Best Practices for Mobile App Sites
Since the dawn of the Smartphone, the amount of apps for almost any purpose from taking better photographs to making fart noises has exploded in numbers in a considerable way. While apps have some advantage in that they will be included within the catalogue of the device manufacturer such as Apple’s app store, it’s important just as with any app to take the time and produce a site for those products. Marketing is a primary goal with any product, and sites give awesome exposure.
Many trends have appeared in the era of the "appsite" and while following conventions is important for consistency, there are a whole range of best practices we can learn from as we produce our sites. Just as content driven sites are different to software sites, appsites have their own unique charms and expectations placed upon them. Within this article we are going to look at just a few of the things you can do to ensure that visitors know all they need before buying or downloading your app.
Showcasing a Brand Correctly
The one feature which “appsites” have in common is the branding which lets the visitor know what you’re talking about. As users browse through an app store or marketplace, they primarily identify a product by two specific features... an icon and a name. Just as many logos come with a graphic, it’s important that you establish recognisable traits on the page. Give your app a snappy, fun name that is easy to remember and provide a beautiful icon that distinguishes your work from other peoples.
Camera+ provides an icon with the Apple curved edges and a friendly product name.
Sometimes, a name and an icon just don’t say all you want to say about your wonderful product, so it’s at this point we introduce the tagline. The idea behind having a tagline is that it should be short, sweet and should do nothing more than explain the purpose of the app. The tagline should always be smaller than the branded name of the product as the app name is what people use to find it, but the inclusion of such a feature might convince people to keep reading the contents of a page!
Discourse provides a short snappy tagline to give people a better understanding of the app.
Showcasing Your Apps Features
Beyond the hyping of your app and the brand associated with it, the most critical justification for a user progressing to download or purchase your app will be the features it provides. Because so many apps exist these days, you really need to give compelling reasons why visitors should use your app and not someone else’s. Many appsites provide icons or bullet lists to separate each feature and give it some visual identity, but it’s comprehensiveness that wins you users in this particular case.
Wallet comes with a range of features, and it highlights the important ones well.
While listing all of your current features is important, it’s also relevant to identify upcoming features that app users may look forward to though you’ll need to make sure you deliver on those claims. If you have any kind of product or service, customers frequently look for updates and progress rather than stagnation. Mobile devices are especially update friendly as there is little to no work involved in the installation process. Brag about what cool stuff users will see in the next major milestone!
Foobi lets users to track its development progress via future, current and past versions.
Showcasing Your Apps Beauty
As we know, an image says a thousand words. If you’re providing an app it’s important that the user interface is explored so that users can see for themselves how the product has been built, how it works and more importantly, if it looks polished enough (to satisfy their justification for purchasing). As well as robust features, app users are increasingly demanding ever more elegant and aesthetically pleasing interfaces, so provide plenty of screenshots to showcase the extent of your app’s beauty.
Sorted may be a simple app, but the screenshots really make it look classy and worth using.
Images are great for showcasing a few beautiful parts of an app, but if users want to know how the product works, they are naturally going to want to see it for themselves. Because most apps don’t have “trial” functionality, this testing capability either comes in the form of “free” demo’s or video demonstrations. The great things about videos are that they can be as simple or as complex as you’d prefer! Most apps especially complex ones have some training or sales videos, so should yours!
Pastebot has a demo video which showcases just a few of the app’s amazing features.
Showcasing App Availability
Another trend we need to consider is app availability. It’s great if your app is already out and in the store, but if not, you should ideally aim to provide a time estimate to when users can get your app. In addition, perhaps you are providing your app on more than one platform or device (such as the iPhone and iPad). Unless you are providing a universal app, you’ll want to be sure to highlight where users can get each version from, and notify them of any differences in either price or functionality.
Bills on your Table
Bills on your table has separate iPhone and iPad apps, but it’s fine as their both listed.
One critical feature of any appsite which should be of no surprise is listing the price of the product. It’s quite surprising how many don’t give up-front costs, have small catches like in-app purchases or subscription costs for particular features and don’t let on as to how much it really totals up to. As a developer it’s important to be straight with your visitors. Whether the app costs 99 cents or $50 you need to highlight the price. It may also be useful to show that app’s cost in different currencies!
ZonkOut is straight forward consisting of one product, one layout, and one basic price.
Showcasing Social Sharing
Next is something you’ll want to include as your app gains some users and perhaps beta testers. As your app gets featured in app stores and marketplaces, you’ll find that users can review your app with some comments and a star rating. If you’ve got plenty of praise, why would you want to leave that out of your site? Many app sites provide some selective comments from real users of their app to instil some confidence into others who may use the product. It’s a great way to show integrity.
TaskForce has a rotating quote system which is pretty basic, but it does the job effectively.
While providing visitors with the details they require is highly useful, allowing them to help promote your product is (of course) worthy of consideration. Social networking has become a major platform for recommending products, advertising and generally putting the good word out for useful sites or apps. Including a tweet button, like button or some other mechanism to share (or recommend) a site is worth the space it takes up. Your letting fans of a product forward your link onto their friends!
Dribbblr has a funny name but shows sense by integrating social networking features!
Following the Conventions
Conventions and best practices will of course always evolve over time, and it would be foolish of us to rest on our laurels by producing something totally unusable. Because apps will follow the rules of software such as needing details on versions, prices, downloads and features, we can maximize our layout’s potential by following these simple trends. Users need to know what they’re getting in an app and you want to keep things simple, beautiful and usable some use single page layouts instead.
Depending on the platform, you’ll find conventions and recognisable objects which are universally adopted. Gaining inspiration from the multitude of existing sites is (of course) a good thing, and appsites are known for being beautiful and themed to match the app. It pays to do your research as users place a lot of trust in what you say especially as the process of buying, downloading, installing and learning an app takes time – and money, so your appsite really will need to “be all it can be”!
Have you ever produced an appsite? What conventions do you like employing to promote your product in the best way? Have you got any other tips or common conventions which have not been mentioned in this article? Post your feedback in the comments, we look forward to seeing them!