Choosing the right icon for your client’s app in Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store may seem like a very tiny job among the many others involved in developing and launching an app, but it’s actually extremely important. Not only is an app’s icon one of the key elements of a user’s first impression, it’s also how they’ll (hopefully) interact with the app in the future on a (hopefully) regular basis!
If you’re in any doubt as to the important of app icon design, have a think about some of the apps you regularly use personally; The chances are there are one or two you just never seem to be able to find on the screen of your smartphone or tablet, despite flicking back and forth and feeling sure you knew where it was before? If so, it’s more than likely that the app in question has a poorly designed and unmemorable icon. Not to mention the fact that there’s not a lot of point into pouring resources into App Store Optimization if you’ve got an app icon design that’s going to drive away users in the first place.
Still unconvinced that iconography’s important? If so, also consider the fact that anecdotal evidence suggests that icon issues are one of the most common reasons for Apple App Store rejections. Icons that are unclear or look too much like something else won’t get into the store in the first place. This part of app development is not one to take shortcuts on.
With all of that in mind, here are five things to consider when designing icons for your client’s apps:
Limit your colors
Look at the icons for some of the most popular apps in use today. With some notable exceptions (Slack and Just Eat spring to mind) the vast majority use only two or occasionally three colors. (It is, however, fair to say that game apps are something of an exception to this rule).
That said, Netflix, Fitbit and Groupon all use just two colors for their icons, as do most of Apple’s native apps. The reason for this is that this simple design works best for “everyday apps.” While it is possible to make an icon with more colors work, it’s a very difficult task. Were it easy or wise, the market-leaders would be doing it.
Prioritize simplicity and clarity
Following on from the above, it’s fair to say less is more when it comes to designing app icons. If you want a few case studies for this, take a look at the icons for Facebook, Twitter and Spotify. All are bold and simple, instantly recognizable and (returning briefly to the previous point) only use two colors! Icons are about brand recognition and familiarity. They are not the place to make a try to illustrate features or attempt to say too much.
On this subject, they’re also rarely a place you’ll want to put text. Although some market leaders do this it is an exception to the rule, and usually when a brand’s logo is already extremely well-established (BBC News is a good example here). Broadly speaking, text in icons looks squashed and messy – and is best avoided.
Look at the icon in all sizes
Your client’s app icons will show up in all kinds of places, and in all kinds of sizes. App stores can use different sizes depending on whether you’re on a desktop, tablet or smartphone. Then once the app is downloaded sizes can differ too. As such, it’s no use having an icon that’s clear and eye-catching when it’s large but jumbled when it’s small. Nor is it any use having the reverse scenario when the small icon looks just right but the larger version looks pixelated and amateurish. Truly good icon design will work in all the relevant sizes.
Consider different devices and configurations
The different devices your app icon will appear on are highly relevant too. Does the icon look good on a budget Android device as well as the latest “Retina” style display? How about in “low light” modes, against a plain black or white background, or against the plethora of colors that may be part of a photo a user has chosen to use as their device’s wallpaper? Suddenly designing the perfect icon doesn’t seem so simple any more once you take all these things into account. This is all the more reason to give this task the dedicated attention it deserves.
Now it’s clear just how much is involved in creating the perfect icon, the temptation may be to have a thorough look at what’s already out there with a view to “imitating” something that works. Don’t succumb to this temptation. For starters, if you come too close to plagiarizing someone else’s design you run the risk of App Store rejection (or worse). You also risk giving potential customers a poor perception of your business ethics. Worst of all, however, it means you’ve not invested the time to find the perfect distinctive iconography for your app, which will hopefully be something thousands of people eventually tap on daily.
Maximize mobile app downloads – this is top of your client’s goals for their new mobile app. Meanwhile, you, as their app developer, aim to build recurring revenue for your mobile app agency. Therefore, offering an AppGrow service, where you maximize mobile app downloads for your app clients, is one of the easiest ways to grow your monthly recurring revenue.
By offering an AppGrow service you can make it much more likely that the app you build will be a success. Your clients will get more app users. Meanwhile, you earn month on month income from the app build. This gives you cash to cover business running costs. What’s more, you become an indispensable part of your client’s business. In fact, you’re perfectly positioned to win more mobile app build projects.
However, before you start a new mobile app development project, you’ll have many questions for your client. There are more than 20 things you need to know about the app. But one of the most important questions is,
“How are users going to find your app?”
It’s all too easy to adopt the “Build it and they will come” mindset. Especially if you have incorporated any of these 2019 mobile app development trends. You just expect the pure awesomeness of the app to promote itself! But, reality will be different. It will take good effort to get the app known and ignite the viral co-efficient for that hockey stick growth curve. The first yards are always the hardest. But, you have a Win/Win here. Customers understand the problem. How to get more app downloads. And, you’re in a great position to help with these tips on how to maximize mobile app downloads and build recurring revenue for your mobile app development business.
How to maximize mobile app downloads
The most common mistake that app owners make, is to assume it’s just about app store optimization. Get ASO right and all will be right. Right?
