Thursday, May 5, 2011

Publishers need to be aware of App Store best practices including good app descriptions and screenshots.

In between battles with my iPad this morning and afternoon, I downloaded a few new apps that I thought I might want to take a look at. One of them, Mining Weekly e-magazine, I downloaded simply because I have a soft spot in my heart for B2B magazines, there being so few of them in the App Store.

Unfortunately, this new app from Creamer Media International, the South African publisher of this magazines, as well as Engineering News, is simply a replica edition with some embedded audio and video. The free app is the first from the company and is actually not an issue but a reproduction of a special section the publisher produced for an event that took place in early March.
So if there is not much to learn from the app itself there are some things that immediately struck me about the app description inside the App Store.

Take, for instance, the app description itself:

Mining Weekly e-magazine.
Featuring mining activity worldwide
That's it, including the lack of a period at the end of that second line.

Now if you are one of those media executives that has not been personally involved in launching an app, or if your company has not, the process of getting an app into the store is very simple (even I did it, after all), even if the app approval process is less opaque.

As part of submitting the app one needs to fill out the app description, select categories, etc. The good news is that this information can be revised as often as you would like (though the updated copy will not appear immediately in the App Store).

So it is very possible that the publisher of this particular app, now that it is live in the App Store, may well go back into their account and redo their app description. Tomorrow you might see a virtual novel used as the app description.

But there are other things other than just copy to consider, as well. For instance, in the iTunes App Store only the first few lines of the description appear before the "More" appears, forcing the reader to click it to reveal more about the app. There are developers who are very adept at making sure those few lines, three to be exact, sing. (In the App Store as seen on the iPad, the first five lines appear, and on the iPhone the whole description appears!)

Then there are the screenshots: here the publisher included only one, the cover. Three should be considered the bare minimum, but there things to consider other than simply the number. For instance, does your app include radically different layouts in portrait and landscape, then you would want to include screenshots of the app in both orientations. Are there multimedia elements you want to point out like video or unique animation, etc.

For those developers who have experience at this sort of thing this is all first grade stuff – I hope I didn't insult your intelligence with this stuff.

But I wonder how many media managers are delegating these decisions, leaving it up to the developers. At the very least these things should be brought up in conversations with the team that is handling the App Store account. I doubt there are any publishers out there that would launch a magazine without looking at the first promotional material, the media kit, etc. An app launch should be no different.