Experience and practical tips for launching an iOS application

Hello everyone,

In this article I will talk about the features of creating a keyboard application for iOS8 and its starting promotion in the App Store. The article describes actions that can be done by one person without extra skills in marketing applications to promote their application at the start. What do I try to talk more about practice, specific examples and my own experience.

Underwater rocks

The most important features to consider when developing a keyboard application:

- Apple insists in the rules that all keyboard applications should have a digital layout and a layout with punctuation marks. This is written in the guides, but we naturally began to read them after sending the application for review. In our case, from the first versions, a layout with basic punctuation marks was added to fill in a row with the delete button. But we did not plan to add numbers. When using keyboard shortcuts, they are of no use. But the people who are installing the applications are fairly straightforward: if it is written in the rules, you have to do it. None of our explanations about user experience helped. I had to quickly refine this part, the benefit was quickly found.

- The big difficulty for us was Full Access (“full access”), which must be obtained from users in the iOS settings for our functionality to work. The fact is that at the moment this is the only way in iOS8 to transfer custom user data from the application to the extension itself, which opens in the keyboard. Without opening full access, you can access only the previously pre-installed static functionality of the custom keyboard. We have the whole application built on the loading of custom data.

Apple also scares users with a huge warning that with full access to developers all the data entered from the keyboard becomes available. Technically, this is of course true, but when checking the application, their own team carefully checks this moment in all applications and does not miss any intruders. Apparently, with this warning, Apple reinsures itself and transfers responsibility to users and developers. But for us, as developers, this implementation creates a lot of problems with user trust. We hope that in the next iOS updates the approach will change.

Another point - Apple also insists that in any keyboard application, even in the absence of Full Access, some kind of functionality was provided. Having received such an answer to our first version, we were very upset. What functionality can there be if we cannot load user data into keys? Still, a solution was found by posting dummies with examples of texts. This option was arranged by the review team.

- We also had a serious problem. Without Full Access, the keyboard turned on with a very serious delay - about 3 seconds. And she also worked very slowly. We thought, tried the options, looked at other applications - everything works fine for everyone. We decided that the problem is that the build is put directly into the phone, and that it will be corrected when downloading from the App Store. Sent for review. The answer came that the keyboard is too slow and will not be missed in this form.
I had to re-assemble the functionality in pieces, checking at which step the problem with the download speed begins. They found out empirically - it starts to slow down when a sound is added. Apparently, in extension without full access there is a limit on the number of threads. This is a clear bug, it will most likely be fixed in the next updates.

About review

Do not be afraid to challenge the Review Team response if you have checked all published rules and are confident that you are right. People who test applications are people too, and they can be wrong too. We were able to prove to Apple that our application was rejected incorrectly and achieve a review of the solution.

Now about marketing and promotion

The marketing strategy was built from the main introductory: do not invest extra money in promotion.

Without money, an application can take off in one case - if it is locked in the App Store. Usually everyone hopes for a list of Best New Apps. We also had a list of Keyboards in the Utilities category.

In fact, all the promotion was aimed at getting into one of these lists with free methods. Looking ahead, I’ll say that we didn’t succeed, and I’ll tell you what, in my opinion, could be done better.

Before release. Promotional website

The only thing that was done to advance before the release was a simple promotional site. The site is made by myself. The arsenal only basic skills in graphic editors. Layout and any basics of programming I do not know. I used Squarespace, I highly recommend it, an excellent and convenient tool. Yes, you need to figure it out a bit, but the result is 100% satisfied.

The cost of a simple site is $ 10 per month. The coolest thing is easy to make edits and changes. It took 20-30 minutes to make all the changes to the site after the release (add the App Store button, video, several additional links). Plus, the site is immediately adapted for different devices.

To promote, I submitted a website in the one-page gallery at www.onepagelove.com and www.launchsoon.com. From the first traffic there is much more - about 3000 calls in 1.5-2 months before release. On such a Coming Soon website, the most important thing is the subscription form to inform about the launch. We have collected about 100 subscriptions. Not a lot, but then it became clear that someone would need the application. Traffic from there continues to come so far, perhaps even converting into purchases.

