Friday, November 23, 2012

How To Improve the iOS 6 App Store

There are several good things and several bad things about the new store from both a user and a developer perspective. A quick rundown includes more focus on featured apps, removal of new release list, Chomp search changes, and probably the biggest, cards with screens instead of scrolling icons.

From a user perspective, frankly most of these changes are fine, some even good. Apple always wants great apps to show up, and weighting the store towards already popular apps makes that happen. It really hurts discovery of new apps though, and that's a problem for developers. Over the short term it isn't a problem for Apple or its users, but over the long term if it convinces developers like myself to move to other platforms, it is definitely a problem.

I've talked at length about the App Store search changes so I won't rehash all of it. I will say I think some of the changes are fine, and others are rough. The change to very heavily weighting downloads has a couple of consequences. When they are relevant, it is probably a good change for users. They good popular apps with a lean towards popular free apps.

However, it also ends up showing these popular apps for searches where they are less relevant. Specifically, searching the exact name of many of my apps doesn't show them first or in some cases even close to first. That is a problem for devs, and it is a problem for users. Case in point, my app "Hacker News Reader!" is 4th currently for the search "Hacker News Reader!". (Note the 2nd app also has all 3 of those words in it's longer name, the other 2 don't.)

I haven't gotten to my improvement yet, and that probably why you came so let me get to it. The side scrolling cards are having the effect of many less apps being seen in searches. I personally like the new view, but I really hate the scrolling as a user, but especially as a dev. Having a 1 app scroll instead of a 5 app scroll means it is much harder to be seen, and much harder to browse.

That being said, I think showing the screenshot is awesome. It rewards well designed apps, which is something that is good in my opinion. The simple fix to all this?

GET RID OF THE PAGING!

Why do we need this view to page and force users to scroll for each app? Make this a fluid scroll where users can quickly browse through the apps to find one that catches their eye. This would stop the frustration when you are looking for a specific app that somehow got to 16 in the search for its exact name, and it would get more apps a little visibility.

This is a roughly one line of code change that I think would really improve the user experience and the dev experience on the App Store. It doesn't fix everything, but I don't think it breaks anything. Let me know what you think in the comments.

If you've read this far and are interested in the mobile app market you may want to check out my newsletter. It's periodic emails (no more than 1-2 a month) on mobile app sales and the different markets.

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