Updated: January 14, 2019
Apple recently unveiled an all-new App Store at the WWDC 2017, which is currently available to users of the beta version of iOS 11 and will be included in the new mobile operating system once it becomes available to customers sometime this Fall. This is the most significant update since the App Store launched in 2008 and, although the basics of App Store Optimization (ASO) remain the same, these changes do pose numerous initial challenges for you, as a developer.
To help you understand how these changes will ultimately affect your app’s performance, we would like to acquaint you with the most significant updates. Check back in the next few weeks, as we will be publishing a more thorough review of their impact on app discovery and conversion.
The new navigation bar for the iOS 11 App Store is divided into five distinct elements. While “Updates” and “Search” tabs remain, there are three new navigation tabs: “Today,’’ “Games,” and “Apps.” These new tabs function to eliminate competition between Apps and Games, and allow users to more easily navigate the App Store.
The iOS 10 App Store landing page (“Featured” tab) features apps divided by a number of editor-picked categories. Below each category, featured apps are exhibited in a carousel with an icon and short title. This format significantly limits the developer’s ability to adequately describe their app and stand out among competitors. However, this format gives apps a greater chance of being featured on the App Store’s landing page, as there are 11 different categories. The iOS 11 App Store, on the other hand, allows for only a select few apps to be featured on the landing page—making competition all the more challenging.
For further reading on how to get featured in the iOS 10 App Store, click here.
The new App Store landing page is now called “Today” and is designed like a daily news source featuring exclusive premieres, new releases, favorites, interviews, and how-to guides to help customers use apps in innovative ways. Rather than having several categories of featured apps, the new landing page features an app of the day or a game of the day. The featured “App of the Day” includes an upload icon that allows users to download the app directly from the landing page without being redirected to the App Store Product Page.
When users click on “World Premiere,” “App of The Day,” or any other story on the “Today” page, they are directed to an in-depth and content rich, editor’s piece that may include preview images, videos, and an opportunity to download an app at the bottom of the page.
Games and Apps now have their own navigation tabs and pages.
In order for iOS 10 users to get to games, they have to go to the Categories tab, click on Games to browse subcategories of games, then click on another sub-sub-category to browse corresponding games, as depicted below.
In the iOS 10 version, the sub-sub-category page is organized by four different genres: “New,” “What’s Hot,” “Paid,” and “Free.” Corresponding featured apps are also exhibited in a carousel with an icon and short title. Again, getting featured is easier in this format, as game apps are strictly competing against other game apps in their genre and not competing against all apps in the App Store.
As Games is the most popular category in the App Store, the iOS 11 version now has an entire page strictly devoted to the Games experience—affording users the ability to navigate and discover available games without sifting through other app types.
The new “Games” page is designed as a news feed. The top of the page has a carousel of new and featured games with titles and more visually appealing previews. Below that, there are several editor-picked subcategories in which 3 or 4 corresponding featured apps are presented in a carousel with an icon, title, and subtitle—allowing developers to describe their app in greater detail and utilize keywords.
Scrolling further down will enable users to get to “Top Paid” and “Top Free” categories, which were located under the “Top Charts” tab in the iOS 10 App Store. Note that “Top Grossing” has been removed entirely in the iOS 11 version.
Below “Top Paid” and “Top Free” is where users can now find “Top Categories” and other editor-picked subcategories below that. This new format places more emphasis on editor-picked, featured apps as users have to scroll through featured apps in order to browse Top Categories.
The new “Apps” page is essentially identical to the new “Games” page in which users have to scroll through featured apps in order to be able to browse Top Categories. This new format significantly alters the user’s browsing journey, whereby users are distracted by a host of editor-picked, featured apps before they can browse specific categories. The purpose of these changes is obvious; to get users to explore new apps even if they know exactly what they want to browse in the App Store. This is a challenge for developers insofar as the App Store is gaining more control over which apps they want users to discover.
The “Search” page has seen minor cosmetic changes, which we do not predict will alter the user’s search experience whatsoever. These cosmetic changes simply accentuate an inquiry theme to the page.
Once users enter a search query, they are directed to the Search Results page. The changes that have been made to this page will undoubtedly impact app performance. First, the app icon is smaller and the title is shorter. This is a challenge for developers as they will no longer be able to rely on the title to describe their app’s utility. The subtitle, which for iOS 10 was the developer’s name, has been replaced by the app category. Ratings have changed in color and are located directly below the subtitle, regardless of whether your app has been rated. The price/Get button is now more prominent, with bold lettering and shading.
The biggest changes made to the Search Results page—that we predict will have the most significant impact on user behavior—is the Gallery updates. App Preview videos and screenshots can still be displayed in either landscape or portrait format.
