Ideas on how to improve Apples App Store

To say that the App Store is a mess is almost a cliché by now. I do not think that it is a complete mess—but it can still be hugely optimized in my opinion.

Some background: I have developed a bunch of iOS (and other) apps, mostly as a consultant. My last own project was a game called Zirkel and it was not a financial success.

But this is not a rant along the lines of “I am not rich yet—the app store is crap”. Yes, it is very easy to be annoyed by the app store as a developer. But I am much more a user there really. So I know both perspectives.

Three things that I want as a user

  • A good mix of things that stand out and apps that I might be interested in (not the ones that Apple thinks everyone should be interested in).
  • Less crap. That means no apps that are of very low quality, scams or rip-offs.
  • Better navigation and UI in the store apps. Right now it feels almost as primitive as wandering supermarket aisles.
I wonder how many people seriously browse the “Top grossing” charts to find an app. (screen capture in German because apparently even when your device is set to English the store app localization is based on the current market)

Here are my two (not so new!) main ideas.

Recommendations

I think this is by far the most powerful tool.

The app store looks the same to everyone (in their market territory). But I do not care about Clash Royale. I have never downloaded any of those mainstream mobile games and Apple knows that. It should not be the first thing I see. Apple has access to my search and purchase history. Why on earth do they not use this for personal recommendations? Also they could use other sources: Game Center friends, twitter followees etc. They actually already tried something like this but as it turns out it’s not very helpful to know the favorite apps of people who are geographically near you. (Most people near me right now seem to like “ebay” and “google maps”, wow!)

Higher barrier of entry

Everyone today has the tools to make a crappy app, put some ads in it and upload it to the store. When I look at Apples page on quality criteria and rejections, I wonder if they are enforced much nowadays. The quality bar seems to be very low. They should change this; they showed in the past that they can take the heat. But maybe this time simply be more transparent about the reasons.


And a few things that I would like as a developer

  • It should be easy for people who are interested in my kind/genre of app to quickly find it (without digging several levels deep, let alone typing in a search bar).
  • A transparent process to apply for marketing help etc. instead of this opaque and obscure process where 99 percent of devs mail to “appmarketingprettyplease@apple.com” without ever knowing if an actual human being even read your inquiry.
  • Enable developers and the users to have a real conversation. The current feedback and review system is too shallow and developers have no chance at all to reply to any feedback from customers. It could be at least a semi-public dialog. This engages users and helps developers to build relationships and a reputation for customer service.

One more thing

OK, this is controversial:

Integrate the app store in the home screen.

It is a delicate matter to be intrusive in the user space. The complaints about the non-removable iOS apps (watch, news stand…) and the “Crap of Innocence” disaster have shown that. But it might be doable in a responsible way which actually benefits the user. The “opt out” functionality must be easily discoverable of course. Also, I think it would be best to distill this to a subset of the app store which consists, for example, only of the items that come from the recommendation system I have described above.

This could live on the last page of your home screen after all of the stuff you own and must identify itself very clearly as a shop front.


So, those are my ideas. What do you think, do you have anything to add? Let me know!


I am Marc-André Weibezahn, independent designer and developer from Germany. Find more about me on my website weibezahn.com