iOS

Drive more iOS App downloads with better icons

Give your iOS app the very best chance for success by making your icon, screenshot, and video as amazing as the app itself.
There are over 700,000 apps in the iTunes App Store which makes it difficult for people to find and download your app. The release of iOS 6 has made the problem worse by changing how search results are displayed in the App Store. The previous store gave you a quick scrolling list with multiple apps on a single screen. The new store replaced it with full screen cards (Figure A) that include a screenshot of the app. Although it's nice to see the screenshot, it's time consuming to flick through each search result one by one. And for the app developer this means two things:

  1. You hope your app is at the top of the search results because most people won't dig too deep.
  2. Your app icon and primary screenshot matters more than ever.

Figure A

iTunes 11 was just released and it also features a completely redesigned store. Search results are displayed with heavy emphasis on the app icon. Figure B shows what searching the new iTunes looks like.

Figure B

Icon

It is really important to make sure your icon stands out when compared to others in your category. In the above screenshot, which icon pops the most for you? Hopefully you picked mine. I spent a lot of time on the icon to make it stand out from the rest of the pack.

I'm not a graphic artist, but I spent the last few years learning Adobe Photoshop and illustrator. Most of the elements I used for the icon, I took directly from the game assets. That's why I'd recommend waiting until the app is almost finished before creating the icon. It took me three days, a few pots of coffee, and 45 different versions until I finally created something that looked great in both iTunes and on the device.

That's an important thing to remember as most of the icons I made I thought were winners until I loaded it up on the device's smaller screen. The progression of my icon goes from left to right in the image shown in Figure C.

Figure C

The first icon was really just an ugly screenshot of an early version of the app. It wasn't unique and looked similar to other Tic Tac Toe apps. I cleaned it up with brighter graphics but found that I didn't like the way it looked when viewed on the device. Not only does the icon get smaller but it also adds rounded corners on the icon which can really alter the look you're going for.

I created multiple versions using tricks such as scaling, rotating, putting the board in 3D, and simplification by just focusing on the X player. I had two full screens of icons on my iPhone and would ask friends to pick their favorites. I ultimately combined all the things my friends and I liked from each version into a single icon. (Figure D) It was both 2D and 3D. It focused on the X player. It looks like player X is about to body slam player O. This isn't Tic Tac Toe, it's a battle.

Figure D

Video

Although iTunes doesn't allow videos inside the app listing like the Google Play Store and Amazon Appstore, you can still host it on your website. It's also good to have another way for someone to find your app if they are searching YouTube.

I used screen capture software on my Mac to record the iOS Simulator and then edited it with Final Cut Pro X. It isn't the typical long boring shot of the iOS simulator which most app developers publish. This video is fast paced, animated, and highlights key features with text, voice over, and humor. All the ingredients you should try to include in your app video.

Bottom line

Developers will spend the most time coding apps so they are great. But if you don't get people to download and run the app they'll never see how great it really is. Don't let a bad icon or bad screenshot turn away potential installs. Give your app the very best chance for success by spending the extra time to make sure your icon, screenshot, and video are as amazing as the app itself.

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About

Todd Moore is an app developer, technology host, and published author. His most popular application, White Noise, has been downloaded by millions of sleep-deprived customers. Although his app has received critical acclaim in the press, the biggest co...

1 comments
Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

How much time did you spend on creating an icon for your app? In retrospect, should you have spent more time on it?

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