What are the best ways to promote your app in news outlets and in the App Stores? I spoke with app creators to get their advice.

Timing is everything

Philippe Levieux is the creator of infiltr, a photo filter app that has been named an Editors’ Choice, Best New App, and Hot this Week in the iTunes App Store, and featured in over 150 countries. Timing the key to his advice. “Always release your app on a Thursday,” he says, because Features also change on Thursday. Or more precisely, “We always schedule infltr to be released on Wednesday at 11 pm UK time, so if the feature team wants to feature it, it is perfect timing.” He also recommends “to leverage the new technology (both software and hardware) that Apple releases!” For example, “we were the first app allowing you to filter Live Photos back in iOS 9; we were the first allowing you to capture filtered Live Photos in iOS 10; we were the first to fully use the camera in an iMessage App! We are available on iPhone, iPad, iMessage & Apple Watch.” Being first with new features that Apple releases is an almost surefire way to endear your app to Apple’s editors. For infiltr, Levieux says, “we make extensive use of 3D-touch through the app. We have a Today Widget and a Photo/Video & Live Photos Editing Extension… Apple loves these.”

Speaking of timing…

If your app is immediately ready to fill a need, it’s not only going to win customers but could also garner your app some juicy press coverage. Last year, when Microsoft acquired the app Sunrise Meet, it decided to integrate Sunrise’s features into Outlook and sunset the app (no pun intended). ThingThing, an iOS keyboard app, stepped into the void and added its own calendar scheduling feature to woo displaced Sunrise users. The gambit worked, leading the app to be featured in Techcrunch. “This was a big win for us in terms of downloads,” remarked Adam Davis, Thingthing’s CMO. “It really came down to being ready with the right technology – the right story – at the right time.”

Localize

Another way to get your app press attention is to localize it. “Categories you can be featured in are different in every country,” Levieux advises. For example, Canada’s App Store has a category for Apps translated into French. “Easy trick!” he says. Infiltr is available in 22 languages and has been featured on several of Apple’s official Twitter accounts, including those for Japan and Spain. “The cool thing when you get tweeted by Apple is that you get a special URL,” he says. “so we have these cool shortcuts which look more professional than the average App Store URL.” www.apple.co/infltr_, which Apple tweeted for example, directs to the Mexican App Store.

Get the most from your email list

George Hartley co-founded the art marketplace Bluethumb. The website grew popular with users, and he had a lengthy customer list at his disposal. When the Bluethumb iPhone app launched in 2013, Hartley used Intercom to segment his customer and artist lists into users who’d visited the site via an iPhone. “We pushed an email to our list on release,” he says, “and added a little header link to the apps on all our transactional and marketing emails. This was the extent of our marketing,” he says. But because the app’s release was so successful, Apple featured it a few weeks after release. Bluethumb is now Australia’s largest art marketplace.

Celebrate milestones

Alex Genadinik of Problemio.com took advantage of guest blogging when it came to milestones. When his app hit 150,000 downloads, for example, his guest blog got picked up by BusinessInsider and Yahoo! News.

Respond to requests

Another strategy Genadinik recommends is to subscribe to lists like HelpAReporterOut.com (HARO) and RadioGuestList.com. Both sites connect journalists and content creators with reputable sources for their stories, but RadioGuestList focuses on podcasts and radio shows in particular. When you see a query about a story you can add value to, write in and explain your expertise and give a short description of what your app does. Make sure your pitches are specifically related to the request and personalize your pitch to the news outlet.

Along with optimizing your app’s name, writing an app description that sells, and choosing a memorable app icon, mobile apps also need to think about what app store screenshots will best entice users to download. I asked successful app developers for their advice on screenshots, and these common themes emerged.

