How to Check if an App Store Icon is Any Good

I see on many times on Facebook groups people sending in App Icons for feedback from fellow app developers in a format that I consider suboptimal.

Example:

App Icon Evaluation - the wrong way

(Sorry to pick on you Steve Young 😉 )

So first off, its great to get feedback, so that’s fine.

The right way to check if the app icon “works” is to see the icon as it compares to its COMPETING apps in its natural setting, the App Store.

Personally, I get my designers to send in their App Icon previews on the Google Play Store search results for our target keyword.

For example:

Lets say we are creating a game where the target keyword is “Pharaoh Slots”.

So I will get the designer to send in a screenshot of the Google Play Search results for “Pharaoh Slots”, with their new icon placed on the search results.

They should NOT indicate which is their actual icon because I don’t want to be biased.

I want to look at the search results and the app icon which I think stands out the most SHOULD BE OURS.

google-play-search-pharaoh-slots-icons

Why Google Play?

Just because you can search it from the web so its easy and quick and in our specific case we publish games cross platform including Google Play so it makes sense to us.

You should do something similar for whatever your target outcome is.

In our case, we are looking for search rankings for specific keywords, so again the search results make sense for us.

If you are aiming for top charts in a specific category – then get your designers to put their preview on a screenshot of your specific top charts category from iTunes.

You get the idea.

The principle: 

Evaluate your app icon as it compares to your direct COMPETITORS.

The desired outcome:

Your icon should meet the following criteria:

  1. The most ATTRACTIVE on the page.
  2. STAND OUT the most on the page (in a good way!).
  3. The icon should match the theme of your app! (i.e. for a game about “Pharaoh” your icon should have related graphics).

There are some tools I’ll also add here in the postscript, which might help you (but again, for me it is best to take a manual snapshot of your competitors and evaluate against them directly):

App Icon Testing Tools

Sending App Reviews to Slack: Comparison of Services

Analyzing and responding to user reviews is a critical when you’re developing an app.  Users provide CRITICAL feedback and it is imperative that as developers we read and react to users.

A very convenient way is to have new app reviews automatically sent to Slack.  There are several services which do this and below is a comparison of the different App Review Monitor offerings.

Appbot

  • $49 per month is the cheapest plan on a monthly payment basis.
  • This allows up to 15 apps to be added.
  • Integrates with Slack and Trello.
  • Tracks reviews from the following stores:  iOS, Mac, Google Play, Amazon, Windows Mobile & Windows PC.
  • Verdict:  Pretty expensive!

Launchkit.io

  • Send reviews to Slack.
  • Price is $0 “Always Free”…
  • Nifty feature on signup that you can opt to track all of your companies app with the click of a button (saves time if you have lots of apps)
  • You can also set up a feature to auto-tweet reviews.
  • Apparently takes up to 1 hour for the account to be activated.
  • Launchkit also has a variety of other services that might be worth exploring:  Screenshot Builder, App Website Builder, Sales Reporter and a variety of other tools in Beta.
  • Verdict: Looks like a cool FREE tool, the major downside seems to be that it is ONLY for the iOS App Store.

Appfollow.io

  • Covers multiple App Stores – iOS App Store, Google Play & Windows Phone Store.
  • Integrates with Slack, Trello and Hipchat.
  • 2 week free trial.
  • Free Plan includes up to 2 apps and reviews from 2 countries.
  • Paid Plans range from $9 per month (5 apps, 3 countries) to $39 per month (30 apps, 10 countries).
  • Verdict:  Relatively cheap, integrates with multiple App Stores, so this is a pretty good option for developers with multiple apps across multiple stores. A good option!

AppStore Review Notification for Slack by Bell Apps

  • 100% Free.
  • Reviews from iOS App Store ONLY.
  • Minimalist functions and UI.
  • Verdict:  Probably better to go with the friendlier UI of Launchkit since they are both Free and iOS only.App Reviews to Slack by Bell Apps

    ReviewBot

  • Slack integration.
  • Covers iOS App Store and Google Play.
  • Free plan includes only 1 app.
  • Top tier plan ($5.99 per month) includes only 4 apps.
  • Verdict:  cheap, covers the 2 major stores.  If you have a big app portfolio, this option is probably less than adequate.

AppFigures

  • App Store Review feature available only for paid users.
  • Costs $4.99 per month plus $1.99 per app (with first 2 free).
  • Free 14 day trial available.
  • Covers a wide range of stores:  iOS App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Amazon AppStore, Steam, Mac App Store, Apple TV.
  • Other features include Sales & Downloads tracking, Rank Tracking, Ad Monetization (although most of these features are provided by App Annie for free, so not clear what value they are providing here).
  • Verdict:  can get expensive if you have a lot of apps, but good if you only have a few apps and need cross platform support.

