Playing App ‘Hide and Seek’
Writing mobile apps can be damnably hard work, wise if you’re trying to create cross-platform code in an effort to maximise revenue and audience.
So why is it, given the high barrier to entry, that the current app stores make life ten times harder by failing to give us a decent way of surfacing our creations?
Apple it seems adopts the Charles Dickens approach to developers, offering us the best of times (a huge potential user base and a controlled, walled environment) and the worst of times (an app store that runs through iTunes that has little or no way of allowing the potential audience to find good software in the first place).
It’s an issue that is currently occupying my time and the time of my latest client (also wife!), who’s trying to publicise an app I wrote to help promote her business.
In a way she’s lucky. With more than 10,000 Facebook followers she already has a captive market for the the app, and not only a captive market but a niche captive market that has many friends who are open to recommendation. But even this approach is fraught with trouble. It seems that Facebook has recently decided to allow it’s users to ‘promote’ their posts, an activity which involves charging a page owner a set amount to reach their existing audience and to extend beyond that audience. That’s fine if you’re a business of size with a few quid behind you, but for the back bedroom coder and part-time looking to dip a toe into the waters of mobile dev, it’s going to cause issues.
What else then? What about App Shopper, App Zapp and the like – you know, those free to play app discovery sites that carry all the latest news about what’s been released, what’s rising and falling in price and what’s popular. I’ve always found these sites to be really useful – a free and easy way to spread the word about latest developments. But a recent update to the Apple T&Cs seems to be trying to kill such sites (and apps) off, explicitly forbidding the advertisement of third-party apps in some circumstances.
And Android is little better.
So what’s an indie developer to do? Short of digging deep into their own pockets to try and find some kind of advertising budget, there’s no real help or way forward unless, it seems, your work catches the eye of someone, somewhere, who holds a degree of sway with the mobile community.
It’s a worry, not just from the perspective of those who create mobile apps for a living, but from the view of the Matthew Smith‘s of the world who produce genuinely talented bedroom code who stand an ever diminishing chance of seeing their work get the attention it warrants.