App Store Guidelines: Little Things That Can Get You Rejected

April 20th, 2019

App Store Guidelines: Little Things That Can Get You Rejected
David Bell

by David Bell

CEO at Gummicube, Inc.

Apple’s guidelines are strict rules for apps sold on the App Store, covering all aspects of the listing. It’s important to follow every guideline, even the easily overlooked ones; this is important for App Store Optimization as well as being accepted or rejected from the store. Overlooking little details can result in apps being rejected or removed from the App Store, so it’s important to remember these key guidelines when designing and updating your app.

What’s New?

The “What’s New” section of an app’s store listing is designed to let users know about recent updates, such as new features, tools or designs. This shows up on the app’s page as well under the “Updates” tab in the App Store. Often times the section just says, “Bug fixes and performance improvements,” which provides users with very little information about what exactly is changing.

The days of “bug fixes and performance improvements” are coming to an end, as Apple is requiring developers provide more information. If the latest update is simply a bug fix, developers should provide more information as to what bugs are being fixed and what the effect is. Similarly, performance improvements should be called out specifically, whether it’s an improved speed, changes to graphics or a convenient addition to the menu.

More importantly, the “What’s New” section can be a useful tool for user re-engagement. If there’s a specific issue that’s been driving users away, calling it out under “What’s New” can signal to those users that you’re aware, heard their concerns and took action to address it. This can bring back lost users who wouldn’t have left if not for the bug.

This can also appeal to returning users by calling out new features. For instance, if a user stopped playing a mobile game because they cleared all the levels, including “New levels added” to the “What’s New” can encourage them to reinstall. Users disappointed by a lack of certain tools or features may be brought back once they see they’ve been added, and the “What’s New” section is helpful for that.

iPhone X Screenshots

The iPhone X‘s screen size and shape of the phone created an unexpected challenge for developers. iPhone X screenshots had to be sized at different dimensions than screenshots for other devices, or else the aspect ratio differences would result in images with decreased visibility.

Now developers must create iPhone X screenshots for any app that works on an iPhone X, including XR, XS and XS Max models. This requires the screenshots to be sized at 1242 x 2066 pixels, rather than 1242 x 2208. Apps with store listings that don’t have those screenshots will not be made available for iPhone X devices, which would prevent it from reaching tens of millions of users.

This also applies for apps available on iPad Pro 3rd generation devices. These have a 2732 x 2048 pixel display, so apps available on them must include screenshots designed for those specs. If an app is available on both iPhone X and iPad Pro, it will need to include a set of screenshots for each.

App Preview Videos

Apple has very specific guidelines for preview videos. This includes rules for graphics and transitions, as well as what the video can include. Section 2.3.4 of the App Store Review Guidelines states:

“To ensure people understand what they’ll be getting with your app, previews may only use video screen captures of the app itself. Stickers and iMessage extensions may show the user experience in the Messages app. You can add narration and video or textual overlays to help explain anything that isn’t clear from the video alone.”

If the video does not accurately show the app itself and reflect its uses, the Apple reviewer will reject it. While Google Play may allow videos showing footage from outside the app itself, such as users walking around with their phones out and laughing as they use the app, Apple will not. The video shouldn’t even show the handset.

Additionally, the preview videos must be appropriate for all audiences, regardless of the app’s target audience. The videos can only show content the app’s developer has the legal right to display, so apps that stream videos or feature trademarked brands must ensure they have the license to use them. Video effects can be used when necessary but should not include animations like virtual hands tapping on the screen. Transitions should not imply functionality that the app doesn’t have, so basic transitions like fades and dissolves are recommended.

If an app’s video does not follow these guidelines, the developer can remove the video and post the app itself. This could impact conversions, as a good preview video can increase conversions by up to 25%. It is better to take everything into account when creating the video in the first place than to have to make a new one after the app has already launched.

Not Entirely Free

If an app is to market itself as “free” in its icon, title, subtitle or screenshots, it needs to be entirely free. Apps that offer optional subscriptions or in-app purchases must be careful when marketing themselves as free.

If an app is to call itself “free” in its title or creatives, it should be entirely free. “Freemium” apps, which offer optional purchases, can still end up costing users money for the full experience. Marketing them as “free” could be seen as a misleading tactic, which would result in its rejection or removal from the App Store.

Even if an app is free to download, be careful marketing it as “free” if there are other costs involved. Microtransactions, subscriptions and premium content can increase the overall cost of an app for users, which should be considered when choosing its title, subtitle and creatives.

To Conclude

As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.” This remains true for App Store listings, from how the videos are made to what’s listed under “What’s New.” It’s important to know and follow Apple’s guidelines for all aspects of the app, otherwise it may be rejected from the App Store. With proper App Store Optimization, an app can reach and convert new users while following every letter of Apple’s guidelines.

Want more information regarding App Store Optimization? Contact Gummicube and we’ll help get your strategy started.

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