look it up in the Apple documentation. This is fundamental to being a successful developer - if you learn how to browse the documentation efficiently, you will pick up the language in no time!
The best way to get solid experience with a language is to make something - don’t waste time pondering on ideas, just think of something small and simple. Sketch out how you think it should behave (I would recommend using the iPhone app POP to turn your lo-fi prototypes into an interface), then when you have soaked up enough of the basics, think about the frameworks your app might depend on.
Read the chapters on those frameworks first - chances are you won’t need to read everything in the book straight away. If you are under a tight deadline like I was, learn the fundamentals first, then focus on the core frameworks specifically required in your app.
Push yourself to create your first app. Stick to a deadline and don’t let it slip. Take yourself out of your comfort zone, because in all likelihood your ability to make it happen is far beyond your own expectations.
I was able to create an app in 6 weeks - from no working knowledge to a hunger and passion for the platform. I have thoroughly enjoyed pushing myself, and I urge you to do so too.
I promise you will surprise yourself.