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Nothing is broken and no one is "doing it wrong". It's not broken, it's just inconvenient for you. This sucks for app developers with bad app store SEO and lackluster icons, app designs, and screenshots of said designs. Many apps at the bottom of the stack will be neglected. This is a good thing. I'm about to release an app into the app store for the first time and I'm happy about it.

This will raise the bar for developers. It'll force them to do better app store SEO and it'll force the, to pay attention to design. Ugly apps aren't always necessarily bad but more ugly apps are bad than ugly apps that are good. This isn't Android. On iOS, users tend to judge an app by its icon and screenshots and they use pretty apps more than they open ugly ones. I didn't make the rules, I just play by them. Developers should be welcoming competition and with so many crap apps out there today it's probably better for good app developers to work on getting their rankings higher while the crap app makers languish at the end of the results.

While its bad for developers it's great for buyers. Guess what? There are far more buyers than developers on the app store. You may argue that if developers leave then iOS will die. Not so. Again, iOS users are a different animal. They can live with just a few big name apps from the major players. Android users tend to like lots of apps from indie devs and iOS users do too but if push came to shove they'd just keep their Angry Birds, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp and go on with their day. Screenshots are very important in the buying process and putting them front and center like this.

As developers we tend to think we're the center of the universe. We place far too much importance on our role than is deserved. Witness the outrage over Twitter's API. While developers were screaming about revolt the users barely noticed and kept tweeting away. Meanwhile Twitter pretty much gave us the finger because they know we'll be back because they have the users. Developers are like parents in a way. We raise a platform then the platform rebels. We threaten to cut them off but by that point the platform is all grown up and doesn't need our help anymore. iOS won't be hurt by developers leaving. If developers leave over not being found in search results then by definition they're leaving because no one's using the app. Who's going to miss an app that never gets used?




As a buyer, I don't see how it is great for me. When I search on the App Store there are usually several hits in the results that are not at all interesting to me, and ahead of the hits that better match what I'm looking for.

I want to see several results at once so I can pick which ones I want to look into more deeply. If I have to step through them one at a time with a noticeable delay at each step, I'm not going to be a happy buyer.


This hilarious part is had they left it the way it was, you would have actually seen MORE results with the new iPhone 5.


I wonder if that was part of the reason for the redesign.


You want this. You have certain tastes and preferences and expectations but you (and me and everyone else who reads HN) are not representative of the typical user.

For a community all about entrepreneurship and building things for others you'd think we'd figure out by now that we are not the customer (unless you run some business directed directly at tech savvy people but you get my point).

Also, I am astounded at the hubris people display when faced with minor annoyances like this. Don't like the new App Store design? Well then it's fucking broken!

We are all a bunch of nobody's trying to scream louder than all the other nobodies about how smart we are and how we'd do a better job but most of the time its all bullshit. It takes some balls to think you're smarter and can do better than the most valuable company on earth. Every time someone is annoyed by something someone inevitably comes out and says its the wrong way to do it. Well there's an easy way to test if you're right or not. If the App Store stops making money any time between now and, let's be generous, the next time they change the App Store UI then you'll be right. But as long as they're making billions off this thing I feel pretty confident in saying they're doing something right and I sincerely doubt they'd do anything to harm their baby.

Think about it: it you run a company and have a successful product why would you change it? You wouldn't change it because some asshole designer has some extra time on his hands and thinks he came up with something prettier. No. You'd change it because you have the data that tells you it's going to make you more money if you do.

I'll never understand why people think these huge multi-bazillion dollar companies are being run by total morons. And make no mistake, if you write a blog post about how billion dollar product X is broken because they changed its color or something then you're taking the position that the company has as its decision makers a bunch of morons taking shots in the dark.

And one more thing: did you notice it? Someone did. Something changed and then someone complained about it (even going as far as to say its broken). Of course. Human beings hate all change and we'll fight it to the death even if it's for the better. Six months from now the same people who hate this will be same ones who will fight to keep the very design they hated (if they ever decide to change it) just to avoid change. Because change is scary and involves learning a new thing and what if you're not good at the new thing and the cycle of anxiety provoking thoughts begins...


"Human beings hate all change and we'll fight it to the death even if it's for the better. Six months from now the same people who hate this will be same ones who will fight to keep the very design they hated (if they ever decide to change it) just to avoid change."

