Why isn’t your app selling? Because it sucks!


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Recently, I posted an entry that explained some reasons for people not buying your app. A lot of people told me that I had forgotten to mention the #1 reason for people not buying someone’s app: “It just sucks!”. Even though that is a valid argument, as you already know, there are lots of bad apps that sell like bread while amazing ones fall to the bottom of the charts.

Nevertheless, what I intend to write about in here is about those apps that you intended to be good, but somehow, somewhere in the process, went really bad. For that I’ll leave out apps that were intentionally done wrong (Those made to scam people).

I gathered the following mistakes from seeing other people’s apps, from working on them for my clients and of course I made a lot of those mistakes when doing my own apps. If only I could go back in time, I would prevent me from doing those things, although if I could go back in time I would spend my time creating Angry Birds instead!

So, what are, in my opinion, things that make an app so bad that no one would download them? Let’s see:

 

Not studying the market and competitors

There was a time, long ago, that you could release any app and it would be unique, people would be marveled by such innovation masterpiece. Well, those times are over… Nowadays, almost everything you can think of is already done, of course there is still room for innovation, but if you expect to make a simple app in 5 days with no prior investigation and get rich, you are wrong.

Before starting a new app, look around the App Store and see if a similar one exists, if it does, download them, study what they did, if they are successful, what people and media say in their reviews. This is very important! Why would people want yet another app that does the exact same things as the other ones? If you are getting into a crowded market, at least do it with an app that exceeds you competitor’s in every possible way.

 

People not understanding what your app is for

Sometimes people just won’t get your app. Maybe it was aimed at a niche market and other people download it by mistake (or mislead).  This could be a marketing problem, where you fail to communicate what the app really does, what it is for, why should people download it. Try to use every opportunity you have to let people know how the app can make their life better. If you find yourself having to explain every single people what you app is for, consider changing your app’s description, making video tutorials, etc. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everyone is stupid but you for not understanding it.

 

Awful art

I’ve seen lots of developers, specially game developers, complain about how they made the best game ever and no one bought it.

When I go to the App Store to see what the game is about I actually see why no one is downloading it! Come on! All the art, from the icon to the screenshots look horrible! (And I don’t get past it, but the rest of the game must look the same.) Do you really expect people to buy an app with art that looks like it was done by their child? These days, people expect the most spectacular games, with the most amazing graphics ever for free! I understand that not everyone has a big budget, but try to find alternatives, publishing an app with poor art just won’t get anywhere.

By the way, some of these complains developers make are totally valid as I’ve played their games and they have excellent products that are polished in every possible way, they took the job of planning a marketing campaign and yet they can’t sell enough for, at least, paying the production costs. This is really a pity and discouraging.

 

Art not matching audience

This is something I’ve seen several times and even suffered myself. Even if your art is of the highest quality, make sure that the theme and style chosen really match with the audience it is targeted at. The most relevant example I can give you is my own experience with a game we developed and published ourselves, Turtle World.

In my opinion, the art looks good enough, BUT, they ended up looking like the art for a babies/small children game would look. The app isn’t for babies, it is a game for casual players from kids to adults, yet the art doesn’t convey that sensation. Parents would download the app for their small kids only to find a game beyond their skills. Teenagers would skip the game because it looks like it is for kids! This is probably one of the many reasons we didn’t do well with this game.

 

Usability problems

People will get frustrated with your app in no time if they can’t find out how to do what they want to do. I’ve seen apps with lots of usability problems, from small buttons to weird interactions that the developer thought would be cool to include but people don’t know how to use.

When designing your app, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Apple has a lot of guidelines for developers in this matter. Try to stick to user interface designs that people are used to see. I can’t tell you the amount of times designers have come to me with apps which had back buttons in the right side of the navigation bar instead of having it in the left side. Why the hell would you do that when every other app does it differently. If you want your app to stand out, make it so with its amazing art or features, not with rearranging controls that usability experts spent months working on.

 

Programming issues

Make sure your app works as intended, all the time and doesn’t crash. Period.

If you app crashes all the time, people will complain, stop using your app and leave you a hate review. Once people star seeing 5 comments in a row saying “The app crashes all the time, it is a crap”, you are doomed.

Also, make sure your app does what it promises and that it does it well! I’ve seen Geolocalization apps with AR that point to inexistent places, travel apps with wrong information about some places or no information at all. This is specially important for apps used in urgent situations! Why do I want an app to report an accident if it takes me 10 minutes for me to be able send my report?

Make sure your app works fine all the time, specially for apps that depend on web servers and are heavy dependent on social features. If the app consists on taking a picture, adding a funny comment and sharing it, I will delete it as soon as I find myself spending 15 minutes to upload it because the servers are down!

 

Rushing it out

Rushing your app to the market is sometimes inevitable, I know. You might have run out of budget, your might have learned that your competitors are about to release something similar, you might have grown tired of working on this app,etc. Whatever is your reason for rushing the development, try to make it conscientiously.  Instead of releasing an app with 10 unfinished, buggy features, why don;t you release the app with 3 perfectly done ones? That way you can have a better idea if the app is worth continuing. Maybe you do well and fans start to ask you for new features, those that you had already in the works. Maybe your app doesn’t sell well, but at least you know deep inside that you released a quality product at least, and your few users will thank you for that.
Do you think there are other reasons that make your apps suck? I’d love to hear them!

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