It’s a great time to be a developer today and the innovation Apple is putting forth with iOS gives developers a great platform for which to create applications.
I have been quietly putting small applications together for iOS but have had reservations about the end result. How does a developer succeed in the App Store? There are a lot of applications in the store and more popping up every day. Once an application appears in the store, how do people find out about it?
App Store Search Opportunity
The App Store search is abysmal at best. I have tried to find applications that I know exist and can’t seem to locate them, except by name. It’s pretty clear there is a problem when sites such as uquery pop-up which try to solve the problem. From their own About page:
uquery.com is a new search engine focused on the emerging market of iPhone & iPod Touch applications. We have listened to many requests of the community and the frustration of being able to search and find applications on the iTunes AppStore. With 263,999 applications available on the AppStore, it has become tremendously difficult to find the right application.
My tests on uquery.com returned some really good results. It seems the key to any of the searches on the site is how good the metadata is provided by the app publisher.
Google is also getting into the act of finding applications on the App Store with their Google Mobile app.
Apple is trying to make it easier for developers to enter the iOS ecosystem by lifting prior restrictions put on developers using tools beyond Objective-C and C++:
We are continually trying to make the App Store even better. We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart. Based on their input, today we are making some important changes to our iOS Developer Program license in sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 to relax some restrictions we put in place earlier this year.
In particular, we are relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps, as long as the resulting apps do not download any code. This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need.
Now that developers can use tools like Monotouch to write in C# and deploy on iOS, this leads to that many more apps in the App Store, great for Apple but not so great for users. At last count the App Store had close to 300,000 applications, but I am only aware of a small fraction. If in a year the number of applications doubles, how is being able to find software going to be any easier if Apple does not improve its search? I think the answer is, it won’t.
Enter the Mac App Store
Apple recently announced they would be opening the Mac App Store where Mac OS X developers could have a place to offer their applications.
This will add another large number of applications for users not be able to find. So Apple, could you please fix your app store search.
Maybe the answer is to rely on third-party sites like uquery.com or apps like Google Mobile but I don’t think so. I think Apple needs to lead publishers better so they can position apps to be found by search, the right metadata.
As a developer and someone who writes applications for iOS and would take part in the Mac app store, I am concerned about getting lost in the abyss, to not be found by a potential customer. It is my responsibility to give enough information about my products to customers but if Apple fails to guide users to the products…we both lose.
The right metadata and a great search UI = found apps.