Your screenshots don’t have to be actual screenshots

“The greatest misconception about app store screenshots is that they actually need to be screenshots!,” says Jonathan Kerns, co-founder of Comparakeet. Hugh Kimora of Mobile Action agrees, noting, “the biggest mistake is taking screenshots of random screens or menu screens inside the app and not highlighting a specific benefit.” Instead, he suggests, “Use a text banner to specify the exact benefit of the app that you are trying to highlight in each screenshot.” In addition, Kerns advises, “Take a look at major gaming apps and the types of things that they do for inspiration. Incorporate a mix of imagery from within the app with short marketing messages and calls to action.” One such marketing message, says Adam Davis, CMO of Thingthing, is to “have one screen showcasing any awards or press coverage you’ve had by adding their badges and logos. This can be very powerful as it adds a great deal of credibility to your app.”

One of Thingthing’s screenshots

Focus on the user’s goal

“The screen shots must be of screens that show how the user gets the most value from the app or has the most fun if it is a game,” asserts Alex Genadinik of Problemio. “Show users succeeding in what the person who is looking at the screen shots wants to succeed in – like losing weight or being on vacation. Inspiring images will make people imagine getting the benefit of the app.” You should also list the most important product benefits first. “The first two screens are what are immediately seen in your app store listing (and part of the third in the Google Play Store),” Davis says. “Put your strongest selling points here.”

One of Clumsy Ninja’s screenshots

Maximize the real estate

“Fill all of the screenshot slots,” implores Kimora. “Be sure to optimize for screen orientation. For example, if you have an iPhone app, portrait screenshots might work best.” He also adds, “app developers should make sure that their screenshots can be seen clearly on smaller devices.” Davis recommends another way to use all of the available space: “A common mistake I see is including the phone in your image when it isn’t needed. Losing the phone from the images allows you to make your screen area bigger and draw more attention to the value of your app.”

One of Target’s screenshots

Use a screenshot generator

If you don’t have design resources in-house, consider a screenshot generator. “These tools allow you to choose backgrounds and titles for each screenshot, which can help sell users on the app’s key benefits,” says George Hartley, Director of SmartrMail.

Some tools that interviewees recommend include

  • AppInstitute
  • AppLaunchpad
  • Appure
  • Screenshot Maker Pro
  • Experiment and test

    “Try something new now and then, and ensure your screens stay fresh,” Davis recommends. “In the Google Play Store, for example, you can use one large image in place of 2-3 screens, effectively testing a large format display ad. You can also be creative with your imagery, visually connecting one image to the next and creating a journey for viewers to follow.” Another idea is to “test the order of your images and key selling points. Try putting awards and recognition in the first or second position, and see if it boosts your downloads.”

    “You may need to do a lot of testing before you find something that works well,” adds Kimora. For instance, “test a video in your first screenshot position. It might work better.”

    Rather than losing valuable time waiting for approvals, conduct tests outside of the app stores, using software like PickFu. Gauge which screenshots users like better, and gain an understanding of how respondents interpret your marketing messages by reading through dozens — even hundreds — of their unbiased comments. You can target respondents by iOS or Android device, or poll mobile gamers, starting at only $20!

    Do you have any further suggestions for app store screenshots? Include them in the comments, or tweet us @PickFu.

    User reviews not only influence other users to try your app, but they help boost your app’s visibility in an already crowded marketplace. We spoke with app creators and got their tips on encouraging user reviews.

    Target Early Adopters

    When you’re first launching an app, introduce it to enthusiasts who read up on new apps. “Early adopters, like those found on Product Hunt, Hacker News, etc. are far more likely to leave reviews because they understand the importance of reviews on your business,” said Brandon Wright, who works in marketing for ThoughtLab.

    Try a Low-Tech Approach

    Brandon offers another, more personal tip: “Surprisingly,” he says, “the very best way to generate reviews and downloads is to hit the street and ask for them. Literally walking up to strangers, telling them about your product, asking them to download your app, and then requesting that they leave a review if they like what you’ve made. People really remember when the person who built an app or owns a company walks up and tells them about it. It makes them feel special.” But, he warns, this technique doesn’t work at conferences, where the internet is slow and everyone’s attention is elsewhere.

    Time Your Ask

    It’s tempting to request a review every time your app is opened. But this interrupts the user experience, and could even leave a negative impression. Instead, think about when a user is feeling most positive about your app, such as after earning a badge or passing a game level.

