Under the Radar

Under the Radar 77: iTunes Connect, Part II


  welcome to under the radar a show about

  independent iOS app development I'm

  Marco Arment and I'm David Smith under

  the radar is never longer than 30

  minutes so let's get started so today

  we're going to continue from what we did

  last week where we were talking a bit

  about iTunes Connect and we thought it

  would be kind of good to dive into the

  specifics about setting up a app in

  iTunes Connect and I think specifically

  like not the actual like the practical

  part of it setting it up in iTunes

  Connect and like where the boxes are and

  what to set up but there's a lot of

  metadata that you have to set up when

  you're creating a new app that I think

  is something that is often hard it's

  like a I always kind of don't I kind of

  put it off doing it because I enjoy the

  creation of the app part more than I do

  like writing the app store description

  or setting the keywords or creating

  screenshots because that's often a

  nightmare but it's an important part

  like the reality is all of the work we

  do in creating the app is going to be

  completely wasted if we have a bad

  presence in the app store and the way

  that we control our presence in the app

  store is by setting this stuff up and so

  it seemed like maybe a worthwhile

  episode to kind of go through all the

  fields that iTunes Connect gives us to

  set up and then you can kind of talk

  about our experiences in creating in how

  we set the stuff up the considerations

  we have and kind of go from there sure

  yeah absolutely

  I love iTunes Connect yeah and so I

  guess the first place maybe we'll start

  with a prettiest thing is the icon or

  now actually the icons plural for our

  apps when we set them up because I

  believe if you did like we're an app on

  every platform possible you would have

  to create I think it's four icons you'd

  have the idea the iPhone iPad icon and

  then you'd have the watch icon the high

  message icon and I think Apple TV would

  have a different app icon too and so you

  have to create you know an icon that

  works well for all of those they have to

  all of slightly different constraints

  and different sizes and different rules

  like Apple watch icons for example

  cannot have dark backgrounds it's one of

  the rules

  Apple watch icons also I didn't even

  know about that I've been rejected for

  it two or three times so I've learned

  the hard way to not do that because

  basically because the honeycomb is

  screen on an Apple watch has a black

  background that is always black they

  don't want you to have a a pike on that

  kind of blends into that and so you

  can't have if you know if your icon was

  a you know a white glyph on a black

  background they were you could get

  rejected and so I've had to go in and it

  like for activity plus plus for example

  which is on the iPhone version is

  essentially a black icon with a you know

  colourful glyph on it on the Apple watch

  version it has a dark grey background

  with the same glyph on it and just you

  know but something to keep in mind that

  when you're creating an icon there's

  lots of these sort of little constraints

  and details that you may have to think

  through that it isn't just the you know

  it isn't just the 120 pixel version that

  you're going to show on the iPhone

  screen like there's lots of other places

  that it may show up and including the

  iTunes Connect version like the big

  version of it that you have to submit

  that's you know ten hundred and twenty

  eight hundred and twenty ten ten 1024 by

  1024 I think I think so yeah

  and like you know so you have to have an

  icon that scales well between all those

  different sizes yeah that's it this is

  one of those one of those areas where

  like I think designers who were picky

  about such things used to take great

  care to custom scale every single little

  icon and make sure that the pixels were

  lined up properly in the lestrade ur and

  everything else and custom tweak all the

  different sizes and I think now more and

  more people are just just like having a

  batch script that just runs image magic

  and just takes the big one and resized

  it down to every size you need in a big

  batch automatically because there's so

  many now that doing anything custom is

  kind of ridiculous yeah and I think it's

  it's in reality is there's so many

  different it's like the nature of the

  displays we have a neck surgery is

  probably a good segue into your screen

  shots because screen shots used to be

  something that I like I would go through

  the process of setting up different

  screen shots for every single device and

  then if you localized like you can end

  up you know there are times that I've


  you know it's like hundreds of

  screenshots that I have to get set up in

  iTunes Connect but last year I think it

  was they changed the Meccan mechanism

  and you can now specify you know a if

  you just submit the plus-sized iPhone

  screenshot for example you can then say

  use this for all the other smaller sizes

  which is something that I've definitely

  taken advantage of in a lot of cases

  because you know it get the impression

  that these icons that they're never

  these screenshots they're never

  displayed like at their native

  resolution they're always shrunk down

  there always smooshed and so being too

  precious about them kind of like we're

  saying with icons where you know there's

  some maybe some value if you can if you

  have control over how that icon is going

  to be displayed that being Precious

  about making sure it's lined up

  perfectly and exactly the right size

  maybe is useful but I think the more

  pragmatic solution for a lot of this

  stuff is you know Apple has changes all

  the time to say this you know the shape

  and the size that a screenshot is shown

  in I mean even just the same screenshot

  will probably be shown at least three

  different sizes to a user if they when

  they're in the search area you know the

  first two screenshots show up there and