There is also betalist.com , but they are now fat and asking for $ 100 for placing your site in the gallery. And this is before the release of the application. You can cheat a little and pay for the placement a week before the release and convert this traffic to stocks. Although I'm not sure that Betalist will not delete your site if it ceases to be a Coming Soon landing page.

Before release. Press

Before the release, you need to compile a media list. These are the contacts of journalists / publications to which you will send news about the release of the application and press releases. In our case, we went through all the great sites about technologies and startups and wrote out all the journalists who wrote about custom keyboards, iOS8, or about new cool applications.

Sometimes it’s hard to find mail, many journalists prefer Twitter for communication. Enter the names of journalists, a Twitter account, or a personal blog on Google, and you'll find it pretty easy.

To catch your attention, send a short greeting and a link to the video. According to experience, this is the best format to attract attention and talk about the product.

Before release. Press kit

To communicate with the press you will need a press kit. There is nothing complicated in its preparation. Create a folder on Dropbox with the text of the press release, screenshots, logo / application icon in good quality and a couple of photos that journalists can quickly use for articles.

Before release. Video

For the promotion of the application, and in principle for any service, video plays a very important role. Journalists love videos, the audience loves videos, everyone loves videos.

You can not spend a lot of money and make a simple screencast of your interface directly from your phone. If you had to invent something for this before, now everything has become very simple. You will need iOS8 on your phone and Yosemite on your computer. With such a bundle in the standard Quick Time there is a multiplicity to record video from the phone screen. Choose New Movie Recording, in the source choose your iPhone.

In voice acting, the most important thing is good English. We ordered voice acting on VoiceBunny. It costs $ 70, no cheaper options were found.

Before release. Price selection

If possible, do freemium. We decided to first try the paid model because of a faster and easier implementation. If you don’t plan to overestimate the price, bet $ 1.99. This will make it possible to conduct promotions and reduce the price to $ 0.99.

Release Day Choice and Plan

Choosing the day of the week for a release is still a headache. If you also aim at featured list, it is actually very important. In fact, you will have only 3 days before the chetterga so that the editors of the App Store notice your application. All your actions should be aimed at achieving this goal.

How did we plan to launch?

Monday - The app appears on the App Store. Friends and acquaintances download it, put fives.

On Tuesday - press releases appear. The application is downloaded by more people, it begins to flicker on twitter and discussions.

Wednesday is the last chance. Booster sites where there were no reviews. Considers options for paid placements.

Thursday - Day X, wait.

Release Reality

The press naturally writes when it is convenient for her, and not for you. Plus, most of the press just does not write about the application and ignores your letters. This, in principle, is understandable, but we expected a little more attention.

Of course, if everything is done correctly, you should contact the press in advance and agree on the date of publication. But if you are a group of freelancers, knock them across the ocean and your application is quite simple, although high-quality and convenient, they are unlikely to pay much attention to you.

We managed to get some good reviews in the Dutch, German, Russian and Ukrainian press. Later, Polish and French bloggers wrote about the application. The Germans liked the application the most, I suspect that utilities and software are highly regarded by their productivity.

Of the large American sites, it was possible to attract the attention of several journalists, but the matter has not yet reached the article. One turned out to be too much a fan of Android and was not completely imbued with our interface. The second application was liked, but it seemed not so innovative as to deserve publication.

Another caveat - top sites in Runet do reviews only for money. Not our option.

Release Product hunt

Product Hunt is an excellent site for promoting any products that are somehow related to technology and the Internet. If your product will appeal to the audience of the site, you can attract the attention of a huge number of geeks and the press. Having submitted the application on Tuesday, I was hoping for publication the next day (Wednesday). According to the plan, this was supposed to be a fat point in the promotion and help to pay attention to the app app editors App Store.
But as always, everything went a bit wrong. Our application appeared on the site on Thursday. In principle, we received attention - it brought about 1000 visitors to the site and a good number of downloads. But the main goal could not be served.

What happened

In the first week, the application was downloaded about 500 times.

Videos watched about 5000 times. This is probably our most important indicator, as they tried to include videos in all reviews and posts.

We received about 20 reviews and many reposts. User reviews are very positive, people liked our approach and implementation.

Further we plan to experiment with the freemium model and look for new promotion channels.

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