Well, in fact, it’s probably wrong. Sure ASO is a big part of it. 70% of App Store visitors use search to find apps. But that still leaves 30% that come from other sources. And of the 70% a good number will hear about the app before they go search in store. Also, downloads themselves are only part of the equation. It’s about building a large and growing user base for your app. Downloads for downloads sake won’t bring success if all other areas of the app onboarding process aren’t optimized.
In fact, the question you should be asking your client is “What does success for your app look like?” That way, you can have a detailed understanding of the required mobile marketing mix which you need to put in place. This will drive the desired outcome from the investment your client is making to build the new app. You’d be surprised how many app owner’s clients just haven’t thought this through. The answer you get will be very revealing. You should also find out about their expectations about the use of push notifications and see if you can help setup automated geolocation campaigns triggered by beacons and/or geofences.
So let’s start first with the main pillars to maximizing mobile app downloads.
PR creation and distribution
Video overview or demo
Promotional website or landing page
App Store Optimization (ASO)
1. Pre-Launch Exposure
Start thinking about how the app launch well ahead of the mobile app being released to the Appstore / GooglePlay. The more buzz you can create ahead of launch the better. Social media will be vital. The channels that you / your client select will depend on your audience. Be aware that not every social media channel will be ideal for attracting downloads. For apps, Twitter and Facebook will be the bulk of your social media with some Instagram activity and perhaps even LinkedIn if your app is B2B.
If your client is already using social media to promote their business, now’s the time to assess what’s working best in terms of engagement and ensure profiles are up to date ahead of the app launch. Using social media channels pre-launch will give you a feel for the level of channel engagement so you can tweak and optimise your campaigns before launch.
At this stage too, you should use social media to find influencers to help you build up the pre-launch hype to their social media followers. This is an effective way to build a community who are ready to install your app as soon as it’s released. You’re best to do that as part of a beta program, where you invite them to test the app prototype and give you feedback on critical functionality, pricing, user interface design etc. If they feel they have contributed, then you can be sure they will want to make sure their good input makes an app success.
This stage is very often overlooked, but it’s critical. The more you can do to pre-load the launch and iron out the crinkles in your app downloading, onboarding and in app interface the better. You only get one shot at a new app user. If the first touch isn’t awesome and smooth, within seconds they are gone, won’t return and quite possibly will broadcast this bad experience to their followers, killing the app before it’s even got going! Make sure analytics are dropped into the app build. Kumulos Analytics set up is so easy. All you need to do is drop the Kumulos SDK into the app and publish the update to the app stores. The analytics data will then start flowing into your Analytics Dashboard.
2. App Reviews
There are hundreds of app review sites out there that have millions of followers. Some are generalists covering pretty much any app out there. Increasingly highly specialist review sites are appearing. Getting listed on the right review site, the one that covers the exact audience for your app, will be a huge endorsement to your app. This will bring highly relevant app users to download the app. Make sure you’ve reliable crash reporting and diagnostics for the app. If anything ever does go wrong, you’ll be first to know and can fix problems before anyone else needs to know! With Kumulos there are no blind spots. You get full 360 degree visibility with API endpoint monitoring. You can see the status and condition of every API your apps rely on…which will ultimately help with better app reviews.
Launching an app is no different from any other product. You need to get as much relevant media coverage as possible. App reviews in specialist sites (point 2 above) is all part of it, but you also need to make sure you get as much exposure as you can, so when stories are getting written about apps covering the space your client’s app is in, it gets included. And remember it’s not about being listed in “the Horse and Hound”, unless your app plays to that audience. Relevance is king here.
4. Video Overviews
Maximize app downloads by bringing your app to life in a short snappy video. Show how awesome your app is at solving the audience’s problem. Having impactful screenshots is important, but bringing them to life will make it much much easier to get the benefits of the app across. But keep it short – 60 seconds maximum, 30 seconds is ideal. Get the video right and not only will it be a huge asset in traditional Google style search and traditional SEO, but it will also be great for PR and those highly important industry specific app review sites you’re going to be listed in.
5. Promotional Websites and Landing pages
Remember, target users for your app won’t necessarily automatically assume that a mobile app will solve their problem. So you need to make sure that the mobile app is supported by a website, or at the very least a well optimized HTML landing page, with a link to your download page in GooglePlay and App Store. The good thing about this is, it means your search reach isn’t limited to the App Stores. Giving your client a web strategy alongside the app store search means they have the broadest possible reach, helping cover the 30% of downloads that don’t come from in app store searches.
Alongside that, to maximize app downloads, there are other digital marketing techniques, such as email marketing and mobile marketing automation campaigns to draw new users into your clients app. Check out Kumulos technology partners as we have some couple of cool email partners including SendGrid and Mailgun. These Kumulos email partners allow you to run marketing automation campaigns and plan highly targeted email campaigns to drive user engagement for any mobile app. SMS Partner Twilio will help you do the same with good old traditional text messages.
