codal insights

How To Fast Track Your App Through Apple’s Approval Process

Lia
June 19th, 2019
8 MINUTE READ

Whether you’re developing your first app or you’re an app development veteran, you’re well aware of the difficulty surrounding app approval. Every offering in the App Store is a reflection of Apple, and as such the tech giant has implemented stringent requirements for every submission.

Despite a challenging approval process, the App Store continues to grow. By 2020, the App Store will hit five million apps.

Want to expedite the approval process? Review some often overlooked components of the App Store Review Guidelines below!

Goodbye, Bugs! Hello, Metadata!

Apple rejects 40% of app submissions because of too many bugs, crashes, and broken links.

By the time you submit your app for review, it should be in its finalized form. No bugs. No crashing. Don’t consider the review process another round of software testing. You should run all the necessary tests before you submit your app for review. Or have it tested by a certified app development agency.

Additionally, all metadata and URLs must be entirely functional. Don’t forget to switch out that placeholder content for the real deal!

Speaking of metadata … let’s talk about it!

Put simply: metadata is data about data. In terms of apps, metadata includes your app description, screenshots, and previews, all of which need to mirror the app’s core experience.

Being sly won’t get you very far in the approval process. Do not include hidden or undocumented features within your app. The Apple Review team does not take kindly to this sort of thing.

Apps with in-app purchasing must disclose that via the app description, screenshots, and previews.

Screenshots need to show the app in use. No title art, splash screens, or log-in pages. Try to include screenshots that show extended functionality, like a Touch Bar or Apple Watch capabilities. You can use text and image overlays as long they demonstrate part of the app’s functionality, such as input mechanisms, like an animated touch point or Apple Pencil.

The name of your app is an important piece of metadata. Name your app something unique that sets it apart and differentiates your metadata from other apps. App names cannot exceed 30 characters, nor can they contain prices, terms, or descriptions.

Likewise, app descriptions serve as equally important metadata. Keywords in your description must accurately describe your app. Don’t waste your time inserting trademarked terms, popular app names, or anything else to this effect in order to dupe the review team and cheat the system.

Metadata must be suitable for all ages. Your app, in-app purchase icons, screenshots, and previews must abide by the 4+ rule, regardless of whether or not your app is rated higher.

Lastly, metadata should be focused on the app in and of itself. Nothing independent of the app. Try to use metadata that speaks to the experience of your app.

Let’s Get Down to Business!

Apps are businesses, and no business should ever force its customers into anything. Don’t make users to rate the app, review the app, or download other apps in order to utilize and experience your app. Withholding functionality, content, or general usability under these conditions is not going to get your app approved.

If functionality or downloadable content is contingent on payments to the app, the transaction must go through the Apple in-app purchasing system.

Definitely consider this guideline if you’re considering turning your website into a mobile app or vice versa, as it will affect your payment system.

Another payment consideration is that of subscriptions. Apps have the option to provide auto-renewing in-app purchase subscriptions, but there are some guidelines.

Subscriptions are permissible as long as the app provides ongoing value to the customer, such as episodic content, new game levels, access to large amounts of continually updated media content, software as a service, and cloud support.

Best practice of a subscription.

Assign subscriptions to a subscription group. Be sure to give your subscription tiers simple names, so users can clearly understand their options.

Businesses thrive on and depend on successful advertising. Advertisements are everywhere, including apps, but there are some rules to follow if you’re going to allow ads to make an appearance within your app.

For starters, ads must be age-appropriate, and should match your app’s given age rating.

Transparency is key: users should be able to see the information used to target them for advertisements without the user needing to leave the app. Targeted or behavioral advertising based on sensitive user data (such as health/medical data) is not allowed.

Likewise, it should be abundantly clear that an ad is an ad, and not part of the app. Do not trick or manipulate users into tapping ads. Easily accessible buttons to skip or close the advertisement must be readily available.

The Impact of Design

The user experience defines the success of your app, and therefore plays a vital role during the Apple review process.

Your app should work independently of another app, however if your app needs additional resources you’ll need to give that disclosure and prompt users. For instance, your app shouldn’t require the installation of a different app in order to achieve functionality.

If you used an app generation service or a commercialized template to create your app (this is different than UX design services provided by a UX design agency), the app must be submitted for approval by the platform’s creator.

Don’t spam the App Store with multiple Bundle IDs of the same app. In the event your app has different versions (e.g. a location-specific app or an entity-specific app, like for sports teams or universities), its recommended that you submit a single app but provide the variations via in-app purchasing.

While you’re reviewing your app before submission, be sure to pay extra attention to the extensions, specifically whether or not they meet the standards presented in Apple’s App Extension Programming Guide.

Figure courtesy of Apple.

App extensions allow users to complete tasks outside of the app’s native functionality, while still using the app. You often see this with apps like email, or a geolocation maps service, but it can refer to any sort of app that’s outside of the original one.

The Right To Privacy

Apple has strict legal guidelines. Compliance is not optional, especially concerning users data and privacy.

Obtaining user consent is key in the digital world, especially in regard to accessing personal information. Apple believes in designing for user privacy, and with the majority of apps involving sensitive data, it is critical that your app asks the right questions and provides transparency to users.

Always request permission to access to sensitive user or device data. Tell users how their data/information will be used. Prior to submitting, be sure to have an actionable and functioning link to your app’s privacy policy or statement. Consider putting that information within your app description before submission.

Health, fitness, and medical apps have some additional considerations to take into account. Apps cannot divulge private health information to third parties gathered via things like the Clinical Health Records API, HealthKit API, and Motion and Fitness, for the purposes of advertising, marketing or use-based data mining. Health user data can only be shared with permission and with the intent of improving health management and research.

If the functionality and experience of your app is contingent on using health data, be sure to ask for permission and disclose exactly how access to this information is beneficial to the user and necessary for the app.

In essence, don’t request data or access you don’t need. If the full breadth of the app can be achieved without some degree of data then don’t go trying to collect. Less is more!

Image provided by Mobile Privacy: How to Achieve Great App Privacy and User Experience.

Making Your App Even Better

You have a finished app. However, you’re apprehensive about submitting it. Maybe your beta test results identified development problems you’re not sure how to solve. Perhaps you noticed minor UI tweaks that need fixing. Or maybe it’s already time for a rebrand.

Contact Codal! We’re a mobile app design and development company with ample experience creating and transforming a variety of apps in industries such as retail/eCommerce, healthcare, and non-profit.

Lia Bischoff
AUTHOR

Lia

Lia is a Content Writing Intern at Codal. Fascinated by the intersection of design and technology, Lia writes about development, usability, web design, innovative technology, and industry best practices. During her free time, Lia can be found reading books (slowly), playing chess (poorly), and doing an ungodly amount of CrossFit (relatively well).

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