Hacking The App Store Guidelines
Sean McGowanSeptember 22nd, 20173 minute read
Sean is a technical researcher & writer at Codal, authoring blog posts on topics ranging from UX design to the Internet of Things. Working alongside developers, designers, and marketers, Sean helps support the writing team to ensure Codal produces engaging web content of the highest quality. When not writing about the latest innovations in app design, Sean can be found cooking, watching old movies, or complaining about the shortcomings of his favorite Philadelphia sports teams.
Back in 2011, celebrated journalist Walter Isaacson published what is still considered the most complete profile on Steve Jobs, an eponymous biography that offered a rare window into the mind of one of the most enigmatic men in the world.
The 656-page memoir divulged a number of surprising scoops, including the revelation that Steve Jobs was originally opposed to the concept of an App Store at all.
"When it first came out in early 2007, there were no apps you could buy from outside developers, and Jobs initially resisted allowing them," reported Isaacson. "He didn't want outsiders to create applications for the iPhone that could mess it up, infect it with viruses, or pollute its integrity."
Today, the App Store offers millions of apps and has provided a platform for developers to share & sell their mobile creations. Yet the spirit of Jobs initial reluctance, that hyper-protective guarding of the app marketplace, lives on in Apple’s notoriously stringent submission guidelines.
But as an app development agency, we’ve learned these regulations back-to-front, and are here to provide some quick-fix tips that can help your app get accepted, or even featured, on the first attempt.
Triple-Check Your Load Time
Everybody knows the five-second rule, but when it comes to App Store submissions, you should be concerned with the fifteen-second rule. That’s about the maximum load time your application can have before the Apple gods determine it’s too slow for the store.
“No problem,” you think. “My app loads much faster than fifteen in our local testing.” Congrats! But Apple won’t be reviewing that load time in a simulation. You should be validating with various hardware in a real-life scenario—earlier iPhones, older iPads, poor Wi-Fi connections—to confirm that load time agrees with your local testing.
Scrub The Listing
An often forgotten aspect of the App Store submission is a well-written, engaging listing. Tantamount to the quality of the app itself, your listing can make or break your application, and while authoring the perfect one would take another blog post and more, there are a few quick faux pas we can touch upon.
For starters, do not include the words ‘beta’, ‘preview’, or even anything less than ‘Version 1’ in the title or listing. Any of those words, especially in the title, will set off a red flag to the Apple gatekeepers.
Similarly, don’t mention that your app is supported by other platforms. Your App Store listing is not the time to advertise you can download on Android—save it for your app marketing site.
Localize, Localize, Localize
Early in the guidelines, Apple states that “The App Store is a great way to reach hundreds of millions of people around the world. If you build an app that you just want to show to family and friends, the App Store isn’t the best way to do that.”
Apple likes it when you localize—in fact, it’s a major factor in their decision of what apps to feature, so take advantage of it when submitting your platform. This can mean offering your application in more than one language, or at least using a simulator to test if the app operates in different locales.
Playing Nice With Apple
Seamless integration with Apple mechanics will always boost an application; in fact, some of them are strict requisites. For example, Apple requires that all in-app transactions are performed through their purchasing plugin.
But you can also leverage Apple’s love for Apple to score brownie points. If your app employs some of Apple’s newest features (say the iPhone X’s FaceID), or even if your platform’s design echoes the minimalist, streamlined aesthetic Apple loves to use.
Get Your App Out There
It’s not uncommon for apps to get rejected the first few times of submission—even Dropbox apps (or any apps that used Dropbox’s SDK) were famously denied entry into the hallowed shelves of the App Store.
And if you have a development emergency, such as a crucial security issue or a payment bug, you can submit a new release through Apple’s expedited app review team. Use it sparingly though—Apple will ban your app if you’re exercising the shortcut review too frivolously.
Of course, the only surefire way to get accepted is to have a quality app in the first place. If you’re unsure if your application is up to the modern standard, contact an app development agency to how you can get your app out there.