    Max Page, founder of Lifter, says “awesome support… is your best opportunity to get a 5-star review. If a user emails in with a problem [that] you solve quick and above expectations, ask for a review. Most of the time the user is so happy you helped them they go straight to the store and review your app positively.” He made sure to add, “the trick to this tip is making your Support Email easy to find and contact in your app.”

    Integrate a “Soft” Review

    Approximately half my life is spent playing Two Dots, a puzzle strategy game. The programmers there have implemented a clever pop-up that I’ve since noticed in other apps as well. It asks, “What do you think of the game?”, and then gives you a thumbs-up or thumbs-down option. If you hit thumbs up, it says, “Great! Would you mind leaving a review?”, but if you hit thumbs down, it says, “Oh no! Is there anything we can help you with?” and directs you to Support. It’s an easy way to get feedback, but also primes a user who likes your app to do a little something to help it out.

    Exactly who likes your product or design should never be a mystery to you. Knowing your audience means understanding their needs and desires, and knowing how best to address them.

    On PickFu, you always know who answers your polls – each result includes a demographic breakdown of gender, age, income, ethnicity, and education level. But you can also target certain demographic groups so that only certain subsets of the population respond to your poll.

    “Your audience gives you everything you need. They tell you. There is no director who can direct you like an audience.” – Fanny Brice

    Mobile Device Platform

    One of the most practical demographic segments PickFu offers is targeting iOS or Android users. If your app is only available on one platform, why poll those who couldn’t download it if they wanted to? This Android game wanted to see what users thought of a new mobile app icon. The poll encompassed Android users between the ages of 18 and 34:

    app-icon-testing

    PickFu also offers the ability to target Mobile Gamers.

    Reading Preferences

    Authors use PickFu extensively to test book titles, subtitles, cover designs, and blurbs. Knowing this, we created several categories on PickFu so that authors could better target readers. You can poll based on the type of reading (fiction or non-fiction) readers prefer, and the number of books they tend to read per month.

    When writing effective book descriptions, a top tip is to use the first sentences of your blurb to hook a reader in. One author used PickFu to poll females who preferred fiction to gauge which opening sentences were more intriguing.

    reader-poll

    Vegetarianism

    If your book is aimed at a niche market, why poll those outside that niche? One author whose cookbook included kosher vegetarian recipes polled 50 vegans and vegetarians. They overwhelmingly preferred the colorful, more poetic option over the straightforward title.

    demographic-targeting-vegetarians

    It would have even been possible to target only vegetarians of the Jewish faith on PickFu, though it would have taken longer to complete the poll. This author decided not to keep the focus that narrow. After all, the kosher recipes could still be enjoyed regardless of religious beliefs.

    Income

    When you’re launching a boutique product, it makes sense to ask opinions of those in your target market. This line of organic skincare products polled women who made over $60,000 to see which logo they preferred:

    logo-poll

    Age

    Perhaps your product is aimed at the youth market. This upcoming line of streetwear wanted to see what males under the age of 50 thought of its logo design:

    poll-young-males

    These are just some of the ways the ability to laser-focus polls has helped our customers. Who is your main audience? Do they share certain traits? Are there even more segments that would be useful to you? Send your thoughts to us @PickFu!

    When Steve Jobs talked to Fortune in 2000 about the Mac OS X’s Aqua interface, he delivered a classic line:

    “We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them.”

    Today, an app’s icon needs to meet that standard if it’s going to gain traction with users. We reached out to app creators and UX designers to understand how to think about your app’s icon. Here’s what they shared:

    Keep it simple, stupid

    Like all good design, simplicity is key. “Your icon occupies invaluable real estate on your customer’s phone screen and as a developer, you need to treat every pixel like gold,” said Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal.

    “The best app icons out there are easily recognizable, consist of few design elements and use a limited color palette that is consistent with the brand,” adds Victoria Gerchinhoren, Head of Design & UX at Thingthing, an iOS keyboard app.

    Simplicity Part II: Remember you’ll use it elsewhere

    Thingthing's app icon

    Thingthing’s app icon

    “Simplicity is also important for scalability,” Gerchinhoren says. “Your app icon will be shown in several places across different platforms and in various sizes. It must be clear and recognizable in all cases, large and small.”

