Over the weekend, Apple quietly made a major design update to the App Store. On the surface, these changes seem purely aesthetic.
Users will notice that app pages now focus on the visuals, and a cleaner white background makes everything easier to read. The content that's important to most users - images, ratings, and company links - are now much more prominent.
If you're a developer selling your app through the App Store however, these changes will have a significant impact on how you present and market your app.
So, what's changed and what should you consider doing about it?
Gone is the long column on the right side of the store that enabled you to write a novel about how great your app was, and be certain everyone viewing your app page would see it. Instead, the description has been truncated to the first two or three lines of text with a "...More" link.
The good news is that you can still include the same content you could before; the bad news is that users that don't click that "...More" link will not see any of it except for your first few sentences. Now more than ever, it's vital to have a slogan, tagline, or quick description that both summarizes your app and attracts a user's attention in only a few words.
In other words, if your app description in the updated App Store now reads:
*** #43 in Games/Action in Croatia!!! ***
"lol this is teh best game" --email@example.com
Once upon a time, in a far, far away land, there lived a…
... you may want to consider a revision.
Website and Support links
Immediately following your truncated description, users will see links to your website and support page. Therefore, it's pretty safe to assume that you'll be getting a lot more direct traffic from the App Store than ever before. Now that you'll be getting a lot more hits, it may be a good time to update your website.
In the pre-update App Store, a detailed description could have ended up being a reasonable substitute for having a site or blog for your app; at least you'd be certain everyone would see it. Now, since many users may not see that description and will instead be looking to your website for more info, you should make it as polished and easy to navigate as possible.
Additionally, you may want to consider taking advantage of the dedicated "Support" link to provide users with access to help files, tips, FAQs, contact information, etc. about your app.
No longer at the bottom of the Description column, "What's new" is displayed immediately after the Description and website/support links. As with the Description section, you only have a few lines of text visible by default, so make them count. Depending on your app, it may be a good idea to display new features first followed by 'boring' things like bug fixes later.
The screenshots section has been revamped, and is now presented in the form of a horizontal slideshow instead of the one at a time view presented before. This may not seem to make much of a difference, but now users will see several of your images simultaneously, so you may want to rethink which images you're using and the order in which they are displayed.
Since the images are in the form of a slideshow, showing film reel or animation like progression with your screenshots may be an interesting way to present your app.
By default, only Customer Reviews for the "Current Version" of your app are displayed; users must click the "All versions" button to see all of the reviews users have left.
If you haven't updated your app in a while, this shouldn't affect you… yet. If you have or plan to however, expect the number of your displayed reviews to be very low or non-existent until users get a chance to use your updated version and write an app review for it.
On the one hand, this provides relevant reviews to App Store users. No longer will you see reviews from version 1.0 of your app complaining about the lack of a feature that was included months ago. On the other hand, it discourages frequent updates. When the penalty for releasing a minor update for your app is resetting your displayed review count, many developers may wait to release a much needed or requested update, or just update as infrequently as possible. Some developers may also take to spamming their userbase to resubmit reviews so that they are displayed on the front page.
In the left frame, users will now see links to the other applications you have available in the App Store. While for most this may be a great addition, you may also want to consider any unwanted cross-promotion that may occur as a result.
For example, customers of our "Bible Promises" application may not be interested in our game "Pig Rush". In the new layout you can't control what is displayed, so users could potentially see any of your other apps.
Your icon is now displayed prominently in the top-left hand corner as a beefy 180x180 image. It goes without saying that your app icon is important, but now even more so. Your app icon is often the first introduction many users will have to your app, it's what users will come to associate your app with, and for many it will be the deciding factor in whether they explore your app any further. That said, you may want to consider revising or polishing your app icon since it's now getting center stage.
Customers Also Bought
A new scroll box at the bottom displays icons and links to other apps that your users have also purchased. Due to the nature of the App Store, it can be difficult to compile any sort of metrics about your userbase, so this is an interesting addition. How accurate or relevant it is remains to be seen, but it can provide you with some valuable information about what customers of some of your apps are interested in.
Last week's update was the biggest design update that the App Store has seen since its launch last year. Overall, I think the changes implemented do make for a better user experience and, ultimately, this is what matters most. Unfortunately, for app developers, Apple isn't exactly transparent when it comes to things like this. In the future, it would be nice if they would provide a bit of warning or a heads up to the developer community before making such significant changes.