How not to screw up app launch

How not to screw up app launch

Each app is different. So is it’s launch. App launch is such an important moment in app life cycle that it’s best if you go through all the checklists and notes you find from the web.

I thought I’d share my insights and notes I’ve jotted down during my app launches.

First of all, let’s assume you’ve got a cool app in the works. It’s already working great and you want to submit it to Apple App Store. That’s good news, however, it would be good to sit down now and think of how you will launch it.

App launch is the most crucial moment in app life cycle and it is advised to think twice about your launch strategy. First two weeks will tell if your app will succeed or die along with other millions of apps.

Why is app launch so important?

Mostly it has to do with the fact how App Store works. Apps in each category are sorted by interest they get from users. The position of your app is determined by download amount in each App Store region. This means, if your app is download a lot in a region (e.g. Denmark), it will be higher up in the charts for that country. Being higher up, or ‘above the fold’ in App Store is pretty much everything.

‘Best New Apps’ section will feature your app for about two weeks. This is the window for success. This is the free exposure you are granted. This is the reason app launch strategy has such significance. Each app has only one launch. Don’t screw it up. I know I have. Several times.

Check your App first

First of all you should start with a great app. Great idea is good, but what matters more is how the idea is conceived. Think about UX (User Experience), check performance and test.

Study different use cases. Release beta versions to your friends and ask them to be totally honest while giving freedback. Address even the smallest criticism and think if there’s a way to fix it. Usually it just takes a small effort of moving a button from bottom to the top to make people understand your app better.

Successful apps are focused, look nice and perform great.

The thing is, that users can tell the difference. They instinctively feel if you have gone the extra mile to make the app as nice and easy to use as you can. If you think you have tested and beta tested enough. Let it rest for a while and then test it again. Test it with location services disabled, test without wifi, without mobile internet connection, full device storage etc. Think of as many use cases you can. There’s nothing worse than a broken login/registration form or otherwise non-functional app. Even the slightest hiccup can delete your app from users phone.

Pre Launch Checklist

Once you feel confident and you think your app is as good as the top apps out there, it’s time to move to prelaunch activities. You can do those while your app is in review by Apple which is usually a week and a half.

  • Write a press release

Think of what your app is doing. What problem does it solve? Why is it relevant. What’s the unique sales proposition (UPS)? Make a list of features that are important to potential users. Write them down. It might take some time to get the press release right. Make notes and jot down ideas for it every day and finally write it.

  • Make social media accounts

Make Twitter account, Facebook page, Instagram account, Pinterest etc. All accounts that seem even slightly relevant for your app, do them.

  • Build landing page

It would be great if you could register a domain for you app. If you’re not in a position to register new domains (and pay for them), then use some other way. For instance WordPress account or a Tumblr blog will do just fine too, as long as you have a special page showing off your app.
Also make sure your landing page supports open graph for cleaner share to social media after app launch and better SEO.

  • Make Press kit

A press kit is a special page for the press. This is the place where journalists get their stories from. You can embed videos, add photos and of course share high resolution app logo on that page. There’s a nice helper script that’ll help you do a presskit dopresskit(). Also read this excellent article by Dan Counsell on fixing press kits.

  • Shoot app video

While a good screenshot or photo tells a thousand words, video will tell hundred thousand. You can just film a closeup footage of your hand and phone about how you use the app and add a voiceover promoting it. If you don’t know how to use video cameras then get some friends to help you. If you can add animation then great, if not, keep it simple and get to the point. I did a really simple video of my art game with my sister as a hand model and it took me around 3–4 hours to do it.

Don’t launch any of the stuff above before your app is ready to launch. You will want to release all at the day your app becomes available. Then all the channels will be full of information complimenting each other at the same time. This guarantees maximum exposure.
Also, you cannot launch many of those items as you don’t have an url to your app yet. You’ll get that after the review.

App Launch

App launch is where the action happens. The paragraphs above was all pre work to this moment. You app will now get exposed to real world.

  • Add your brand new app url to your website, press kit, social media accounts and promotional video.
  • Make short links
    Make links to your app through url shortener. Then it’ll be easier to post your link to social media and later monitor the performance of posted links. I use goo.gl to do this.
  • Launch your website
    Also make a quick redirect page to your website. I make something like this: squareprintapp.com/get. It will lead to my app on App Store. It’ll be easier and cleaner to tell people where to get the app. It’s a simple redirect html script I have put there and it goes like this:

<meta http-equiv=”Refresh” content=”0; url=http://goo.gl/fQrSbb“>

  • Post news to social media
    You should probably do this several times. Statistically repetitive posts perform better. Especially on Twitter. Each social media channel should have it’s own goo.gl short link so you can monitor social media performance better.
  • Send press release out to the world.
    A good place to do that is services by prmac.com. They’ll blast your press release to everywhere possible.
  • Promotion codes
    If you have a paid app, it is a good idea to share promotion codes. You can share them over social media, but it would be even smarter to share them in relevant forums. If you have games then gaming forums, if cooking app, then cooking forums etc.
  • Bloggers
    Try to get bloggers to cover and review your app. This is difficult, as they have a lot requests like this but you should try anyways. Send them email with your app info and short description.
  • Ratings and reviews
    Ask your friends to rate and review your app on App Store. The more ratings you get the better. Don’t let them put 5 stars always. It is advisable and trustworthy if you sometimes get less stars than that. I don’t trust apps with 5 star average ratings. It means the reviews are probably fake.

The idea is to get internet full of links to your app after launch. This will generate more downloads. More downloads will make sure your app stays in the charts well after ‘Best New Apps’ window.

What’s next

If you have done everything right, you will witness a wave of emails from app marketers. Also there’s probably some app blogs that’ll cover your app and contact you with further questions.
If your app gets enough attention, Apple might consider to feature your app. If this happens, then it’s time to celebrate. Not many apps get featured on App Store homepage. This means your app is quality stuff and launch was a success. This also means your app will remain above the fold in search results and categories for time to come.

There will also be many ratings and reviews in the App Store. Each review submitted is a feedback. There surely are some reviews that suggest improvements. Now it’s time to updated your app. Develop a bit more. Add features. Make as many people enjoy the app as possible.

App development is constant work. Each app gets at least two weeks of exposure which you should use well. This article hopefully will help you get the most of those two weeks.

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