I really hope people just stop with this. Every single change to any website makes that website not allowed to be criticized at all because its just us sheep being afraid of change. Fuck giving evidence for problems, talking about design implications or anything like that. Just give the simple line that humans are scared of change, pretend like that is the entire cause and feel good that you were able to imply people aren't smart because they made well reasoned arguments and you had a canned line ready.

How this comment got a single upvote is mindboggling to me.


No, this sort of blindly pro-Apple bull shit is what's wrong with current conversation around Apple. Are we supposed to roll over and shut up because the almighty Gods at Apple decided this was the best way to do? This notion that we should get down on our knees and pray (or otherwise please) the overlords is just wrong-- is it really so crazy to assume that Cook & co. could make a mistake? Yes-- large, publicly traded corporations generally look into many options, accurately predict the outcomes of each, and then make an educated decision that is likely to have the best outcome-- but that doesn't make them infallible. Questioning Apple isn't hubris-- it's human.

Tangential: Why do I as a developer have to assume that users don't want what I want? Is it so wrong to think that a user might want to be able to see and evaluate 5 different apps at a time instead of 1? The past couple of years in tech have been spent wondering how to simplify UI for the sake of the user, to the point where we can't even trust them to have settings-- we need to know what's best for them before they log on to our websites or launch our apps, but is that really valid? It's easy to imagine that in 1983 when Microsoft Word was first announced, people needed total simplicity-- these "personal computer" things (probably a fad) were brand new and only available to the elite-- but this is the twenty first century and we have a whole generation of digital natives who will ask Google for an answer before they get in the shower-- and they're users too.


It's equally fair to say that there is a lot of blindly anti-Apple articles that make the front page here.

"Are we supposed to roll over and shut up because the almighty Gods at Apple decided this was the best way to do?"

No. But by the same token claiming something s broken within hours of it's release and without any measurable data is hyperbolic and at this stage in the game somewhat OTT. Much the same is true with mapping. As another poster has said, don'rt buy their products, or if you are developer, don't develop for the platform. Of course multinationals make mistakes. It's far too early to claim that this is the case.

"...this is the twenty first century and we have a whole generation of digital natives who will ask Google for an answer before they get in the shower-- and they're users too." And I'm willing to bet that they are still not representative of the majority of end users. It's not as if these users aren't catered for either - Android is an excellent mobile OS that is far more friendly to the end user that wants that level of control. No, the biggest issue we have now is the over inflated sense of entitlement that the many on the internet seem to have.


> "This notion that we should get down on our knees and pray (or otherwise please) the overlords is just wrong"

Yep. Totally wrong - just don't buy Apple. Kind of simple. It's not like there's no alternatives...


This is just an incredibly weak appeal to authority. Billion dollar companies make major mistakes all the time, in design and in every other area of business. In fact, Apple is a multi-billion dollar company precisely because of design and business oversights made by IBM, Microsoft, Samsung, and other billion dollar companies in the past.

Even if these app store changes are a good tactical decision, in that based on user data, they are likely to increase immediate revenues (which shouldn't go without question simply because OMG it's Apple), it could still be a poor strategic decision if it begins pushing indie developers and the particular brand of innovation that they provide to other platforms. What platforms will the Angry Birds and Instagrams of the future build on first if it costs $250k in marketing get noticed on the App Store? Maybe Apple doesn't give a shit about that and is content to milk its money farm for all its worth, to hell with the long term consequences. That attitude has certainly been fashionable in American business lately, but that doesn't make it a wise approach. No company is immune to future innovation if it rests on its laurels. IBM wasn't. Microsoft wasn't. Apple isn't.


"I'll never understand why people think these huge multi-bazillion dollar companies are being run by total morons."

History is filled with stories of huge companies that have failed and no longer exist today. I wouldn't use your language 'total morons', but of course the people running them made poor decisions.


While I agree with your broader sentiment about this post being more change aversion than substantive debate the logic here is circular: if "multi-bazillion" dollar companies always initiate change because they "have the data that tells [them] it's going to make [them] more money" then any decision by a large company is self-evidently correct. This is false; the large company could have overlooked things, made a logical error, or have had an idiot on the web server team pushing changes he didn't realise broke iOS's WiFi capabilities. Your argument should push deeper than an appeal to Apple's authority.