6. App Store Optimization
And lastly, of course we have App Store Optimization. Like all the points higher up this blog, this can’t be an after-thought, something you think about as you’re pushing your app live. It has to be baked carefully into the early stages of the build, so when you are ready to list in store you have all parts covered. It’s also important to know that it’s not a one off task, it’s a constantly moving target and something that needs constant work. This is one of the reasons why ASO is a great service to offer on retainer and build that highly valuable recurring revenue from mobile app projects.
Here are the main elements that need to be covered to make sure your app gets found in the store.
App Title – Make sure it describes what the app does in just a few lines. (255 characters to be exact in the App Store). This is the most important piece of ASO. Make sure you don’t just keyword stuff the description. If it doesn’t flow and read well, it turns downloaders off.
App Keywords – 100 characters limit is all you can work with here. So pick the key words that best fit with the app and the audience. For this you’ll need to get your customer to be very exact about the target market for the app, who the competitors are and what their likely search phrases will be. The key skill here is to avoid the highly searched key terms, they will be highly competitive so ranking top 3 is going to be tough. Make the effort to find the highly specific and under used key words. It’s better to be top on 30 searches for a highly specific key word than 10th for 3,000 searches for a more generic key word.
App Description – Nailing the app description to make it clear to the app audience how it solves their problems. Clear concise wording that covers the key points of the app features, functions and benefits in as short and concise a way as possible is something that needs planned and thought through so your listing is powerful and compelling. You get up to 4,000 characters with Android, but considerably less with Apple.
App Category – Picking the right primary and secondary category for your app is a critical decision to optimize this for search. So make sure your customer thinks this through carefully and you help them choose wisely. Getting it right will immediately serve up the app in search to highly relevant potential downloaders.
App Ratings – An app with a 4-5 star rating (as well as a high number of ratings 20+) will have a huge impact on app download volumes. The social proof of this is huge. Having active users saying good things about the app, especially if you’re asking them to pay to download, is a massive endorsement. But more than that, it has a big impact on your search rank. Again it’s not a one-off task but a constant task that you need to be on top of. Offering a proactive rating service to your clients where you go and find fans of the app to post a review, monitor the star ratings of the reviews the app is getting and reporting this regularly to your clients, is another high value pay monthly agency service. Here’s a few other tips on avoiding bad app reviews.
App Icon – It may sound like a small thing, but a high impact, professional looking icon, that communicates what the app does, will help catch the eye of the downloader browsing the app store. It may be that the icon needs to faithfully stay true to the corporate identity of the company you build the app for, but there may still be some room to be creative and make the icon jump off the screen. You only have seconds to get noticed, so make sure you do it right. Here’s some tips on designing app icons to get you started.
App Screenshots – It’s criminal just how little thought is given to what screenshots are used on the download page. Remember it’s not an installation guide, it’s an advert for what the app does. So make sure you use the biggest wow screens. Even better if those wow screens communicate the value of the app. This is your app shop window, so make it look cool, real cool, with some great screenshots that are good quality, not pixelated and well cropped.
App Publisher – This could be you, to help you promote the great apps you build for clients, or if your client has a range of apps it’s important that these are all described consistently so they can be searched and other apps from the same clients business can be easily found.
Regular and frequent updates– Apps that are regularly updated and reposted to the app store will rank higher than apps that rarely change. Frequent updates don’t need to be fundamental rebuilds of the app, but getting into the habit of continual updates will play a big part in high in store search rankings. Regular posts will not only let you make incremental feature/function updates and bug fixes to the app, but will also allow you to edit and update (as well as test) ASO updates to the app. (descriptions, key words etc)
All the above might sound like a lot that you need to keep up with. It is – but you can make the job a lot easier by using a good app store optimization tool to help you tweak keywords, track app reviews and keep an eye on your competition.
In for the long haul
So, if you’re in the business of developing mobile apps for other businesses, you’ll understand how important it is to offer more than just a simple mobile app build service.
It’s not fun having to win new project after project just to keep the doors open. Extending your offering to include AppGrow services will help your client’s apps become more successful. And, it will make sure that you build a strong ongoing relationship with your client.
For example, if you deliver App Store Analytics Reports showing how your Clients’ apps compare against their competitors, by keywords, by reviews, by star rankings, by geography and more you’ll impress them! What’s more, if you set up a Client Portal that lets them see the effectiveness of a Push Notifications campaign on active user rates and App Store reviews you’re more likely to get them on retainer.
Most importantly it will put you in pole position to deliver that app rebuild. Or build that next addition to your client’s growing mobile app collection.
Want to get started but don’t know how? No problem.
We know it’s one thing seeing the need to offer an AppGrow service, its another ballgame making it happen. Especially when you’re crazy busy just with the day to day mobile app development. You might not realise it now but the the hard work starts when an app first goes live.
That’s why Kumulos offers Mobile App Optimization Services. We help app owners and their software development partners, understand how app performance can be improved. We work with you, during the life of the app, to deliver the best possible commercial outcome for you and your client. So, whether you are working towards launching an app or looking to improve existing app performance, Kumulos can help.