Like the previous version, if developers choose to use the landscape format then only one App Preview video or screenshot will appear on the Search Results page. However, if developers choose to use the portrait format, now up to three App Preview videos and/or screenshots can appear, rather than just two. Videos will always be displayed before screenshots and the first video will now play automatically, but sound will be muted by default.
While more gallery images are visible (when using the portrait format), the entire App Frame has been reduced in size in order to provide more real estate on the Search Results page to competitor apps. This will naturally increase search competition.
The new App Store Product Page is now one scrollable page, whereby all in-page tabs have been removed.
The App Store Product Page now has a Sticky Header containing the app icon and price/Get button for streamlining immediate installs.
The App Store Product Page Header is like an App Store business card, including all essential information and details about the app. The new header has minor tweaks that function to help you better communicate the utility of your app to customers. Overall, the new header is more dominant, taking more real estate out of the First Impression frame.
The app icon is still one of the first elements that users see. Hence, it is essential to have an icon that gives a strong first impression while communicating your app’s purpose and utility. The new Sticky Header further accentuates your app icon, as your icon is now always visible on your Product Page, even when users scroll down.
The app title is now larger, with bolded lettering. The new app title has a character limit of 30, while iOS 10 has a character limit of 50. Since developers tend to pack keywords into their app title in the efforts to get indexed by Apple’s search algorithm, a decrease in the app title character limit will have implications on keyword optimization.
The subtitle now serves as an additional asset developers can use to describe their app and encourage users to download. Since Apple has begun indexing keywords found in the subtitle, the subtitle can now be used by developers for search optimization. Just like the app title, subtitles are limited to 30 characters. In the older version, the subtitle was restricted to the developer’s name.
In-app purchases are given a lot more attention in the new version in the efforts to be more transparent as well as increase in-app purchases.
First, is the in-app purchase label, which functions to alert users if there is a possibility they will have to spend extra money within the app itself. In the new version, this label is now appropriately situated next to the price/Get button.
Second, there is now a separate section on the App Store Product Page—within the “Information” section—that is devoted to in-app purchases. We will discuss this further in the “Information” section below.
The price/Get button is also more dominant in size, appearance, and location.
The share icon has been completely redesigned and is now located in the App Store Product Page Header. While the icon is far more prominent than it was, this redesign and relocation will likely be jarring for users and may even decrease the volume of shares for a number of reasons.
First, users are not acquainted with the new icon, as it is not consistent throughout all Apple products (e.g. iTunes and iPhoto use the older share icon). It’s important for the user experience that all Apple products maintain consistency with their icons.
Second, the new icon closely resembles a “more information” or “additional options” button. For example, Google uses a similar icon in Inbox for providing users with additional options.
Third, the new share icon is situated where the price/Get button used to be. This may be disorienting for customers who are looking to quickly download.
Finally, the old share icon is located in the sticky header in iOS 10, which means that the option to share is always visible and available to users even as they scrolled down the Product Page. Since the new icon is located in the Product Page Header in iOS 11, users are only able to share when the header is in frame.
For non-featured apps, the evaluation panel now includes average star ratings, total number of ratings, app ranking, and age rating. As previously mentioned, the in-page tabs found in the iOS 10 version have been entirely removed.
In the iOS 10 version, the average star rating and total number of ratings used to be found below the subtitle as well as under the in-page Review tab, and were automatically reset upon submitting each new app version. In iOS 11, the average star rating and total number of ratings are appropriately placed in the Evaluation Panel and developers can now choose whether these rating metrics are reset upon a new app version submission—a major advantage for developers with good existing ratings.
In iOS 10, apps are ranked in each category and users have to browse through the Categories tab in order to see app ranking. Since Apple pushed the “Top Categories” section below the fold on both Games and Apps pages in iOS 11, they decided to stamp each App Store Product Page that ranks amongst the top apps in their category or subcategory with an app ranking number. This element is visible to any visitor and functions to help with the user’s app assessment process.
In the iOS 10 version, age rating is situated next to the app title. In the new version, the age rating is much more visible. It is also an important element of Apple’s overall strategy of using the App Store Product Page Header to help the user make the quickest decision on whether to bounce or install.
The gallery is still the core asset of your App Store Product Page, occupying the most dominant real estate on the page. The gallery can host App Preview videos and/or screenshots.
In the new version, the App Preview video has seen the most significant improvements:
A total of 10 App Preview screenshots can now be uploaded to the gallery, and the App Preview orientation can be displayed in either landscape or portrait format.
If developers choose to use a screenshot/video in the portrait format, all screenshots/videos will be displayed in that format.
