For a while now, Apple has been feeling the heat from the growing frustrations of app developers with the App Store’s enigmatic approval process. To guide users through the process and help them avoid common pitfalls, Apple launched the App Store Resource Center (ASCR) in September. It’s a great resource for both new and seasoned app developers. Plus, it’s nice to finally have all of this documentation in one place.
The ASRC is composed of four main sections that help developers prepare their app for submission to the App Store. It includes a somewhat lackluster attempt at explaining the App Store approval process, as well as information for developers on how to manage their app(s) once they are for sale inside the App Store. Finally, it provides limited resources that help app developers market their app(s).
Preparing your app for submission
The ASRC provides some guidance on how to prepare your app for submission into the App Store’s approval process. For example, it provides you with information on how to use iTunes Connect to set up your user account, manage your banking information, and review your sales numbers. This section also points out what specific information and assets you need to include with your application’s submission; such as app name, description, keywords, artwork, pricing, etc. It also provides a PDF on how to pick your keywords, which are the words that users will enter to search for and find your app in the App Store.
The keywords are a frustrating constraint for app developers, especially because Apple recently implemented a 100-character limit for keywords and phrases to describe an app. You get more space in a Twitter tweet! The worst thing about the keywords is that, once entered, you’re stuck with them until you submit a new version of the app to be approved. This is a major pain!
Apple does shed some light on its arduous App Store approval process (which I prefer to call Apple’s “Vista”). Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been an Apple enthusiast for over 26 years now. But the way the approval process is managed, you would think that Microsoft is running the App Store. The ASRC tries to explain how the approval process is structured, the typical amount of time it will take to get your app approved, and what to expect during the review process. In addition, it gives some tips on how to avoid having your app rejected. The App Store’s approval process has gotten a little bit better since I first started submitting apps, but I stress “a little.”
There is also help on how to manage your app, along with its data and graphics, once it is approved and is selling inside the App Store. This information will be helpful to the new app developer, but old news for the seasoned developer.
Completely overhaul the approval process
While I give Apple credit for putting the ASRC together for the app developer community, it still has a long way to go. For the most part, the ASRC doesn’t really include anything that developers haven’t already figured out on their own through trial and error, online forums, etc. Apple should spend some of the resources generated by iPhone and app sales to completely overhaul the App Store approval process. Most of all, it needs to ramp up the Marketing Resources section. About 95% of all app developers fall short when it comes to marketing their app, and poor marketing is the reason why many developers make next to nothing in profits. This section of ASRC needs to focus more on actual “how-to” marketing information, strategies, and tactics. These are the things that will help developers get their app into the hands of iPhone and iPod touch users.
Right now, I’d give the App Store Resource Center a C+. It’s definitely a step in the right direction, but has a long way to go. Apple and Phil Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing, have a huge challenge and a great opportunity set before them. A redesigned ASRC with improved Marketing tactics would not only help developers succeed in the approval process, but also increase App Store sales. This would encourage the development of even more compelling apps, and further extend the dominance of the iPhone.