5 reasons no one is buying your app

6 Flares

6 Flares


Sales Cartoon #6021 by Andertoons

Having your app sell well in the App Store is a really difficult endeavor. Some say it requires hard work, other people say it is just plain luck. Whatever the truth is, there are some factors that may be impacting negatively in your app sales.

 I received a lot of comments because of this article, most of them telling me that the #1 reason apps don’t sell is because they suck. I decided to write another post explaining some things I believe that might be making your app suck. Read it here!

The icon is not impressive

The Icon is the first thing customers see in the App Store. Probably one of the most important things you must get right. Ideally, the icon you choose should give the user a rough idea of what the app does. It also should be the most impressive piece of art ever done. Spend as much money and time in it as you can,for if you fail to catch the users attentions with the icon, then you are going to have a hard time making people download your app.

Here is an article that explains what makes an Icon great.


Poorly chosen name

The second thing users will see is the app’s name. Try to choose a descriptive name that, as the icon, gives a rough idea of what the app does. Don’t use generic names, but don’t go with weird, made-up words that prevents the users from understanding what the app is about.

If you haven’t decided on a name for your app, here you can find 10 tips to do it right.


Uninteresting screenshots

So, by choosing a clever combination of icon and name, you managed to get your customers interested enough to click on your app. Now what? The next thing users will take a look at are screenshots. You should use these few image slots you are given to showcase the most amazing features of your app. If it is a simple app, entertainment app, this is the perfect opportunity to show the complete process of how your app works. You should overlay some text in each image highlighting its features or explaining what is going on.

If you don’t know how to design your screenshots, here is a great article.


Bad ratings and reviews

Nothing can damage you more than a bunch of 1 star ratings and harsh reviews. If you are getting lots of these you should consider taking a deeper look at your work and trying to figure out what is wrong with it. If most users are complaining of crashes, you should address that ASAP, if they are requesting some missing feature, try to research whether it is worth it adding them or not.

One way to get better reviews is to show them a “Rate this app” dialog to ask people to rate your app while they are still enjoying it. (As opposed of having them rate it when they delete the app)  You can use Appirater, a nice class that easily allows you to add this feature to your app.

Another tip is to let all of your friends and family to download and give your app a positive review, as well as having them recommend it to others. But please don’t go around paying people to positively review your apps. It is deceiving for customers and if your app is just bad, they will end up finding the truth.


Lack of information and extra resources

There are all kinds of users, and depending what market you target and the price of your app, many people won’t be ready to shovel their money without making sure the app is the most amazing one out there. These picky customers will compare your app with others, they will Google for reviews, they’ll research your website, until they make sure your app delivers what it promises. Be prepared for this, have a nice website ready with all the resources they might need to make that decision. Is your app very specific for professionals? Have a few tutorial videos ready. Is it a game? Make a mind-blowing trailer! If you were able to get someone interested enough to go through the hassle of doing that huge amount of investigation, you almost there! They just need a little push.

Is your amazing app getting just a few downloads? Do you think there are other reasons for this unfortunate turn of events? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

  1. Brian Stabile
    Brian StabileApril 24,12

    While these are all great tips that should not be ignored, even with all these addressed, I feel that developers will find an even bigger hurdle getting their games to sell- getting users to know their app exists! The App Store search is borderline broken- typing in the EXACT title of our game would yield it as the 6th result for the longest time (the Lite version still is near the bottom of the search), trumped by apps that aren’t even similarly named! I understand metatags and popularity are a factor, but name should be THE MOST important search criteria the search function should compare it to. Ratings also seem to not be as important as visibility. If you look at a few of the apps on the Top 25 Free, they will have 2 star (or less) ratings and horrible reviews. Yet, people will continue to download them anyway, an end up leaving their own bad review.

    Take a look at our game ‘The Last Ace of Space’ (app store link: http://bit.ly/Hgcn2R) and decide if you think it meets the 5 criteria above. We even have a really cool trailer on YouTube! Great reviews from multiple sites, yet it is not translating into sales, assumedly because we have to budget to advertise to the masses.

  2. abitofcode
    abitofcodeApril 24,12

    Good article!

    Adding a feedback button within the app that pops up a simple mail sheet can help frustrated app users vent, avoiding a poor review on the app store. It also gives you a chance to do something about the issue or at least explain why you’ve done something in a particular way.

