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How to get your app featured by Apple

Recorded – watch the full episode on YouTube.

You can fill in a form to get featured by Apple, but what are your tips for making it actually happen – to get a prized spot on the App Store?

Ish Shabazz: Does getting featured make a difference income-wise? While it's featured it does. However, over the long term, it does not. So your goal shouldn't only be to get featured – it’s fantastic, I highly recommended it, and I hope that everyone gets to experience that at some point, because it does feel really good. But it's really a short-term thing. You get a little bonus, like a little bump. If you think about a video game like Mario, it's like getting the star for a little bit. You're like, "Yay, I got the star, I'm awesome and amazing." And then it wears off and you go back down to where you are.

What it can do though, is bring awareness about your app. As you're featured, you can't depend solely on that for marketing because that's something Apple likely will ask you: how are you marketing this? What they don't want to hear is you're going to do it for me because that's not going to be a successful long-term thing.

Because it's only featured for a limited amount of time, and then after that it's done. So you should have some other way of communicating about your app. I wouldn't say avoid being featured. I would do it, be featured.

Paul Hudson: So they featured my app as app of the day in the UK, a few days ago actually.

Ish Shabazz: Oh, congratulations.

Paul Hudson: It's great. But it's a free app, with no in app purchases. So, yeah – I'm not going to retire on that one.

Ish Shabazz: That's one of the problems I learned about the free apps because I got a gigantic feature, like huge. So what I got was a tremendous increase in support requests with no additional income. I was like, whoa, that's interesting – I have all these feature requests now, I have all this additional work to do.

It was basically almost like an expanded beta because everyone's like, "Hey, I have all this feedback, but I'm not going to buy anything." I have a thing that I try to reply to every email and that just became a massive time undertaking with no additional income. So I think it's always good to charge just a little bit because it takes time to create a product. It takes a little bit of money even to be on the store as a developer.

"You just need to balance it out – not necessarily advocating for becoming a zillionaire off of it, but I think breaking even is probably a good thing."

So you just need to balance it out – not necessarily advocating for becoming a zillionaire off of it, but I think breaking even is probably a good thing. You don't want to come to the point you're like, wow, this is really costing me a ton of money to be an indie app developer. I'm just losing, losing, losing. I think breaking even is at least fair.

Paul Hudson: As you say, if you get featured and it makes your life worse, things have gone wrong.

Ish Shabazz: That's something to look out for – is this even what I wanted?

Paul Hudson: I remember it took them a while because you get an email saying, “your app might be featured in the App Store." And you get excited. But remember, it’s might, don't rely on – it might be featured, so prepare yourself.

You then go to the App Store Connect, which tells you what you have to submit. It depends on what they ask for, but there's many different things they request – it could be a wide bar or a much smaller thing that they request. But the most complex one is the App of the Day one, I think, because they want a picture that works at three very different sizes. They want the same picture where they can overlay the text “App of the Day”, plus download, plus your app's title. Getting a good picture that's kind of catchy and interesting, and reflects your app, but is also not your app because they want original artwork made by you or someone else that works at three sizes that – it's quite hard.

I was asked last year to be featured. I filled it in, did all the work, and even commissioned some original artwork, then sent it off. They wrote back saying, “can you change this?" Okay, fine I change it and resend, but we then bounce back and forward a few times, until finally it went silent. Then I think six months later they wrote back again saying, “we'd like to feature your app in the App Store."

I actually emailed them I'm saying, "I'm sorry. I just don't have the time for this. It's a free app. I'm making no money. I burned through 30 or 40 hours of work, commissioning, designing, editing, and so on, and got nothing for it. It's not worth my time.” Then they featured it again this year. So playing hardball almost may have worked out for me quite well.

"I think it's always good to charge just a little bit because it takes time to create a product. It takes a little bit of money even to be on the store as a developer."

Ish Shabazz: That's an interesting story. I think developers should just be aware – be ready, plan yourself a bit. I don't know if what they ask for is publicly available, but I'm sure you can find it in a blog somewhere. Just to kind have an idea. Because the first time it happens you can get caught really off guard. You're like, “oh, no, I have to make art and that's not even what I do.” So it's helpful. Luckily, I already knew Heidi when that happened. So it was like, "Hey, Heidi, let's work on a thing." But it can be a lot.

Paul Hudson: It can, but fortunately you've got an excellent designer on hand to help you out and make that big difference. Because it is hard because they give you some example artwork and it's a weird sort of abstract drawing thing – or at least that’s the one I had. They obviously want original, new artwork designed, and that takes skill, and talent – actual work. Who knew? It's quite a process.

Ish Shabazz: You designed your app, you probably never thought of original artwork – you were just kind of trying to get the app to work and get it on the store.

Paul Hudson: To not crash and be terrible.

Ish Shabazz: Basically. Original artwork? I don't even know. So it's an interesting skill. For any designers listening, by the way, I think that would be an interesting thing to offer as a service – help developers make original artwork. There will be lots of developers who have this thing and have no idea how to do that. So I think that's a good avenue.

This transcript was recorded as part of Swiftly Speaking. You can watch the full original episode on YouTube, or subscribe to the audio version on Apple Podcasts.

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