Merry Christmas everybody!
I’ve been seeing a handful of iPhone OS 4 Christmas Wish Lists floating about today, so I thought I’d post about what I want to see in iPhone OS 4: Simple Springboard. The idea is a version of Springboard with drastically reduced functionality – very much like the Simple Finder on Mac OS X.
Specifically, Simple Springboard would:
- Be restricted to a set of user-specified apps. All other app icons would not appear at all.
- Disallow deleting apps – the whole “jiggly apps” mode would not exist at all.
- It should be relatively easy to switch from the “normal” Springboard to the Simple Springboard – perhaps an app icon.
- On the other hand, quitting the Simple Springboard should require some complex action, such as entering a user-specified code. If this action starts, but is not completed in a certain (relatively short) period of time, the user should be sent back to the Simple Springboard.
The idea, of course, would be to have an environment that is “safe” for kids. As a parent, I would put in all of the games my son enjoys, such as Toddler Teasers Numbers and Koi Pond. Then I could hand over my iPod without having to worry about him accidentally deleting an app (which has happened) or getting into Contacts and adding a new contact with a gibberish name (also has happened).
There are plenty more things I’d like to see in iPhone OS 4 as a developer, and other developer blogs have covered most of them. But as a parent, this idea is way at the top of the list.
I recently received Spanish language translations of all of the strings in BabyGrow, and am currently working on integrating it into the app.
Before sending the strings off to be translated, I spent a little time cleaning up the strings file. There were several duplicates, some that were obsolete, etc. The result is a much smaller strings file.
I have a couple other changes in store for the next version (which I might even blog about), so it’ll be a few more weeks before the update, but to my Spanish speaking customers: ¡Ponganle un ojo!
Tuesday morning, as part of my ordinary morning routine, I launched AppViz to take a look at my previous day’s sales of BabyGrow. I was shocked to find I had sold more than twice as many as my prior best sales day – which itself was more than twice as many as average. I was certain I had just discovered a bug in AppViz, and went to go look at the sales report directly. When I found the report agreed with AppViz, I decided the bug must be at Apple. Surely I didn’t just quadruple my average daily sales! So finally I took a look at the iTunes App Store, and discovered to my amazement that BabyGrow was listed in the What’s Hot section of the store – right on the front page!
I have no idea how I managed to get on the list. Apple never contacted me or anything – it just showed up there one day. But I will not complain, and I think this graph should do a pretty good job of explaining why not:
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Thanks, Apple! I guess I forgive you for the keyword nonsense.
Sometime between when I checked yesterday morning and this afternoon, the iTunes App Store search was “fixed” so that all of my keywords for BabyGrow now work! That means customers can now find the app by searching for “growth chart.” It only took, what, 2 months? At any rate, I’m glad the issue is finally resolved.
But now if my sales still stink, I know it’s my fault and no longer Apple’s!
I wish this post could be about how Apple fixed the search functionality in the iTunes App Store, and that potential customers could find BabyGrow with sensible searches like “growth chart” But it’s not. In fact, as of yesterday, the situation has become even worse.
I hadn’t been keeping track of what search terms matched BabyGrow using Apple’s super-secret search algorithm for some time. I have been trying “growth” every couple of days, but that’s it. Once my other keywords started working, I made the silly assumption that they would keep working. Then last night someone posted on Apple’s Developer Forums that it looked like Apple was messing with the search algorithm again. “Oh good,” I thought, “maybe they fixed it!” Hah!
As of at least last night, very few search terms actually match BabyGrow, even ones that had matched it before. Some terms that worked before, but currently do not:
I’m sure there are others, but I’ve lost the motivation to even try any more.
On the plus side, BabyGrow is now the only app that shows up when you search for “head circumference.” That’s gonna get me a ton of sales!
I did submit an update to BabyGrow this morning. I took the opportunity to change my keywords. This was probably the wrong thing to do, but I specifically left out the 3 keywords I think are most important for discovery of the app: baby, growth, and chart. These all appear in the description, which might still be indexed by Apple. So, in 2-3 weeks when they get around to approving the update, hopefully my potential customers will actually be able to discover the app.
Of course, in that time Apple will probably change the way the search works again.
Update: The day after I wrote the above, Apple posted on their iPhone developer blog that they had completely disabled searching app descriptions, and that the search will now only consider the app’s name, keywords, and the developer’s name. So I went back and rejected the update I submitted Friday, and then resubmitted with “growth” and “chart” included in the keywords again. For the record, these keywords still do not work, even though their search algorithm is now supposed to be completely focused on the keywords. I’ve contacted Apple – again. At this point, I’m not very hopeful that I’ll get a worthwhile response.
Just about a month ago, Apple started requiring iPhone app developers to specify a list of keywords for their apps. The keywords would be used as part of the iTunes App Store search algorithm and, in theory, will eventually supplant searching through the app’s description. As a good little iPhone app developer, I did as Apple requested, and added keywords for BabyGrow.
Boy, was that a mistake.
Ever since I added the keywords, it has been practically impossible to find BabyGrow through the iTunes App Store’s search functionality. For the first several days, the only search term I tried that even included BabyGrow in its results was “BabyGrow.” Now how useful is that?
After a few days, the situation improved somewhat, and most of the keywords I entered started working. But one still does not work, and still does not work to this day. I have contacted Apple multiple times about this, and received nothing but silence in return until a bit over a week ago. The email said, more or less, that it should all be fixed up in a week.
Of course you would expect that all my keywords work now, since it’s been a week since I was told it would be fixed in a week, right? Wrong. The situation has yet to change.
So what is the keyword that does not work?
That’s right, you cannot find BabyGrow, an app whose primary purpose is to produce growth charts, using the search term “growth.” Or “growth chart.” Or any other search with “growth” in it. Oh, sure, you can find it with “weight” and “baby.” But not “growth.”
You can, however, find every single one of my competitors with searches like “growth” and “growth chart.” Maybe I’m crazy, but I feel like this puts my app at a major competitive disadvantage, through no fault of its own. My sales numbers seem to agree, having dropped noticeably starting the day after I added keywords to the app, and never having recovered.
I plan to keep working on BabyGrow, and keep improving it, and hopefully Apple will actually get around to fixing this mess, but it sure does leave a bad taste in my mouth.