A brief note of suggestions for improvements to the macOS App Store to make developers and users happier. The basic premise is basic improvements to the App Store user experience, including new types of Lists, and allowing better dialog with customers to allow developers more freedom to flourish.
Categories & Lists
The most obvious improvement could be further categories as well as more consistent and pleasant ways to navigate them. Currently those categories which are tabs in the column on the left (Discover, Arcade, Create, Work etc.) have ‘Features’ those which need to be accessed by clicking on the ‘Categories’ tab do not. This means that, for example, the current feature ‘A-plus Apps for Students’ is in the Work tab, not in Eduction.
At this point Lists are only by number of downloads/sales, which is likely not the only criteria a user might have in order to choose what software to purchase.
There could be, for example, a List called called ‘Gems’ which lists software with ratings over 4.5 which have been in the App Store for over 1 year and which has consistent developer responses to user reviews but not great downloads. This could be automatically generated to remove bias and listed by ratings initially, with the user being able to change to view by other criteria.
Categories listed in the ‘Categories’ tab simply have a few featured apps on top, followed a few more featured apps underneath and lists by download. This does not seem like the best customer experience.
Sub-Categories could be useful, for example in Education, where users should be able to browse by university level or below, at the very least. Different disciplines or courses could also be usefully listed, such as sciences, literature and so on as well as tools, such as note taking applications, word processors, graphing tools, mind maps and so on.
In a University Sub-Category featuring word processors for example, features and lists could easily let the student customer see what software supports academic PDF export for example, or other basic requirements before they look at what software seems to suit their user style.
Store Fronts (Listings) & Developer Dialog
The only way a developer has to communicate with a specific customer is by commenting on a review the user has left and the user is not even notified of this response, though it would be great if they were, so that developers can clear up misunderstandings.
I therefore propose more flexibility in how developers can choose to set up their individual ‘Store Fronts’ (which is what the listings really are).
It would be great for a smaller developer such as myself to make myself and my team more available for feedback. For example, it would be useful for us to choose to have a ‘Support’ section in addition to the ‘Reviews’ where customer can ask questions in the same way as posting Reviews and we can respond quickly (because both developer and customer get notified). Other, potential customers can see whether we are responsive and maybe if any of their issues are covered.
Also, for a smaller developer such as ourselves it would also be great if the customer could easily see global ratings and reviews.
The pages themselves could do with some optimising. The introduction/description text is hidden and small and the main text a customer sees first is what is new, so the customer needs to take quite a lot from the screenshots.
Users could also be better creators of the experience by perhaps tagging software which they have downloaded, with a limit of what tags and how many per user, to for example make it clear that some users see a particular word processor being good for drafting, editing or publishing for example.
Case Study : ‘Author’
Our academic writing software ‘Author’ is the first search result when searching for ‘academic’ and the 20th when searching for ‘writing’. It is currently 174th in the ‘Education’ category. However, we charge $15 a download (no subscription, we feel it the cost should be kept reasonable since our customers are primarily students) and yet we only make about $500 a month. Our continued development cost is over ten times that, so this is clearly not a sustainable model.
Author is rated 4.8 (24 ratings) in the UK App Store and 4.6 globally (108 ratings) and has been in the App Store since 2016. I have invested heavily in coding, testing and improving the product, not in marketing. We have wonderful endorsements from none other
than the co-inventor of the Internet, the developer of the first Mac Finder, the founder of the modern Library of Alexandria and the inventor of Siri. We are a part of a large community working actively on The Future of Text, hosting an annual Symposium and last year we published ‘The Future of Text’ book: https://futuretextpublishing.com
‘Download Support Team’
Might it make sense to see how Apple could promote Author as a case study for how to promote developers with solid products in general? A ‘Feature’ would of course be great but might it not be more useful to use us as a case study for how to best position serious developers in the App Store in general?
We would be very happy to take part in any dialog on this, including of course polish of the App Store customer experience and more. We would be happy to test different ways we can help feature our software and work with Apple to make sure we present ourselves as well as can be done.
We are not asking for special treatment, we are suggesting that developers which meet specific criteria (such as high ratings, clear engagement with users and strong endorsements etc.) but low download numbers, could maybe benefit from a ‘Download Support Team’ dedicated to helping us.