ReviewCatz

  • App Store Review monitor for Google Play only.
  • Currently in Beta.
  • I signed up but after 5 minutes still didn’t have dashboard access.
  • Verdict: need to improve their onboarding.  If they offer this service free, could add this Google Play only service to a free iOS only service such as Launchkit and then cover the 2 major stores.

Build your own (IFTTT / Zapier)

  • Services like IFTTT or Zapier let you create connections between existing web apps.
  • Example: IF new review posted in RSS feed of app THEN post this to Slack.
  • There are some “recipes” and “zaps” that already exist that you can potentially use.
  • I’m not so familiar with these services myself but I know of them, you might want to give it a go. I think IFTTT is free at least as far as I could see from a quick internet search.

Create your own App Review Monitor Tool

  • In the end, these review monitors are super simple web apps to create.
  • All the is needed is to track an RSS feed and post to a slack channel.
  • You can probably find a developer on Upwork to create this type of App for about $200 US, which will pay back the cost of most of these services within a few months.
  • Potentially you could even sell the product at a more reasonable price than the competitors and make some money off it (free business idea for you!).
  • The various tools above try and differentiate themselves by adding on a bunch of different features (e.g. Keyword Analysis / ASO tools), but these are not needed for the core feature of posting new app reviews to slack.

Summary

Since we have a large and growing portfolio of apps, the service that makes most sense for us at the moment is AppFollow.io.

However, creating our own tool will be high up on the list, since the price we’ll pay ($39 per month) means that the cost of development will pay itself back in a matter of months.

If you run an App Review Monitor tool I would recommend making it a totally free service and then upsell your other tools and features, since to develop a review monitor is such a simple task.

Know of any other or new app review monitoring tools that can post reviews to Slack?  Add them in the comments below.

 

How to Succeed

Having come back recently from Carter’s Bluecloud Event in Hawaii and hearing some of the amazing stories of the presenters there, its helped crystallise for me the keys to success, whichever field you decide to master.

#1 Have a strong “why”

You need to have a strong reason for doing something that takes you outside of the norms of society and outside of your comfort zone.

My why I guess was the challenge of creating something from nothing, for achieving financial independence.  I’m very competitive so competition is a strong driving “why” for me.

And of course freedom to do whatever the hell I want and pursue any business ideas or interests that take my fancy, without needing to consider financial matters.

I knew that I would have to succeed or die trying – there was no other option.

#2 Be persistent as hell

The mantra that was running in my mind was what I mentioned above – I would succeed or die trying.  Success did NOT seem like a certainty to me but I knew that I would do everything in my power to succeed.

David Reichelt created 40 games that made no money before he created a hit, Color Switch.  He knew he would never quit and he had this dream of travelling around and being able to run his business from his laptop, having complete freedom so that he could pursue all his creative interests.

OMGPop created created 35 games before they had a hit with Draw Something.

Rovio had 51 failed games before Angry Birds.

You WILL fail. That is USUALLY a pretty certain thing.  So you need to be persistent and have enough grit to push through the failures so that eventually you will succeed.

#3 Have an attitude of learning

Adopting an attitude of learning I think is SUPER important to succeeding.

When I started out creating my first app with my business partner, we decided to invest a small amount of money (up to $500) to create an app.

We didn’t care if the app would fail or succeed financially (of course we hoped it would!), the main overt goal was simply to learn the whole process – how do we hire a developer? artist? how do we upload to the App Store? how do we get download?

When I speak to people who are interested to start a business these days, this will be really one of my top tips.  Whichever field you go into invest in your learning initially and DON’T look to making money as the main outcome.

The next step is to make sure that you do get the most out of your experiences, debrief and make course corrections so that on the next iteration hopefully you will see improvement in the right direct.

 

An Alternative Education

In my opinion, the education system is extremely flawed. If not flawed, at least the focal point is wrong and our kids are missing out on invaluable tools for life.

 

So, on the fly, these are the things I think should be added to the school curriculum.

 

Or perhaps someone can start an after school school which teaches kids the following skills.

 

Interpersonal Skills

When I was at school, there was absolutely nothing devoted to interpersonal skills.

 

Interestingly, in medical school, we DID have interpersonal skills woven into our curriculum, because obviously someone woke up to the fact that being personable and compassionate as a doctor is a pretty important skill which patients value highly.

 

There should be lessons on empathic communication.

 

There should be lessons on how to attract and communicate with the opposite sex (how to attract your life partner, could there be something more important and empowering to teach???)