If developers use a screenshot/video in the landscape format, only one image will be seen on the Product Page without scrolling through the carousel.
For more information on landscape vs portrait and which is better in terms of CVR in iOS 10, click here.
The first line of the Description is still the most important and should be used as the cornerstone in describing your app. The iOS 10 version shows up to five lines of the description before displaying the read “More” button. The iOS 11 version only shows the first three lines of text before displaying the read “More” button. Like the previous version, developers will only be able to make updates to the Description when submitting a new version of their app.
As mentioned previously, the iOS 10 version references the Developer in the subtitle, right below the app title. In the iOS 11 version, the Developer’s name has its own section directly below the Description.
In both versions, the Developer’s name is clickable and, once clicked, users are redirected to the Developer’s Page, which lists all available apps by this developer. In the iOS 10 version, apps are listed vertically. In the iOS 11 version, apps are displayed in carousels with up to three apps per frame.
In order to view detailed reviews in the iOS 10 version, users have to click on the in-page Review tab. In the new version, there is a section on the App Store Product Page devoted to Ratings and Reviews, which includes the average star ratings, star ratings distribution, total number of ratings, and a review carousel. As previously mentioned, developers can now choose whether to reset these metrics upon each new app version submission.
Developers can now respond to customer reviews in order to directly address feedback, questions, or concerns. The customer will be notified of the response and will be afforded the option to update their review. Reviews and responses can be updated at any time, but only the most recent review/response will be displayed on your App Store Product Page. This is a major advantage for developers as the previous version did not allow developers to respond to negative criticism.
When developers make updates to their app, they can use the “What’s New” section to communicate these changes to customers. This is crucial for highlighting changes and encouraging existing customers to re-download the latest version of your app.
In the iOS 10 version, this section was located below the Description. In the new version, its position is contingent on whether the customer has already installed your app. If they have not already installed your app, it will appear below the Gallery.
If customers have already installed your app, the “What’s New” section will appear at the top of your App Store Product Page.
In the iOS 10 version, the Version History can be found under the Information section. In iOS 11, this information has been moved to the What’s New section.
The Information section specifies extra practical information about the app and the developer. The biggest difference with the newer version is that it is organized in a more legible way. There are now expandable arrows used for categories that are content rich, making it easier for users to browse information of interest.
As previously mentioned, in-app purchases also appear in the information section. Developers can now showcase up to 20 items and customers can view and even start an in-app purchase.
Having your app featured does not necessarily mean you will have a Featured App Store Product Page, and vice versa. For more information on how to get a Featured App Store Product Page in iOS 10, click here.
There are a few noteworthy changes that have been made to the Featured App Store Product Page.
For featured apps, the App Store Product Page Header includes a Feature Banner. The Feature Banner is bigger than the previous version, making the header ever more prominent and clear.
The iOS 10 App Store Search Button was above the Banner and took up prominent real estate on the Featured App Store Product Page. In the new version, the Search Button is located within the Feature Banner, also making the header more prominent.
The Editors’ Choice label has been moved to the Evaluation Panel next to the App Ratings.
The Editors’ Notes used to be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it granted your brand recognition and, on the other hand, it pushed the screenshot Gallery below the fold. In the new version, the Editors’ Notes are now situated below the Ratings & Reviews section. This allows developers to have more control over the First Impression frame. This change is also more logical because Editors’ Notes are now organized with all other reviews.
Apple’s iOS 11 App Store redesign centers around optimizing app discovery and gaining more control over which apps are pushed. This is evident in the three new discovery tabs “Today,” “Games,” and “Apps” and the featured lists and in-depth editorial content—taking curation and marketing to a whole new level.
The fact that Apple eliminated the Categories tab is evidence of an all-new, discovery strategy aimed at prolonging the user’s browsing journey. Now, users have to scroll past a smorgasbord of curated lists of apps before they can browse specific categories.
The new Sticky Header, Product Page Header, and Evaluation Panel, as well as Apple’s heavier focus on Videos, all serve to optimize conversion by streamlining installs and providing users with all the relevant information about the utility and benefits of an app in a clear, concise, and visually appealing manner. These changes not only help optimize conversion but also have the concomitant benefit of improving customer retention, as users are now making more informed decisions to install.
This all sounds amazing for app discovery and conversion, right? Well, there are certainly pros and cons for developers. In our next post, we will discuss exactly how these changes will impact your app’s discovery and, in turn, your mobile growth strategy. We will also devote a post to help you further understand how these changes will affect conversion. So, be sure to bookmark this page now and check back in the coming weeks as we plan to feed you all the necessary information needed to tackle these challenges head-on!
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