  they're really small and you tap on it

  and then they get bigger and if you tap

  on them again they'll go essentially

  fullscreen and so there's no way that

  you're going to have sort of pixel

  perfect artwork there and so in the end

  I've just kind of simplified and said

  you know what I'm just going to use the

  the ability to you know just give one

  set of screenshots and then make my

  screenshots yeah it's like spend more

  time making my screenshots good rather

  than spending that time just creating

  dozens and dozens of screenshots for and

  not really a huge payoff oh yeah yeah

  I've found similar benefits of like like

  I recently stopped doing separate screen

  shots for the 4x phones the iPhone se 5s

  because you know once they added the

  ability for me to to have the 4.7 screen

  shots apply to that I said that's fine

  because if I look at my analytics I can

  see like which screen sizes are peep

  actually really using in large numbers

  and yeah it doesn't the numbers aren't

  that great for some of the edge cases

  similarly with iPad because you can't I

  forget you can't have just nine point

  seven and have it show that's what to

  the twelve point nine really will it

  ever scale up or does it only scale down

  it only ever scales down so you you have

  to you have to specify the twelve inch

  one at least yeah that's unfortunate

  I wish they would change the head but uh

  but I kind of understand why they don't

  because it's easier for an app to to

  scale down than up you know with you

  know user expectation so anyway but yeah

  like generally I found that like you

  could now specify so much in you know in

  in screenshots and everything else

  descriptions localizations you can

  specify so much that it in the early

  days the the the standard wisdom was

  well of course why wouldn't you just do

  it all why wouldn't you give as much

  information as many screen chives as

  many assets as you possibly can but

  these days there are just so many that

  it's it's actually fairly prohibitive to

  require that I also don't update them

  unless the underlying interface changes

  noticeably like if I change you know a

  couple of pixels here there I want to

  get the screenshots because it isn't

  worth the time if I you know it has to

  change a lot for me to actually get the

  screenshots like it because it has to

  basically be a change that people would

  actually notice the difference between

  the screenshots in the app and similarly

  like you know I yeah there's all sorts

  of things that you need to maybe do to

  the screenshots cleaning them up if you

  like do things like fishing the status

  bar to make it you know it's a nice even

  you know full battery no carrier you

  know stuff like that basically what you

  get when you when you toggle the when

  you toggle it into QuickTime capture

  mode do people know that you can do that

  like this is a widely known thing I

  don't know it's probably specifying here

  yeah so so basically this is a thing

  when Apple added the ability to do app

  preview videos which will probably also

  discuss they they added to QuickTime on

  the Mac QuickTime Player on the Mac the

  ability to use the iPhone as a screen

  capture device and record screencast

  movies onto the Mac of the iPhone screen

  and so this is very useful for recording

  one of the side effects of this is

  whenever the iPhone is being captured by

  QuickTime the iPhone goes into a special

  mode where its status bar gets replaced

  with this perfect version that's the

  display the time is 942 now 41 I find 41

  yeah 9:41 a.m. and displays its full

  battery full reception no ugly carrier

  name so it basically makes me perfect

  pretty status bar and as long as the as

  long as the phone is connected to

  QuickTime in this way it stays that way

  so what I usually do if I can't easily

  like you know fake them with static

  status bars that I've generated

  elsewhere is I will take all of my

  screenshots with the phone in this mode

  with it connected to QuickTime so I have

  perfect status bars on all of them it's

  a neat little hack that you know you can

  do I wish it was easier to do this there

  are there are some hacks there's

  something called status bar magic that

  that at one time at least would change

  the iOS simulator into this mode which

  made it even easier but I believe that

  that doesn't work anymore or

  occasionally doesn't work with new

  versions or whatever else but that's a

  nice little way to get nice clean

  screenshot satis bars yeah and I think

  it's probably worth of us are just

  talking briefly about what makes a good

  screenshot yeah cuz I feel like there's

  there's like these this this wide

  spectrum of what you can do in a

  screenshot like on the one extreme you

  have the screenshots that are like like

  illustrations or whatever where you have

  like a 3d iPhone in space that's like I

  said a lot of fun recently now where

  they have an iPhone that's like tilted

  to the side that spans two screenshots

  so it's like taking advantage of the

  fact that the first two screenshots are

  shown next to each other in the search

  area and so they'll like take an iPhone

  and like turn it to the side and make it

  sort of almost a landscape you know

  thing across diagonally you can take

  that's the one extreme where you have

  that or you have lots of words in your

  you know in your screenshots will be

  like you know awesome amazing super

  terrific app written in the screenshot

  or on the other extreme you have the

  screenshots that are just screenshots of

  the app I suppose like things that are

  less trying to explicitly tell you a

  story and more just show you what the

  app is like I've tried both I think in

  general I've tended towards doing the

  just screen shots of the app approach I

  find that that I think is I'm better

  able to execute it a in terms of I'm not

  a great designer like coming up with

  pretty clever things is not really my

  you know my forte and I think I try and