Displaying Picasa HD Lite in front of Web Albums does no good to anybody. And frankly if the developers have to do SEO because the freaking title is more important than rank+description, than the search function is definitely broken.


The example here was searching on the search term "picasa" and the search algorithm returning two applications that have that search term in their name ahead of applications that do not.

It's certainly possible that Web Albums is better than Picasa HD Lite, but c'mon. If you do a search for "photoshop" you will find competitors to Photoshop Express with higher ratings, but Photoshop Express still shows up ahead of them in the search results. Even more shockingly, when you search on the word "twitter," the official Twitter app shows up ahead of Tweetbot, and you won't believe what comes up when you search for "angry birds!"

Maybe this means the App Store is broken, or -- going out on a limb here -- it means that it's prioritizing titles that actually contain your search term over titles that don't. Maybe you think it's just completely insane that titles take priority over keywords and description text, but -- again, maybe this is just my crazy crazy way of looking at the world -- I kind of see the logic there.


If Google Search worked like this, I wouldn't be using it. The title is definitely important, however on Google the title is less important than everything else combined, and that's how it should be.

Also, from your examples all the apps you mention are above 4 stars and have massive downloads. TweetDeck may be better than Twitter, but the official Twitter is not too shabby either.

Also I'm sick and tired about apps with title-SEO. Twitter is a known brand, however if Twitter were to be launched today as an iOS app it would be called "Short-message your friends" or some crap like that.


Google have a heck of a lot more data to go on. It's not just the title of Facebook.com, it's the millions of links to it that contain the word 'Facebook'.

The app store doesn't have that data, so has to rely more on titles to try and how you a specific app if you do a specific search. If I search for 'Facebook' there's a high chance I want the official app, so it should come up high no matter if it's not the highest ranked.

Of course, it's plainly open for abuse. I wonder if they do, or could, take usage stats into account as well as ratings. If everyone is using the official Facebook app despite the fact it's crap, the user is probably trying to find it when they search for it, but it no one is using My Crappy Picassa App then it shouldn't be ranked very highly, even on a search for 'Picassa'. But then you have the bootstrapping problem of new apps being hard to find, even with exact searches. Perhaps some sort of inverse relationship between age and active users would work.


Well actually, they should have more data. The description and reviews should be available to them without an issue. More importantly, they could mine backlinks for more context.


> You wouldn't change it because some asshole designer has some extra time on his hands and thinks he came up with something prettier. No. You'd change it because you have the data that tells you it's going to make you more money if you do

This is Apple we're talking about. They pride themselves on completely ignoring what "the market wants" for what they think is the best.


I largely agree with your point, but I have to respond to this:

> I'll never understand why people think these huge multi-bazillion dollar companies are being run by total morons. And make no mistake, if you write a blog post about how billion dollar product X is broken because they changed its color or something then you're taking the position that the company has as its decision makers a bunch of morons taking shots in the dark.

Many, many large companies do have morons taking shots in the dark, based requirements and data that have little-to-no basis in reality, coupled with broken bureaucracy and individual incentives that are not even remotely aligned with what actually matters to their customers.

Apple isn't one of those companies.


MS build their platform on being nice to decelopers. Apple has consistently fucked their developers over and over.

That tactic works as long as we can wipe our asses with 100 dollar bills from their sales. If that doesn't happen, we might as well go where we are wanted.


> You want this. You have certain tastes and preferences and expectations but you (and me and everyone else who reads HN) are not representative of the typical user.

I want search results that let me find what I'm looking for while minimizing the amount of junk I have to deal with along the way. I didn't realize that wanting search to do a good job at finding things was a sophisticated HN-user desire, out of touch with the common man. I guess that does explain all those times I've heard ordinary people exclaim while searching, "Dang! I found what I wanted too easily. I wish this thing was harder to use effectively!". :-)


I do agree that people here scoff at things because they don't like it personally, I do think multi-bazillion dollar companies can easily be wrong sometimes. Take Buzz, Ping and the Kin for example, all three were winded down.


So you only judge a book by it's cover? Or an app by its icon and name?


