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App Store Integrity: A Fresh Perspective

Many apps on the store frustrate me. I don’t consider being hammered with ads and constantly dismissing nag screens to be a good user experience. Why do apps do this? You already know the answer. Because it works. If your app is popular and users have to see ads or make purchases to get anywhere, you are going to generate revenue. But at what cost? We are all trying to make some money on the store, so it’s tempting to just go with the flow.

Can You Generate Revenue Without Compromising Your Integrity?

I struggle with this every day. I think it’s mostly a user experience issue for me. I understand how advertising works and I’m not trying to vilify the ads. I don’t think apps shouldn’t have ads. I just don’t like the tactics that have come to be acceptable. I don’t mind in-app purchase nag screens in my apps, but I know to get more conversions, I need to present them more often. I need to nag much more. But what about the user experience? You could argue, and make some good points, that since this is what users expect, you actually are giving them the user experience that they want or deserve.

Am I different than my users in that I don’t like nag screens and ads? The answer is definitely yes, I am different from my users. I think most of my fellow developers are too. We care about our apps. We reward the developers of other good apps with purchases. It’s easy for us to forget how different we actually are from most of our users. But that doesn’t mean we should accept the norm when it comes to ads and in-app purchase practices.

The Crossy Road Way

Is there a way to have a free app that generates revenue and allows you to sleep at night? The developers of Crossy Road took a fresh perspective. I really admire how they were able to take a fun, addictive game and monetize it without ruining the experience. For example, you can play Crossy Road all day and never see an ad, nag screen, or review request. When Crossy Road first hit it big, the guys on ATP were discussing their monetization strategy and how they were probably leaving a lot of money on the table. They weren’t saying this was a bad thing, just pointing it out. Crossy Road may have left some money on the table, but based on their revenue, they’ve done very well. More importantly, they have respect for the way they present in-app purchases and ads. You can optionally watch an ad after you die every so many times. The app also may show you an in-app purchase that is available after you die. Instead of being a pop up ad, it’s just part of the regular screen. It’s a nice way of getting it in front of the user, but it doesn’t force the user to dismiss it to get where they should already have been.

courtesy of iMore

courtesy of iMore

Crossy Road also allows you to try out a character for limited time. The characters are unique and make interesting sounds. If you try one out and you like it, you are going to more inclined to buy it through in-app purchase, or watch videos to have a chance to ‘earn’ the character. I love the idea of allowing all the features of your app to be used for a limited time when first downloaded. Letting the user see what they would be paying for adds credibility.

My five year old son doesn’t care about how far he goes on Crossy Road. That seems to be the point of the game to me, but all he cares about is getting coins so he can get new characters. He jumps in front of a train as soon as he gets 100 coins to quickly cash them in for a new character. He is happy to watch the video ads every chance he gets. But, he never brings the iPad to me, wanting me to fix it after he has been redirected to the app store because of strategically placed cancel or buy buttons. The app keeps it simple and doesn’t try to fool you.

My Takeaways on App Store Integrity

  • Treat your users with respect, even if you don’t think they care.
  • Consider a paid app if you can make it work (then you can just drop all the BS and give the user a great app without restriction).
  • Look for ways to make ads available without killing the design of your app or getting in the users way.
  • Think of creative ways to generate revenue. Don’t just look at what all the other apps are doing to squeeze every cent out of users.
  • App store integrity is important. Don’t compromise your values for a quick buck.
  • You can probably always learn something from an Australian company named Hipster Whale.

Chris Beshore

I'm an indie iOS developer based in Kansas City, MO.

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