    Simplicity Part III: Familiarity = Freedom

    Infiltr's app icon

    infiltr’s app icon

    When your app is new, it needs to convey more. It must clearly communicate how it meets a user’s needs. Philippe LeVieux, co-founder of infltr, said, “We currently use a camera icon with an infinity sign inside because we offer an infinite number of filters in our photo editor and camera app. With time, we want to evolve and drop the camera, and simply use the infinity sign. When you launch a new app, you want users to understand as much as possible from the icon. When you are established, you can start to simplify!”

    Use color wisely

    “In my experience, the most effective approach is to use the brand’s iconic mark or logo as the app icon, with the background color of the icon being the brand’s primary color,” said Nick Saporito, a freelance graphic designer. “Users tend to identify apps by color while scanning through their catalog of apps, and the background color is what’s most visible, so it makes sense to use your brand’s prominent shade.”

    Tell a story

    Petter's App Icon

    Petter’s app icon

    A clean, minimalist logo should still be able to say something about your brand and evoke emotion. “I went through multiple designs for the app icon, and finally settled on one that tells a story,” said Jeanie Galbreath, creator of The Petter App. “The turquoise in the icon is actually a hand that pets the animal.”

    Continue to iterate

    Adam Davis, Thingthing’s CMO, said that “although [our icon is] professional, easily recognizable and connects to what the app is about, we’re in the process of taking it further to more effectively communicate what makes [our] keyboard unique and better connect it to people’s productivity needs.”

    A new icon helps convey a major update to users, like the addition of new levels in a game, or the introduction of more features.

    When iterating icons, many developers turn to app icon testing on PickFu. For just a few dollars and in only minutes, companies can test versions of app icons to gauge audience reaction. Best of all, testing takes place before a live update in the App Store, saving approval time should multiple design revisions be needed. Simon Newstead, CEO of Frenzoo said, “When we created our unique 3D Fashion Game for iOS and Android, we used PickFu extensively to poll different icons, section names, and even the name of our game itself! It’s a cost-effective, fast, and very helpful service.”

    app-icon-testing

    See more examples of App Icon tests, and then give it a try yourself!

    Launching in the App Store means being at the mercy of Apple and Google, a nerve-racking prospect. Rejections can sometimes seem arbitrary, and unforeseen bumps in the road can delay a launch.

    We asked experienced app developers what they wish they had known before releasing their first app. Here’s what they said:

    Be conscientious with data

    “Many times, we’ve seen our customers wanting to collect a wide array of user data for their analysis and marketing purposes,” said Mark Pedersen, app developer at Nodes Agency in London. “But if the app is not using these data for anything particular, odds are your app will be rejected due to collecting information not related to core functionality of the app.”

    One suggestion: “Don’t ask users to subscribe to push notifications upon first opening the app without providing context for why you’re requesting permission,” adds Jonathan Levey, Digital Marketing Manager for Skyjet. “It’s better to prompt the user to opt in at some key experience point when they’re likely to be interested in receiving notifications.”

    Why is this important? The next tip explains.

    Make sure your app has staying power

    “Ever download an app and try it out and realize it was a waste of your time and then immediately delete it? Well, in doing so, that negatively affects that app’s rankings in the store you got it from,” said Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal. Both the Apple App Store and Google Play measure how long an app stays on a user’s phone after it has been downloaded. “This is one of the best metrics for these platforms to understand if the app is quality enough to be solving the user’s problem, need, or desire. To move the needle on this metric, app developers simply must have a clean, concise, easy-to-understand user interface that satisfies the user’s intent.”

    Add video

    A great way to showcase your app is by adding video. “This will make it stand out from the other two million apps in the App Store and make consumers far more likely to engage and eventually download your app,” says Bob Bentz, president of ATS Mobile. “Many new apps simply don’t take advantage of it.” However, it’s important that your preview video focuses on functionality only.