 

There should be lessons on how to sell (oh, selling is such an important skill) and the psychology behind sales.

 

There should be lessons on how to handle conflict and to be assertive – to express your opinion and make yourself heard.

 

There should be lessons on relationships, setting realistic expectations and communication within a relationship.  How to find a life partner.

 

There should be lessons on leadership and how to work together as a team (these days more and more I believe we rely on teams rather than individuals… I like a section from Sutherland’s book on Scrum where he gave an example of a teacher who introduced students to Scrum and eventually got them to work together using the Scrum framework in his lessons…)

 

Money Skills

There should be lessons about how money works, because it becomes such an important thing in our lives.

 

That means teaching kids about the basics of economics, inflation, investing and pensions.  Not in a dry and boring theoretical way, but in a practical way, the bare essentials that kids need in order to grow up to adults who understand how to protect their financial future.

 

I remember we had as some extra-curricular activity a stock market investing game with make believe money.  But I think as part of the curriculum kids should invest with REAL money, there is no better way to learn, even if it is a tiny amount.

 

There should be lessons about mortgages (which barely any adults understand) and analysis done on whether it is better to own a home or rent and buy investment property.

 

Meditation and Self Reflection

 

We need to teach our kids mindfulness and meditation, so that they can experience more clarity in life.

 

We need to teach kids how to keep a journal which enables self-reflection and self-improvement.

 

Get kids to start a practice of gratitude (one of the only proven methods to increase well being).

 

We should teach kids about the fundamentals of well being and positive psychology.

 

We need to teach and mentor our kids in goal setting and visualization, the types of things that elite athletes are taught we should make available to everyone.  They should have personal coaches who help them develop and explore their own unique interests, develop their personal goals and achieve their own unique potential.

 

I also think kids should have their own websites and blog as a way to connect with other like minded kids and develop an online presence.

 

Business & Entrepreneurship

 

We need to teach our kids about business – finding needs and meeting them.  I believe there is little that is more useful. Business is creativity, it is an engine of economic growth.  While not everyone may go on to start their own business I think the skills that they learn here will benefit them in whatever they do in life.

 

They shouldn’t learn theory. They should go out and start businesses and be mentored in the process.  They should hear from entrepreneurs who have started businesses in different fields.  They should learn from each other and their own successes and failures.  They should learn to take small, hedged bets and carry out lots of experiments until they find success.  They should learn to talk to potential customers, to work out their needs and desires, and then together with the customers to develop products to meet these needs and desired.

 

Learning Skills

We should teach kids how to learn.

 

How to find journal articles and work out what scientific research has to say on a subject.

 

How to find books, courses, etc on given topics (there is so much information out there, they only need to know how to access it).

 

Independence and Curiosity

 

Most of all, I think we should foster their own independence, curiosity and their own uniqueness.

 

They should be mentored to find things they are curious about and take on the necessary self-motivated learning.

 

 

 

I think if someone cracks this, they will go on to make a lot of money.  If you like this as a business idea, take this and try it out.  I think it will make you rich and make the world a better place.

 

Who knows, maybe I will do something about this one day… After all, I am curious about it…

Curiosity VS Passion

Follow your passion is common and fucked up advice.  The unfortunate but realistic state of affairs is that most people don’t know what their passion is.  Imagine how frustrating it can be when talking heads preach to follow something that you don’t know what it is or where it is leading.

 

There is an audio book I listened to recently, which while I found it quite painful to listen to with its airy fairy wafting, did give one golden nugget of advice which I want to pass on to you.

 

If you are one of the lucky few who have a passion and know what it is, go ahead and embrace it.  Grab it and ride it.

 

But, if you are one of the many who don’t have a clear passion then the more sound advice is to follow your curiosity.  It might start out as just a little inkling.  A little nagging. Not much of an interest, but something worth of further investigation.

 

So, like Liz Gilbert advises in “Big Magic”, follow this curiosity.  Do some digging.  Curiosity may lead to nothing at all.  But sometimes by following your curiosity it can bloom into interest. And interest can bloom into passions.  But it is critical to let yourself explore lots of interests and see where they lead you.

 

I can’t agree more with this advice.

 

This is very much in line with my belief of how entrepreneurs should start or even grow their businesses.  Throw out little experiments.  Hedge your risk, make sure your downside is capped, but test in lots of directions.  Most will be misses, but once in a while something will meet a need in the market and then you have a business on your hands.

 

That’s how I started out in apps.  My first app (apart from Make App Mag) was a little novelty app.  It cost about $300 to make, maybe $500.  I framed this for myself as an educational expense.  I hadn’t gone to business school after all, I had no business in business.  So instead of investing in an online course or some fancy university MBA toilet paper, I figured I would rather invest in MAKING something and learning from the process.