    We’ve had quite a lot of direct feedback from within our app sketchshare (sketchshare.co.uk). This feedback has already resulted in a couple of articles on our site to explain how to perform certain actions (including a Game Center walk through) and is driving the plan of work on the current update.

    • Pablo Ruiz
      Pablo RuizApril 25,12

      Hi Chris! Thanks for the feedback! Your suggestion is really good! I’ve experienced what you say a few times, when I’ve downloaded an app that has a bug, if I saw the email button I would let them know, that reduces the frustration a bit at least, and if the developer actually answers you, that makes you feel even better. Promising a quick fix to the users that complained can turn that 1 star rating + hate review into a much better review most times.
      BTW Sketchshare is a really cool app! Congrats!

  3. Spirit-led Designs
    Spirit-led DesignsApril 24,12

    Thank you for these great tips. Any advice for apps that are inside reader apps? My apps are inside the Interactive Touch Books free reader app which makes them a little harder to find. http:// http://www.interactivetouchbooks.com

    • Pablo Ruiz
      Pablo RuizApril 25,12

      Hi! Having your interactive book inside one of these apps is a big problem in terms of marketing. You don’t have much control over it, if your book sells well (or bad) you will never know if it was due to your content or due to the platform’s popularity/quality.
      Why did you choose to publish it in there instead of making a custom app with a developer?

  4. Aidan Mack
    Aidan MackApril 25,12

    Im looking for reasons why my app isn’t doing so well..
    I think my apps problem is that its something people would not such for… “googly face”

    But everything else Ive done looks to check out from the above list…


  5. Shane
    ShaneApril 25,12

    The main reason I think that makes selling Apps so difficult now, is that there are so many of them out there. Your App is a needle in a haystack, no matter how pretty the needle, it’s almost impossible to find – unless you have a magnet. Personally, I think this App world will all be taken over by the big-money developers, and eventually, there will be so many new “App Hubs” that the market will flop, due to too much choice.

    It reminds me of the early days of Games, when you would go into a store to buy a Tape, and look at the cover to decide if the game was good or not. Then walk away with the best one. After a while, there were so many, that I would stick to the ones I knew would be good. Even if the other ones were; it was all about who you trusted.

    Let’s be fair here, there are so many people jumping on the App bandwagon that the market is killing itself. Too many developers, not enough people to buy them.

    The boat has sailed…

  6. Susan Oliver
    Susan OliverApril 28,12

    Hi Pablo. Thank you so much for these articles. I am just about to send my first app to iTunes. I had already realized how important the art work was, but you gave me a lot more to think about. I forwarded this on to my iOS professor. Hopefully, he will share it with future classes. I think it, and the articles that you link to here, should be required reading of all new Mobile Developers, not just iOS Developers.
    Suzy Oliver

  7. Joe Lavoine
    Joe LavoineJune 12,12

    Hi Pablo – I found your blog from GameDev.net and have read a few of your posts…I like your frank assessment of apps and the industry! I published an app last year (Origami Adventure) and it didn’t perform as well as I’d hoped, so I’m trying to do more research and put more effort into advertising/marketing; I think that was my biggest weakness the first time around.

    If you’d care to check out Origami Adventure’s store page and let me know what you think and if it passes some of the basic sniff tests you talk about above, I’d like to know what you think!

    - Joe

    • Pablo Ruiz
      Pablo RuizJune 13,12

      Hi Joe, thanks for your feedback!
      I will definitively buy your app and take a look at it!
      I’ll send you an email as soon as I do.



      • Joe Lavoine
        Joe LavoineJune 15,12

        Hi Pablo,

        Thanks — I’ll look forward to your feedback!


  8. Hamodi
    HamodiAugust 15,12

    Hi everyone …..

    thanx Pablo for your posts . Its really hepfull for me coz am new to programming . By the way can anyone help me in guiding me in doing games or give me tips coz am really a biginner

  9. Peter K
    Peter KOctober 31,12

    I decided to develop my first app after reading about the success go Minecrft. Lerned Objective-C from the absolute basic level I finished my quiz app in Swedish.

    For me this have been a successful quest as I have sold +10.000 apps and currently averaging 150 – 200 each week.

    I did decide to translate it to English believing that I would be able to repeat the success but that did not happen “yet”. I am now about to submit a “free” light version with iAd and I hope to gain some momentum.

