A podcast discussing news of note in iOS Development, Apple and the like.

#175: Towards a Better App Store: Part 1

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This begins a multi-part series on how I think we could move the App Store forward. I had initially thought this could be a single show but quickly realized that it will take quite a few 15 minute conversations to really unpack what can practically be done to make the App Store a better place.

A note on Show Notes. I’m planning to continue the long form notes for now, but realize that they are only a taste of what is discussed in the show and not a transcript.

The Goal

It is perhaps a bit glib to assume that the App Store is in need of fixing. It is perhaps the most success software marketplace in history. It has facilitated the download of over 60 billion applications. It removed a tremendous amount of friction and hassle with software distribution. It has allowed the creation of a new way for customers to think about software.

But I think it can be better. I have genuine, personal affection for the App Store. It has allowed me personally to do things I never thought possible. But (to quote myself):

I want to believe that the App Store is a special place. I want for it to be the singularly best venue for customers to come and find innovative, well designed, quality software. Software that pushes the boundaries of what is possible and continually amazes and delights its customers. I want for there to be an aspirational pull upwards on my own development. I want to feel like I need to work extra hard to make sure my apps meet the high standards my customers have been trained to expect.

I don’t think the App Store lives up to these projected goals, but I think it could.

When trying to think of the areas and ways in which the App Store could be improved it is likely not productive to think from a developer’s point of view. In all cases for the App Store to be successful it needs to be customer oriented. I need a target towards which to aim. With this in mind I started out with the goal making an app store that:

Helps customers find quality apps to fill their current need as quickly as possible.

That need could be specific (I need to listen to a podcast) or general (I’m bored, What fun apps have come out recently). In either case the goal of the App Store should be to help customers find a robust, quality app in as few taps as possible. Stated in the converse it would minimize customer confusion, disappointment and regret.

Generally speaking this will also help out developers. Many discussions of what would make the App Store better tend to focus around a theoretical divide between “Good” developers and “Bad” developers. I know I myself have fallen into this stereotyping, but it is unlikely to be productive when considering a broader context. There are some behaviors that we can likely all agree are undesirable (copyright infringement, deceptive marketing, etc) but beyond that it is constructive to start with an assumption that all apps enter the store equal and are differentiated based on the market itself not our own notions.

The Problems

Over the next few weeks I plan to unpack ways this could improve in the following areas:

  • Catalog Size
  • Business Models
  • Search
  • Ratings
  • Editorial
  • Categories
  • Top Charts