    Make sure it’s release-ready

    “If you update your app straight away, the reviews you received from Day 1 users will move from Current Version to All Versions,” warns Ashley Burnett, 18-year-old creator of Type In Time and Motor Math. “You want as many Current Version reviews as possible, as you will get an average star rating under your app’s listing, which looks nice. Therefore, you should ensure 100% there are no bugs and give it a week or two before releasing any non-urgent updates.”

    Remember the basics

    One of the most common issues is forgetting meta-data. “The meta-data should always be double-checked for containing correct information and no broken links, since the moderators in the App Store are particularly keen on having correct meta-data,” says Pedersen. In addition, he warns, “the App Store moderators are intent on all apps having proper privacy policies in place. Apple takes this item very seriously, and even a few minor spelling errors in the privacy policy can result in rejections.”

    More helpful hints

    • Visit AppReviewTimes.com to get a crowdsourced idea of how long the review process will take.
    • Email appstorepromotion@apple.com and appoftheweek@apple.com to increase your chances of being featured.
    • Use PickFu to test app names, icons, descriptions, and more so that you have data before entering the review queue.

    Got more advice for aspiring apps? Comment below!

    Naming your app is like naming your baby and can be equally gut-wrenching. You want your name to be unique, but not so unique that no one can pronounce it or spell it. Your name ideally says something about your product’s personality, but also conveys its usefulness. Some apps that balance the two goals well are TravelZoo, BookBub, and Parking Panda; the names allude to the app’s main function, but are memorable and “brand”-able.

    If only it were as easy as combining your app’s category with a fun-sounding noun, though. There’s much more to it than that. Here’s a quick rundown of 10 tips to consider when naming your mobile app:Continue reading

    Michael Cowden faced a dilemma. He and his team had been working for months on a mobile game called Outrun the 80s. Then a friend in marketing suggested a different name — Super 80s World.

    Not bad, Mike thought. But is it better than Outrun the 80s?

    He asked his friends. He asked his family. But, as he later told us, “the problem with this method is that they aren’t necessarily the target audience or the most likely to be honest with you.”

    So Mike turned to PickFu. He polled 50 people and asked, “Which mobile game sounds like more fun?”

    super-80s-world

    Super 80s World won, but only by a narrow margin. What was surprising, however, was what the people who voted in favor said in the comments.

    “It reminds me of Mario.”
    “I love the 80s and Super 80s World sounds more exciting.”
    “I don’t like A because it makes it sound like you are trying to run away from the 80s, and that was my childhood! I like the B title because it celebrates the fun 1980s.”

    As Mike wrote later on the Super 80s World blog, “I could immediately tell that Super 80s World communicated the game concept much better. The folks that liked that name got what the game was about and, more importantly, wanted to play it!”

    Since then, Mike has continued to turn to PickFu for help in answering key questions about the game. For example, he tested two logo concepts, and what became the game’s logo won overwhelmingly:

    testing-logos

    He also tested concepts for game characters:

    mobile-app-testing

    He even tested questions like, “Based on the donation levels on this Kickstarter page, would you be willing to donate?” and “For ‘Episode 1’ of a Mobile Platformer Game (like Mario Bros), does 3 worlds and 30 levels sounds like… too many / too few,” and “Which of the following animations feels more natural for the play of the game?”

    “Being able to answer a key business question for $20 is a no-brainer,” Mike told us. “As soon as I saw that this service was available at a reasonable price, I was sold. You can’t make key business decisions in a vacuum or an echo chamber. PickFu is a very cost-effective way of getting immediate user feedback.”

    Super 80s World is currently in beta, so sign up for early access and see what other exciting turns the game takes!

    An attractive photo, a great layout, a memorable logo or app icon – these elements are often touted as the keys to optimization. Indeed, a well-converting site, ebook, or app will need them all. But sometimes we tend to underplay or altogether overlook the importance of copy testing – and to our peril. Whether it’s description copy of an e-commerce product, the subhead of a new book, or the elevator pitch of a growing startup, words matter.

    Recently, PickFu increased the number of characters you can include in your test text block to 1,000. That’s the equivalent of roughly 200-250 words. Here are some great ways to use this feature for copy testing to improve your business: Continue reading