    I am also releasing Children versions of the game, including a free version.

    What I do not fully understand is how important the name is when searching as even if I have quiz as a tag I do not see my game when searching for quiz.

    Hopefully these measurs will boost sales going forward. If you have time would you care for taking a look at the page at iTuenes and give a comment on what you think about the design? The name is FamilyQuiz.

  10. Kyriakos
    KyriakosMarch 5,13

    Dear Pablo, nice article but to be completely honest there is an important point missing. Nice icon, nice screenshots, nice description….. everybody now does this! What happens when you have done all this stuff and your app still does not sell? What happens if you don’t have a publisher or a flash version to get you some audience? I think the most important part to make it visible in iOS6 app store is keyword search which is and the only mechanism that customers can use to find the game.

    My actual question is… when you don’t have the required money for marketing eetc. is it possible using only keyword optimization to make your app in the top paid?

    • Pablo Ruiz
      Pablo RuizMarch 5,13

      Hi Kyriakos,
      You bring up a great question.
      First, about everyone already having nice icons, screenshots,etc. That’s not entirely true. Go into any given category on the App Store and look at the NEW games, more than half of them have horrible Icons. We just don’t see them in the front pages for obvious reasons.
      So, if you have an attractive Icon and Screenshots, congrats, you are above half of the other guys ;)

      That’s seeing the glass half full. The truth is, you need to be in the 5% AT LEAST, or even higher to get noticed. Keyword optimization, name research, even the description can improve your rankings, but in the long term, I don’t think that’s enough.

      The best strategy I’ve seen (in terms of cost/benefit) is to release many games, with different skins, different names and monetizing from ads. These games are typically based off from popular games, so developing them is considerably cheaper than developing a new concept and you only have to spend some money in re-skinning them.

      It just boils down to whether you want to be remembered as “the guy who made the next Angry Birds” or as “the guy who makes shitty clones of every possible game” ;)

      • Kyriakos
        KyriakosMarch 6,13

        Hahahha i really liked the part “as the guy who made the next Angry Birds” or as “the guy who makes shitty clones of every possible game” EPIC quote ;p

        I know that there are a lot of horribles game out there but I din’t even take them into account in my question ;p. My consideration has to do with all other games and developers that really have nice icons, game concepts and stuff and how you get those from that 50% to that 5% that will make your app sell. I believe its all about Apple liking your game or not! Even if you make the next angry birds you may still fail.. for example before a few days I have discovered a game like Plants vs Zombies which I really love… it was a quite good game and kept me busy for a few days… its not as good as plants vs zombies but its still a very nice game with a lot of effort but nobody knows about it… and probably many games out there wouldn’t be as famous as they are if it wasn’t for publishers…

        As far as the strategy you proposed… well I know it works from experience…. An entertainment app that I made in less than 2 weeks sells more than a game that took me months and months to develop! I don’t think that if you make the perfect game it is guaranteed that you will succeed so its all about taking risks… so as you said either spend months trying to make the next angry birds or make a lot of shitty clones of every possible game out there ;p

        • Pablo Ruiz
          Pablo RuizMarch 7,13

          The way I see it, marketing your app is as much important – or even more – than developing it.
          I too have seen many impressive games, which are only known by those who are in the indie game community or friends to the developer. The problem they have is that while they are really good designers or developers, they lack in the marketing department.

          Publishing an app, right now, works the same as publishing a new website. When I go to my hosting provider and get a new hosting + domain, that’s it! I doesn’t get pushed somewhere people can see it, no one expects to buy a domain and getting visitors in just because of that.

          Publishing an app should not be treated differently. You have to build it, tell everyone about it, appear in as many places as possible, network with other developers and journalists. If there’s people talking about games, you should be there.

          But it is the same with anything! If you don’t make people notice what you are doing, no one will know about it. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “Build it and they will come”, it only works for some special people. The rest of us, we have to “build it and bring them by the hand”. :)

          Can I see that game that took you months to do? Hope it’s not a shitty clone of something else :]

          • Kyriakos
            KyriakosMarch 9,13

            Of course, I ll send an email!

Leave a Reply

    No Twitter Messages

6 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 1 LinkedIn 0 Google+ 5 StumbleUpon 0 Reddit 0 6 Flares ×