The icon and name are a first filter. For example, suppose I'm searching for "star chart".

When I see "Horoscope" in the name of a result, I skip it.

When I see the name is "Potty Chart" and the icon consists of a toilet with the seat up and a star hovering over the seat, I skip it.

When I see the name is "iAllowance" and the icon is a piggy bank, I skip it.

When I see the name is "Vinmeen Lite" and the icon shows a constellation, I think "what the heck is a vinmeen" and click. :-) (It turns out it is the Tamil word for "star").


I judge them by screenshots and then icons. It's certainly easier than downloading them all. Ratings on the app store don't tend to be very accurate for my tastes.


Ok? That doesn't mean iOS6 "broke" anything. It does it different now. Using "break" is the wrong word.


If you're about to release your first app on the app store you're not qualified to understand its dynamics. Sorry.

I believe this redesign is a small step backward, and some sort of step forward. Showing a screenshot is a good idea but users are notoriously lazy and won't venture past even a few results so it creates a feedback loop where only the best performers get rewarded, further fueling that performance.


> If you're about to release your first app on the app store you're not qualified to understand its dynamics. Sorry.

Possibly. But it does mean he's more qualified to view the App Store from a user's perspective, instead of a developer's. The App Store is designed for users, not for developers, which was his whole point.


OP is thinking he can enter the app store and have his app somehow be better than all the apps that came before it to the point where it'll rise to the top in iOS 6's listings.

My app (KEYBOX) has been on the app store for over a year and in magazines and whatnot and I've ASO'd it to quite an extent where the sales have stabilized but penetrating the first few pages for most searches in various languages still proves challenging.

Users fall into roughly 3 categories...

1. Actively looking for your app (be it by name or function) and will buy right away.

2. Not looking for your app but may buy if they stumble upon it.

3. Not looking for your app and and wouldn't buy even if they stumbled upon it.

We developers don't have to do much to get users from group #1, and #3 is simply not interested. We want to be in front of the eyeballs of members of group #2. Apple's rankings are still a black box but the higher up our apps appear in the listings the more likely they are to be seen and therefore purchased.

The app store is designed to make money above all else and if Apple wants to keep it that way it needs to make sure apps aren't hidden in the catacombs of the app store. This redesign my end up doing just that.


It's a nice thought but there's just one catch. This new interface makes it difficult for new applications to be 'discovered', especially if they're not chosen by Apple to be shown near the top of the stack.

Yes, it will force developers to do better App store SEO, but that's not what we want. We want users to be able to use apps that have better design. To me this new layout makes it harder for users to compare apps, and thus makes it harder for them to find the ones that are the most well-designed.

If, as you say, the users naturally gravitate toward using more well-designed apps, then what's wrong with the current system? If I were you, I would worry that your new app -- even if it's revolutionary, even if it's the prettiest App in the App Store -- would be stuck at the bottom of the list, because Apple chose to dedicate more space to the flashy apps that are already ranked first.


You missed the important part about the broken nature of App Store SEO. It isn't good for buyers or developers to show less results when search results are very poor. The quality of your design will not matter at all if no one sees your icon. You need much better quality results for good usability with 1 result per page.


Everything you say will be true as soon as Apple's search is good enough to reward quality apps instead of SEO hackers.

Until then, this is a step backwards.


Well his main suggestion for app makers to get better in the store is to "focus on SEO" so I think he disagrees with you.


This is bad for developers and users. Users see less results and will miss out on quality apps. And do you really think it's good to reward app store SEO??

>> "This will raise the bar for developers. It'll force them to do better app store SEO"

How is this a good thing? Would you not rather spend time developing a great app. This just creates an opportunity for people to become more successful through gaming the store.

Trust me, after you've released your app to the store and you see the importance search ranking has (and how difficult it is to acquire the things you need to rank high) you will change your opinion on this.


I'm sorry Bill but I am going to have to respectfully disagree. The App Store is broken and Apple is doing it wrong. The point of search is to find new interesting apps. With over 700,000 apps on the App Store, search is the only way most indie devs get sales. And with the new changes, even the best devs cannot rank high on search.

We do not think we are the center of the universe. However, we are an important park of Apple's ecosystem. We helped build the App Store to where it is today.