 

I was CURIOUS.

 

I wanted to understand what was involved in making an app.

 

I didn’t care too much about the outcome (of course, secretly between you and me, I was hoping this app would hit the top charts and would make me millions… didn’t happen…)

 

And this curiosity grew into my current business, which I am wildly passionate about.

 

If you don’t care much for business, that’s OK.  Doesn’t have to be about business. Could be a hobby or a skill.

 

Take this 30 Day Blog Writing Challenge, for example.  I’ve been curious for a long time about writing and blogging, but haven’t done much with it.  So I set up this challenge to investigate my curiosity.  Who knows where it may lead…

 

So, if you don’t have a passion DON’T WORRY!

 

Just let yourself be curious and actually follow up on your curiosity.  That is the way to go!

 

And if you’re not curious about anything… Then I pity you, really I do.

How to get the most out of a Conference or Event

For the past couple of years I’ve made it a priority to attend events related to my industry.  I guess the seed was planted by a guy I interviewed a while back when I was running Make App Mag (Benjamin Bressinton) who mentioned how unlike other “appreneurs” he would actually attend industry events with real developers.

 

Initially I wasn’t really sure of the value I would gain from attending these events.  One of my main goals was to push myself outside of my comfort zone (I’m quite shy, quite an introvert).

 

The first event(s) I attended were local.  Ofir Leitner runs the Israel Mobile Summit and I think I went to a couple of those events even as much as 3 years ago.  I don’t remember how much I got out of those events business-wise, but I do remember that I was focused on pushing myself outside my comfort zone. I think the first conference I attended, my stated goal was not to go to lectures but rather to speak and connect with as many people as possible.

 

And I guess I enjoyed it.  I enjoyed pushing through my naturally shy barriers.  I liked the challenge and the fact that I managed to push through my fears.  I felt like I was growing.

 

These first events were local and very affordable and I’m sure that wherever you are you would probably have similar opportunities.

 

And I guess I kind of got addicted… I still wasn’t 100% sure about the value I was getting, but I definitely felt like it wasn’t doing anything detrimental… so I kept going.

 

I’ve since attended GDC (Game Developer Conference) in San Francisco (twice already) and when we decided to go into the casino niche I attended several casino-specific events (GIGSE, G2E and my business partner went to ICE in London).  I’ve been to Casual Connect when it was in Tel Aviv (local to me) and most recently Carter Thomas’s (AWESOME) Bluecloud Event in Hawaii.

 

The cost of these events are not insignificant, but I keep going.  I’m still an introvert, that won’t event change, but I love pushing through my comfort zone, because that’s where I feel the growth occurs.

 

One thing these conferences are NOT about – CONTENT.  Most of the content for these types of event you can find online.  For example, Casual Connect publish ALL their content to Youtube for free (if you’re into apps, you MUST browse through their collection!).  GDC record all their lectures and put them in the GDC Vault (paid).  Through this you can get years worth of amazing content.  Don’t get me wrong, there definitely is value in the content of these events, but you don’t need to GO to these events for the content.

 

What have I found most valuable?  Without a doubt, meeting like minded people, making friends and having FUN.  For me, THAT is the goal of attending these events (and I have an inkling that you might be well served by adopting that attitude).

 

Personally, I don’t have many (any?) entrepreneurial friends back home, apart from my biz partner who is also a good friend.

 

And I CRAVE that connection, expanding my circle of friends, meeting like-minded people who are on the same path.  There is some psychic connection which binds us.  And I have been sorely missing it.

 

So I push myself at these events to say “hi” to people I think might be interesting, to connect and potentially make friends.  I’ve made friends from these events which I deeply value and through some of these connections and conversations my business has changed and grown and only benefited.

 

The parts of the events that I find most beneficial are those which foster inter-personal connections.  For example, in Carter’s event we had a kind of “side / time filler” exercise which was to turn to the people sitting with you at your table and asking them what they need help with and telling them what areas you think you can potentially help them with.   This got a discussion going and opened us up.  This “side” exercise was pretty much the highlight of the event for me (at least the “structured” part of the event).

 

In GDC, as a tip for other game developers, they have “Round table” sessions which aren’t recorded and are a more informal sharing of knowledge.  I went to a few of those and they were all great, but there was one round table, the “Producer” round table, which absolutely smashed the ball out of the park for me.

