5 things I wish I knew when I released my first iPhone app

I’ve been writing mobile apps for roughly 4 years. I’ve seen dozens of apps come from concept to completion, and I’ve learned many lessons along the way. Here are the top 5 things I wish I knew when I first started out making iOS apps.

Ready? Let’s go!

1. Your icon and name will make or break your app.

You heard it here first. The most critical factor of your app’s success is not your beautiful algorithms, your revolutionary ideas, or even a great marketing campaign to drive initial customers. You could also find a local web developer to help you. No, the most important factor is the icon, and the name. This is all most of your prospective customers see before making the decision to learn more. I’ve been able to measure this first hand by using two different icons and names for two otherwise identical apps, and I’ve repeated the experiment several times. I can say without a doubt that this is the most critical factor to getting downloads. In my last experiment, the app with a brighter and louder icon results in an average of 263 downloads per day, while an identical app with a softer and more toned down icon results in only 2 downloads per day. Wow.

2. Apple provides no way to keep in touch with customers.

So what happens after you get your first 10,000 downloads? What if you want to create a spin-off app leveraging your existing audience, or offer new products within your app? Well, you can always introduce an update, but who knows if your customers will actually download and run it. Furthermore, maybe they have already deleted your app? Previous behavior is the greatest indicator of future behavior, and the previous behavior of your customers is that they *bought something from you*. If you want to grow your audience and generate more revenue from your apps, it is critical that you offer a way to keep in touch with your customers. Set up a Mailchimp list, have them subscribe for push notifications, or have them make an account. Whatever route makes the most sense for your product, just make sure you have a way to keep in touch. You will be glad you did on your next app launch. Apple does none of this for you, they don’t even provide emails or names of the people who purchased your app, so this one is on you!

3. Apps that are too simple will be rejected.

Apple has a lot of rules concerning what is “fit” for the App Store, and what isn’t. One of the most difficult to resolve is an app being “too simple” by Apple’s standards. They are very directly telling you to go spend more money and bloat up your app with features you didn’t think were necessary. So what do you do? Well, my advice is to make sure you are not making an app that only does one simple thing. This is something that needs to be resolved before any development begins, or else you may be faced with a product that you simply can’t release.

4. The app store is not the gold rush it’s touted to be.

There is certainly money to be made on the app store, but don’t expect to publish your first app and rake in millions of dollars in free money. Making a successful app takes a lot of time, money, and great intuition about what people are going to like. Be reasonable with your approach in producing apps, and don’t bet the farm on a single strategy. Even if you are working with only a single app, you should make sure you have other distribution mechanisms outside of simply being on the app store.

5. Analytics are crucial.

Without some basic analytics, you will quickly find yourself wishing you knew some things about your users. This will probably hit you immediately after publishing your app. How many users are using the app? If you don’t implement analytics, all you will get are your daily iTunes sales figures, and I know we’re all more OCD about what’s going on than that. This is your baby after all. Take the time to invest in integrating a good analytics platform. There are some decent free options out there such as Flurry or Google Analytics for iOS.

In the spirit of keeping this post short, I’ll continue with the rest of my list in a later post. To get it delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe for free.

Continue to Part 2

Related article: Top 10 Lessons learned from launching iPhone Apps

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I think know from first hand is that the IOS simulator had nothing to do with the real device. My first release was crushing on ios 5 although it was running well on simulator! Customers/ users with iOS 5 deleted my app in a second! Always test you app with a real device and the desired iOS version.

    1. This is very true, and great advice. If you don’t have a device to test on, it is crucial that you go get one and test your app out on a real device. I would also advise testing on 3G and LTE.

    1. I haven’t tried UserVoice, but it seems more like a help desk to me.

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