14 November 2016
Business of Apps: The app launch checklist
For many, creating apps is about getting the code right, creating a great design, and implementing the visuals to make it work. While these are critical elements to success, it only scratches the surface of a successful application launch.
In addition to building a compelling app, these steps should also be part of your plan for success.
Include features that get you “Featured”
Both Apple and Google will be more likely to feature your app if you include their game networking services (Game Center or Google Play Games Services). Also, including features like cloud storage and other advanced services will make your app appear more professional and well-rounded.
Include push notifications
Push notifications are a great way to increase app engagement as long as they’re not abused. See our previous post for tips on how to effectively manage a push notification campaign.
Implement app analytics
Use source control for your code
You may be working on version 2 of your app, but you need to fix a bug in version 1. Source control can be a lifesaver in such cases.
Research your competition
What features are your competitors including? What is broken in their app? How can you make your app better? Knowing what works and what doesn’t can set your app apart from the crowd.
Build a list of contacts
Discovering a list of blogs that cover the field your app is aiming for, as well as reaching out to other influential people, can provide a great launchpad for when your app is ready.
Research featured apps in your category
Try to understand why featured apps earn their ranking. What attributes do they have in common? See what you can include in your app to also get your app featured.
Make a press kit
There will be a time when you want to reach out to bloggers, review sites, or other places to promote your app. Make their lives easy by providing them with a high-resolution icon, some intriguing screen shots, and key talking points about your app.
You need to get your social media footprint established well before you launch your app. It takes time to build real followers for both Facebook and Twitter. You need to be engaged with your followers so you don’t look like just another advertiser. Post in-progress screenshots from time to time and, most importantly, give people a way to talk about your app (it can’t be shared if you don’t have an account!).
Publish a gameplay video (trailer)
Record a short video of your game in action and make sure it shows off the best and most interesting aspects. A simple YouTube video will also give people another way to visually share your game across social media and on blogs.
Understand how SEO and ASO impacts app discovery
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the technique that helps your content get discovered in searches. ASO (App Store Optimization) is a type of SEO for the app stores. Learn ASO best practices or hire a trusted professional to get your app to bubble to the top of searches.
Create a website
A simple one page website is a great place to eventually place store links, support links, and your press kit. Be sure to provide links to your social media accounts and collect emails so you can notify people when your app launches!
Join popular forums
Getting involved with forums like TouchArcade and establishing yourself in the community can help build enthusiasm and excitement for your app.
Focus-test your app
Find friends and potential customers and let them use the app. Watch how they interact with elements and look for places where they get stuck. Don’t explain the app to them, but just hand them the device and let them play. Do this multiple times as your app evolves.
Test launch in different geo-locations and localize
Before you launch your app worldwide, try test launching it in different countries to see how it performs. Collect feedback and fix anything that needs to be addressed for a broader global launch. Also, you can greatly increase your app’s reach if you support multiple languages.
Learn your store’s requirements
It’s good to know what the official submission guidelines are for the stores you plan to submit too. Review these and be prepared for what they are going to ask.
Beta-test your app
You know how your app is supposed to work, but many bugs can be found by people who aren’t as familiar with it. Using HockeyApp is a great way to cross-platform test your app.
Give your users a way to contact you in-app
Getting feedback is always a good thing. It can help prevent 1-star ratings in the store which can be death for an app.
Collect some user data
Build features into your app that let you collect contact information. Given that many users only open an app once or use it for less than three months, being able to reach out to them is a good way to keep your app in use.
Implement crash reporting
Build in a way to have “specials”
Award extra points to people who complete quests or achieve goals. These also make great updates for later.
Get reviews as fast as you can
Getting at least five 5-star reviews will raise your app’s profile. Get friends and family to rate your app and also leverage your beta testers. Ask in the Corona Indie Developer’s group on Facebook (and rate their apps too!).
Hit up public relations outlets
Put your press kit to use! Engage that list of influential people and tech bloggers in your area and let them know about your app. Give them promo codes to help them experience your app beyond screenshots.
Consider a paid ad campaign
Paying for long term acquisition of users may not be practical for you, but a limited campaign in the first few days can get your app the extra visibility it needs to rank high enough for people to find it on their own.
Announce in your forum threads
You have been building up excitement in places like Touch Arcade, now reward those who have been following you with a few promo codes.
Engage your early adopters
Reward them for sharing your app with in-app goodies or features that you can turn off after a few days.
While regular updates may not make a lot of sense for your app, you should plan to update fairly soon after app launch. Doing so shows users that you are making improvements to the app, even if they’re just minor cosmetic aspects. These updates are seen as a positive sign that you’re going to take care of the app over the long run.
Watch your Reviews
Poor reviews can lead to more poor reviews. Try to reach out to the reviewer and find out what the issues are and then quickly help resolve them. Watch for other reviews and comments on social media as well.
Use push notifications
You built in notifications, now take advantage of them (responsibly). Do not spam your users, but push out occasional reminders and let them know about special events/quests that you’ve set up.
These post-launch activities are ongoing. Overall, you should plan to continuously iterate on all the items in this checklist to help achieve app longevity.
Achieving success for your game is a multi-faceted “art form” which begins well before your game is launched to the marketplace, and it continues long afterward. The above tips should help you navigate the process and see actual results!
Do you have more tips that have worked well for you? Please share in the Corona Forums!