 

They structured the event as a “Lean Coffee” exercise on the topic of “How to improve developer efficiency”.  Before entering the room, participants were given a number, which corresponded to a group in the room (each group was about 10 people strong).  There was some initial warm up exercise and then our group facilitator split us into pairs, where we were supposed to discuss the 1 or 2 things that we found from our experience was most impactful on improving developer efficiency.  Each pair then presented 2 of the best ideas back to the group and posted a post-it note for each idea on the “TO DO” column of a Kanban board.

 

After each pair was done adding their ideas to the board, each group member got 3 stickers which they could use to “vote” on the ideas on the board (you could put all 3 stickers on one idea or spread them around, up to you).  The 5 top ideas with the most votes were then moved to the “IN PROGRESS” column of the Kanban board.

 

The next part of the exercise was called “5 by 5”, where we were to discuss each of these ideas for 5 minutes.  At the end of each 5 minute block we did a quick thumbs up / thumbs down vote for whether to continue discussing the idea or to move on to the next topic (in my group the consensus was always to move on).

 

In final part of the exercise, each group decided on the one or two top ideas that they wanted to present back to the whole room.

 

This exercise was SO powerful.  Instead of having one guy get up and share his own subjective experience, (which has value, don’t get me wrong), we got the collective distilled experience of a group of 100 so industry leading Producers.  Guys from big companies (like Blizzard, Epic Games) and smaller companies.

 

And apart from the raw collective group information, this got us all talking. Instead of sitting in a lecture with a couple of hundred other anonymous people, we were forced to talk to other guys in our industry, potentially make friends and interesting new connections.  And it was FUN!

 

So, GO to events and conferences where you might find like-minded people.  SPEAK to people and within the events I think you should try to avoid lectures and rather go to interactive events where possible, especially if the content is available online.  Go to the PARTIES and have fun! Go with the main aim to have FUN, without expecting much else.  Through speaking to people see who you naturally gravitate and connect to. Where you feel that spark try and continue the conversation.  Sit down with these guys for coffee, go out to a party together, have dinner and maybe set a time to speak after the conference.

 

I hope this helps you.

 

In summary, GO to events. SPEAK to people. Have FUN.  And you might be surprised at the twists and turns your life and business take as a result.

 

I’m writing this on the plane on the (long…) way back from Hawaii.  The people I met there were so incredible… I am just abuzz with joy and a (somewhat) satiated craving to meet people who are sharing the journey together with me, which only leaves me wanting more!  People who have seen through the illusion of the matrix.  Honestly, everyone who I had a conversation with there (and I tried to speak to everyone, although didn’t quite manage)… well I actually can’t even describe the feeling. Just GO.

Talent for Languages

“Oooh but YOU have such a talent for languages”, she said.

“I don’t have the same talent as you do, I couldn’t possibly manage to learn a language as quickly as you…”

 

FALSE.

 

Do I have a talent for languages? Maybe, but probably not.

 

The above conversation occurred on a recent trip to France.

 

I speak French like a developmentally impaired three-year-old.

 

But I don’t care.

 

And perhaps that, my friends, is my ONLY talent.

 

I wish had the same carefree attitude towards failure in other areas of my life.  Somehow when it comes to learning languages, I don’t care to make a fool of myself.

 

So I talk like shit.  My grammar is non-existent.  My words are nonsensical.  But somehow I do manage to make myself understood and to carry out some semblance of conversation.

 

Many years ago, when my friend Steve came to Israel to study Hebrew in an Ulpan (language learning school for Hebrew), I knew before he started that he would succeed in learning the language.

 

When he came to Israel, he knew very few words. Hello (“Shalom”), thank you (“Toda”) and maybe a couple more.  And he used them (somehow a ride on a minibus stands out, where he strung his 4-word vocabulary together…)

 

Did he sound like a fool?

 

YES. (Sorry Steve, but its true… J )

 

But the fact that he was willing to sound like a fool and make mistakes and actually TALK was why I knew he would succeed in learning the language.

 

And after his short stint at the Ulpan, he did indeed come out speaking fluently.

 

It was “remarkable”.

 

So if you want to learn a language, you’ve got to let go of your fragile ego and be willing to go back to being a beginner, to being a baby.

 

TALK, no matter how stupid you may sound.

 

Talking with other humans is what language is all about, after all.

 

It isn’t about doing your grammar homework.  It isn’t about memorizing reams of words. It isn’t about perfecting your spelling.  Throw these out the door!

 

Just TALK.

 

In the end, people love it when you make the effort to speak their language.

 

It is remarkable how much people open up and soften when they see someone is making the effort, no matter how hard it is to understand.

 

And beyond language learning, being willing to experiment and take action is so so so important.  You can apply the same thing to learning a new skill, a new sport, a new hobby or launching a new business.