The Brand New Featured Report

Believe it or not most developers have no clue if their apps are featured. Unless you’ve just had a huge sales spike you’re probably not in the mood to go looking through every featured section of every store and country. And when you are in the mood there is just no easy way to do it.

That’s why we’ve spent the past several months perfecting the new featured report. It’s one of the coolest report we’ve ever built and you can give it a try right now.

How we made it

Much like a delicious sandwich, a great report starts with the best ingredients. First we set out to create a system to collect as much juicy featured data from the app stores as possible. Like most prototypes it took more than a few iterations to get right, but we wound up with a robust engine that scans all the featured areas from iTunes, iPhone, and iPad stores.

When first looking at all the data we gathered, we were surprised at just how much featured data is out there. We found that being featured isn’t uncommon and that even an unknown app is likely to get featured somewhere.

Making it look right

We quickly realized that featured data is unlike any other in our system and decided to come up with a fresh idea to visualize it. After what felt like an endless amount of iterations here’s what we came up with:

Am I featured right now?

Our primary goal was to immediately answer the question “Am I featured right now?”, so when you open the report that’s the first thing you see.

For these screenshots we randomly picked a few apps that are currently featured

We automatically search through all the apps in your account instead of asking you to pick specific ones. We believe that being featured is special enough that you’d want to know if any of your apps are in the spotlight. This also keeps interaction simple and the UI light. If as time goes on we see a real need for picking specific apps we will add that functionality.

Viewing historic data

Some may say it only really matters where your apps are featured right now, but there are good reasons to check out where they were featured in the past (finding trends, showing off, etc.). To make this task a bit easier we automatically look up and display historic data, grouped by week, immediately underneath today’s data.

Because data gaps aren’t uncommon when it comes to being featured we automatically collapse empty time spans.

That frees your from playing the date guess-and-check game to figure out which date ranges contain data. For this very reason we were able to do away with the standard date range picker and the complexities it adds.

Traversing the past with style

If you want to know more about the featured history of your apps, but you’re not looking for any particular date, you can just scroll to the bottom of the timeline and press “Load earlier weeks”. Alternatively, If you have a specific time period in mind you can change the starting date of the timeline from today (the default) to any other date in the past.

As you can see this isn’t a traditional date picker. It’s a simple yet powerful new way to pick dates that we’re introducing with this report. Instead of asking you to choose a date on the calendar grid it lets you type it in plain English.

To make this work well we built our own natural language parser for dates. It understands organic and relative dates like “first week in april” and “last week” as well as formal formats like “11/4/12″ and “Oct 4″. When first testing it out we fell in love with how easy it was to communicate dates to the machine that we decided to completely do away with the calendar. We include some examples of acceptable input in the report, though they only scratch the surface. We invite you to play with it and try different things.

Drilling down to the details

To save you some time when looking through the timeline we aggregate the number of lists an app is featured in and place it in a badge by the app’s icon. Clicking an app fills the right side of the screen with details about where exactly the app was featured.

If the app was featured in more than one country or category you’re given the option to group the lists accordingly.

To drill down further, each section can be expanded to show the exact locations at which the app was featured.

More to come

We’re currently tracking featured data for iOS and Mac apps, and are working to download data for Google Play and the Amazon Appstore.

Also coming up is an indicator in your email report to let you know when your apps are featured.

What do you think?

We quietly rolled out this report several days ago, and have already gotten some great feedback. Please share your comments with us by suggesting features, sending an email, tweeting, or just leaving a comment on the blog.