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Icons and Keywords in submissions to the Apple App Store

November 2, 2012
This is the image I'm thinking of using as the icon for our words4cards app
words4cards app icon

So the time has come for final preparations for submission into the app store.  One thing I picked up from talking with the experienced developers at the ‘Building the Next Big Mobile App’ event on Tuesday night was that the icon on our trial app wasn’t up to scratch. We had previously been using an image similar to the banner of this website.  On the phone itself the image looked vague and didn’t do the quality of the app itself any justice.

I spent some time yesterday morning trying to create an image that would look clear on the phone and represent what we’re trying to do. My daughter was home sick and I was trying to do several other things at the time but I was still pretty happy with the result. The ‘W’ effect becomes clearer as the image gets smaller. You can see this when you look at the words4cards gravatar or Twitter icon.

I looked at the icons on my phone and noticed that ‘Words with Friends’ ‘Wattpad’ and (of course) “WordPress’ apps all featured a ‘W’ in their app icon so I figure we’re in good company. The image will be cropped and tinkered with a bit from the form you see above but in general I like the direction it’s going.

One thing they don’t really tell you in the official Apple prep documents is how many keywords you can use. Given the number of app’s out there and the clunkiness of the in-store search function it’s vital to get the keywords right. It turns out you get 100 characters exactly to implement your keywords.  This includes any spaces and commas to separate the terms. (You don’t need spaces after each comma though.)

I also found out that if you put two keywords together with a space in between them, the space just acts as a delimiter anyway and they get treated as two discrete terms. For instance if I used ‘,get well,’ in my keywords, the search algorithm will treat that as ‘,get,well,’

Initially I didn’t include ‘words’ or ‘cards’ in the keywords because I thought  they’d be in the app name and therefore already searchable and it would be counter productive to use these words twice. Later I found out that words4cards wouldn’t pick up ‘words’ or ‘cards’ as discrete terms so I had to include them.

It seems finding the right keywords is something of a dark art. Pick words that are too popular and you’ll be swamped by bigger apps or select words that are too quirky and they’ll rarely get searched at all.

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