As of right now, it feels like Apple is kicking us to the curb, Just read some of the app dev forums around the web. A lot of us lost money over Apple's decisions last summer. And we will continue to lose money.

Please come back and comment when you have released you first app. If spending thousands of marketing dollars on my already popular apps did not decelerate my sales freefall, then most new apps on the App Store have very little chance at succeeding.

A new paid app will never rank high on search. That's the state of things right now. For some reason, Apple's new search algorithm prefers free apps over paid apps and older apps over newer apps.


This will raise the bar for the users as well unfortunately and I hope they will evaluate throughly.

A sample scenario:

I am on the move and I am looking for an app, I search with a keyword x, but I can only see ONE app at a time so:

1- I can't quickly compare the first search results and pick one in particular

2- If I want to see all the search results I have to swipe as many times as the number of the search results themselves

3-Finally I have to remember what I liked best then swipe all the way back to it

How can this be convenient for me, especially if I am in a hurry?


Lord knows that the main thing I want is an app that focuses on SEO over good design.


> They can live with just a few big name apps from the major players. Android users tend to like lots of apps from indie devs and iOS users do too but if push came to shove they'd just keep their Angry Birds, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp and go on with their day.

I am not sure I am parsing this correctly - but I would guess that iOS users care a lot more about indie apps than Android users do. (iPad and iPod touch users even more than iPhone users) Is there any data on this?

As an iOS consumer, the indie developers are indeed the center of the universe for me (or at least the center of the App Store). But then I'm also considering an Xbox 360 for XBLA only :)


>This will raise the bar for developers. It'll force them to do better app store SEO and it'll force the, to pay attention to design. [...] Developers should be welcoming competition and with so many crap apps out there today it's probably better for good app developers to work on getting their rankings higher while the crap app makers languish at the end of the results.

Good comment, but I don't agree with this part. This does very little to help "good app developers" or encourage competition.

The app store is very strongly biased towards the first few hits for a given search result. As a small to medium developer, if you're not in the top 5-10, depending on the keyword, you may as well not exist. And that ranking depends first and foremost on your ability to drive downloads to your app, and a distant second on your app quality.

This change will make the bias that much stronger towards the first 1-3 apps. They'll tend to stay there, while other apps will have that much harder a time to move up.

I LOVE that screenshots are more visible. It's great for users, and it's great for quality apps. I have a great app currently ranking in the lower range of top 10 for my targeted keyword, and slowly moving up because - in my opinion at least - it's higher quality than the apps above. Great icon, great screenshots, app looks and behaves great. So you'd think I'd be ecstatic about this change.

Actually, I'm worried this change will stop my app dead in its tracks, and further consolidate the top 1-3 positions. Can you explain to me how that's good for either of users, developers, or competition?


"I'm about to release an app into the app store for the first time and I'm happy about it."

You are like a virgin trying to give advise to prostitutes on the street corner on how to improve their game. You literally have no idea what you are stepping into.


what you don't realize since you are just starting is that Apple just changed the search results to weight time on store and number of downloads more heavily. That means your SEO isn't going to put you in the front right away. this change is going to have the effect of less total apps seen which is going to make it even harder for new apps. I just had an app that got covered by several major blogs, good reviews, and had hundreds of downloads for the first few days. After a month I'm now getting between 0-2 downloads a day, and I'm 8 for the search of my app name.


When I search the app store I am not looking for a pretty app. I am looking for a very specific app.

But you are properly right. Apple doesn't get that functionality is so much more important than estethics.


Any resources you suggest for learning App Store SEO?


1) Have a long title with keywords in it: "Super Task: The todo organizer time management for agile" 2) Pick good keywords. Repeat them in your description copy. 3) Get everyone you know to give you a 5-star review when you launch.

That's about it. There's not much more you can do.


Actually this could be bad advice in the new model. You see the App Store search is still at its core just a Lucene index. In which case the weightings are likely to be similar:

titlePhrase 9 / authorPhrase 9 / subjectPhrase 9 / genrePhrase 9 / titleWords 3 / authorWords 3 / subjectWords 3 / genreWords 3 / titleExact 20 / authorExact 18

As you could see just stuffing keywords will guarantee you appear in lots of different searches but not necessarily ranked highly in any of them. Really depends on the type of app you sell.




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