  typically in my screenshots I tell it's

  probably like tell a story in the sense

  of having them be consistent with each

  other you know so I try not to have

  showed the app like you know it depends

  on the app but you know if I'm saying

  sleepless Plus if I have a detailed view

  of a night you know that same night will

  also appear in the first screenshot

  where it was like the the roll up view

  and things like that just so that

  there's some consistency across it that

  you could kind of see how someone would

  you be using the app you know but mostly

  I think the purpose of these screenshots

  is just to give someone a sense of what

  the app is like and I think you in

  generally do better doing it that way

  then trying to be too cutesy with it but

  maybe I'm just not artistic enough to

  make a really good cutesy approach yeah

  I feel like I've never actually tried

  the whole like abstract version of

  screenshots where you remove where it is

  it's no longer actually a screenshot of

  the app and you you add text around it

  and you span it across multiple frames

  I've I've never actually done this and

  the main reason why similar to your

  reasons is that a I don't think I would

  be very good at it and be it feels like

  that shouldn't be allowed it's it's one

  of those things kind of like like adding

  keywords after your app title which I

  didn't do but now I do

  in part because when I created overcast

  the the strict name overcast was already

  taken so I had to put something else

  after it but I also not do it because I

  think it benefits me in search we're now

  you know the Anil IMAP officially is

  overcast : podcasts player similarly I

  think I think doing these these like

  fancier non actually screenshot


  I think it it shouldn't be allowed I

  honestly think it it that should be a

  rule in the AppStore those should not be

  allowed but it's so widespread I mean

  almost every app with any budget at all

  does that now it is it is almost

  ridiculous how universal that is and how

  incredibly perverted the concept of

  screenshots have become like it there it

  is nothing like actual screenshots for

  most apps it there now they might as

  well just say marketing image one

  through five like that's because that's

  really what they are now there's there

  is no relevance to screenshots at all

  ultimately I suspect that people like us

  will probably have to do that at some

  point maybe now maybe in the future just

  because it probably does work better to

  get because it does make your app look

  fancier because you're able to show big

  marketing text and and all these like

  fancy things that that a standard screen

  child would not show and again like I

  wish it wasn't allowed but the fact is

  it is allowed and everyone's doing it

  and we might be at a disadvantage by not

  doing it yeah and of course the funny

  thing is it I believe it did use to not

  be allowed you know like the advantage

  of having been in the App Store since it

  began I'm pretty sure it used to be a

  strict rule that you couldn't do that

  and then people started you know getting

  a little bit more clever with it where

  it used to be like some every now and

  then you would have an app where it was

  you wouldn't have any words but you

  would put the a screenshot on an iPhone

  so you just have a little border on the

  outside and then they kind of that

  border got smaller and then you'd pop

  start putting separating words and then

  I remember I think when I knew that like

  whatever the war was over and it was now

  gonna be allowed was when the Apple

  Store app like the official Apple Apple

  Store app for iPad was released and it's

  screenshots included what you know like

  a shrunk down version running on an iPad

  with we no black text on a white

  background you know on a white

  background is there screenshot and it's

  like all right well if Apple is doing it

  in their own apps now I guess that war

  is done and now it is allowed but yeah

  it's it's a tricky thing because I feel

  like I don't like it too much I mean I

  can see why people use it but

  if one thing anytime you put text in a

  screenshot like that and it gets resized

  so many different ways like text doesn't

  resize very cleanly and nicely and I

  think you can always look it off and

  look a bit tricky you know look not as

  nice as you might want it to be and I

  think also it makes it less localized

  murder makes localization much more

  complicated because suddenly you know

  there's a lot of apps the core of the

  app doesn't need localization you know

  it's like if I have a in an app that

  displays your step count like your step

  count is your step count and I mean

  there's certainly some countries where

  you would display you know there's

  different small little texts that are

  different but you can get a better sense

  of the amp you know but if I have been

  big letters above you know step count

  like that only really works if you're

  looking at the App Store in English and

  so doing something more specific is a

  little bit problematic in that regard as

  well yeah and it's also interesting that

  that the the watch and app preview

  videos explicitly prohibit anything

  beyond screen shot like of the actual

  app running dim but like I know in

  previous videos it seemed like that was

  starts and maybe not get enforced as

  strictly recently and that's probably

  over - though it's important to remember

  that with watch screenshots you want to

  set the time to 1009 oh yeah that is the

  official I don't know these things are

  always kind of funny that they become

  these these little traditions that you

  know iPhone screenshots should be set at

  9:41 watch screenshots should be set at

  ten or nine well that's that's not

  because of the unveiling time but that's

  a watch thing long story I mean because

  it makes the watch look happy right yeah

  pretty much

  and it shows the logo and it frames it

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  for supporting this show so the next

  kind of big area of setting up an app in

  19 Connect is probably writing the

  description which is an area that I feel

  like I have very mixed feelings about

  because it's displayed very prominently

  you know these the first two lines of it

  or the first you know couple sentences

  interpret displayed very prominently in

  the app store but I know for myself that

  I never basically read them

  for any app that I've ever downloaded

  like I mostly just look at screenshots

  and based my decisions of if I want to

  download the app from that and so I try

  kind of go back and forth when I'm

  writing these or how important they are

  how you know how much information I want

  to put in there do I want to do it as

  kind of like a wall of text or should I

  do a bulleted list I think there's

  definitely this this weird tension there

  because it is one of the few

  opportunities this this this opportunity

  to reach out to our customers and you

  know talk to them directly but I think

  in recent years but I had tended towards

  is you know the app store description is

  as short as I can write it like I tend

  to write one paragraph like maybe four

  or five sentences at most that describes

  the app and its core functionality and

  then below that I tend to do a bulleted

  list of kind of like the checklist

  features that someone might be wondering

  about you know it's like does this

  integrate with this does this use this

  that kind of thing and then I just like

  that is my description so that the

  top-level thing and especially that

  first sentence has to be as good as I

  can make it because for most users

  that's all they'll ever see and so I

  want to make like describe the app in

  it's like the elevator pitch for the app

  it's like in that first you know maybe

  120 characters or so like you really

  need to be able to dial in exactly what

  the app does and why someone might want

  it anything beyond that first couple of

  sentences I find not to have much effect

  at all and this is yet another field of

  the app store just like screenshot so

  we're like you know abuse was pretty

  rampant from day one and so it stopped

  very quickly it's not being used for any

  kind of search relevance as far as we

  can tell and it's you know most a

  prescriptions are filled with like you

  know star star star on sale now star

  star star or a list of apps that it's

  similar to or a list of like you know

  websites that might have said something

  about it once 10 years ago or something

  like they're fairly low value as a

  reader and I find that as far as we can

  kind of guess or figure it doesn't seem

  like people read them very closely this

  is one area though where like and this

  applies to a lot of these metadata

  things that if you have a free app

  you're at a serious advantage because if

  you have a paid app I feel like people

  people probably give these things more

  scrutiny description and screenshots

  everything else whereas if you have a

  free app it's so easy to just tap that

  get button and just try it for yourself

  looks is way better than trying to spend

  15 minutes waffling over you know four

  different app descriptions figuring out

  which ones like if it's free you can

  just get it and see and see for yourself

  whether it's for you or not and so I

  think for free apps these things matter

  a lot less but for you know for paid

  apps it's obviously probably a different

  story because the buyer behavior is

  different but this is kind of yet

  another area where if you have a free

  app you do have some advantages that

  like you can put pretty much anything or

  nothing in the screenshot in description

  and as long as it's like slightly

  relevant to get people downloading it

  yeah and I think it's nicer probably

  there's some weird things that you may

  also have to include in your description

  yeah like I know for myself I do a lot a

  bunch of apps that integrate with

  healthkit and I need to include in the

  app store description a little side

  little sentence that says you know this

  app integrates with the health database

  on your iPhone you know you'll be given

  the option to grant or deny access to

  this or something like that like I and

  if I don't if I don't have that in my

  app store description my app will be

  rejected and so it's something to keep

  in mind that image varies based on the

  category but like for example that's

  something that you may need to do and so

  in a weird way this is the place where

  you put like the small print you know

  this is the I feel like the legal

  disclaimers and things like you may need

  to also just put those at the bottom of

  your description field to cover yourself

  there as well yeah same thing with Auto

  renewal subscriptions also have one of

  those required blurbs and this really

  isn't documented anywhere so you just

  have to basically submit an app without

  knowing that get rejected have the

  rejection tell you what the description

  needs to include and then resubmit that

  a lot of people have to go through that

  thank you very special thanks to Curtis

  Herbert of Coca love Fame for saving me

  that rejection loop on overcast

  subscription last fall he reminded me of

  it like right before I submit it it was

  it it was right after I submitted before

  it was reviewed so I could still go and

  edit description yeah I mean if the

  reality is though yeah I don't worry

  about descriptions as much

  used to I worry I may be over the first

  two or three sentences and then beyond

  that I'm just trying to be plain and

  simple and like straight forward and I

  feel like that accomplishes most of what

  a description is you know trying to do

  so I think the other areas that are you

  go through you set the ratings for the

  app I think that's fairly

  straightforward like you just kind of

  think about your app and like does it

  include this does it include that and

  you just kind of check the box and you

  know it's the nice thing about that

  section is that as you're just you know

  saying does it do this does it do that

  you'll the update the rating that your

  app would get as a result will update in

  real time and so you can get a sense of

  you know like why is my app 13 plus or

  whatever then you can work out we know

  which of those criteria is doing that

  and then you know decide I've obviously

  if for whatever reason that would be

  problematic for your application then

  you can make the appropriate changes and

  the keywords for it I think is the next

  area that is basically you're just

  trying this is important like dark magic

  about this where people go into great

  did you know Drake depths have tried to

  work out what the optimum keywords are

  for an app and I used to go down that

  road a bit more I mean I try and be

  thoughtful about it now and I always

  make sure that I fill out my keywords

  field because in theory these are the

  you know these are the keywords that are

  used in search to determine if your app

  is going to show up or not but I mean

  the weird thing about it is unless your

  app is showing up very highly for one of

  these terms it doesn't really matter if

  you show up on the search you know so if

  you include a term that you're gonna you

  know be the hundredth search result for

  it's as though you didn't include that

  keyword in some ways as well

  so mostly this is just trying to sort of

  cover your bases B and just put things

  in there that will help the app I guess

  you know whatever the app store search

  engine understand your app it better you

  know give it a lot of words and then

  hopefully you know sometimes it's

  probably useful like if your app does

  you know it has a petunia it has a has a

  couple of you know branches a couple of

  different genres of app or does a couple

  of different things then like maybe I


  to be crazy thoughtful and like dive

  into it but beyond just that basic stuff

  I kind of just sit down think for 10

  minutes and then move on yeah and you

  know and there are services and stuff

  that will help you allegedly optimize

  keyboards and stuff like that and

  honestly I've never found their high

  prices worth the risk of even trying

  them because it's it seems like it's

  very much like SEO tactics of like this

  might work but you also are probably

  just getting ripped off yeah and one

  thing I will say that's probably worth

  thinking about is using the new search

  ads interface in that we got with the

  search ads stuff you can there you can

  specify one of the things you can see is

  what keywords are showing up our shark

  converting well against your app and

  these can be ones that Apple is

  generating not necessarily you're

  generating yourself and so one thing I

  have done subsequently this when I'll

  run in a search campaign for an app and

  they'll go in and make sure that there

  aren't any keywords that are doing well

  in the search ad thing that are for

  whatever reason not showing up I didn't

  include in my keywords and so it's just

  a good little like check to be like huh

  is there something here that I need to

  you know that I should include in my

  keywords or alternatively you can see

  sometimes there's keywords that seem

  like they would be good keywords for

  your app but when I run a search

  campaign against them they perform

  really poorly and so it's probably like

  actually maybe I don't want to show up

  in that area like there's a better

  keyword that I can you know that could I

  could put it in place of that one so

  that's another little tool that we have

  is we're trying to hone those in yeah

  and the last area is probably the app

  review notes area which in some ways is

  some that you may not think you know I

  never really need to use but I will say

  it's always a good idea to try and think

  of it is there anything that you want to

  communicate to the app reviewer about

  your app and if so put it in that field

  anything you've been rejected for in the

  past that have seen that you've since

  fixed like I have a whole list of these

  for all my different apps that I'll you

  know like things that they they you know

  they I was rejected for and I have since

  fixed I will indicate that and write

  that out in the app review notes and

  just say hey you know I'd like this was

  in the year there was one there used to

  be a problem with this

  it was innocence been resolved because

  sometimes the a per viewer will miss

  something and it just saves a bunch of

  time to just be very upfront and

  explicit and say like you used to

  you know there used to not have a

  restorer purchases button I do now

  it works it's great and it just has

  saved me I think time over is pricey

  saving our viewers time in my time just

  be clear about these things so you know

  take advantage of that field if it's

  something that you can think about and

  with that route of time this week thanks

  listening everybody and we'll talk to

  you next week bye