The Road to iOS 8 Part III: App Previews

Since being unveiled earlier this summer, iOS 8 and the changes it will bring to the App Store have been eagerly anticipated, but what do they mean for iOS developers, and how will they affect discovery? In this series, we ask prominent members of the iOS community to share their insights on what to expect and how to stay ahead of the curve, as we explore the Road to iOS 8.

In case you missed it, Part I: App Bundles and Part II: Improved App Store Discovery.


road-to-ios8-app-previews

We’ve all been there: downloading an app for a specific purpose, only to find that it isn’t what we expected. We quickly delete it and return to the App Store in search of something else. With the release of iOS 8 later this year, Apple is hoping to make this tired story a thing of the past, letting developers better establish expectations with the introduction of App Previews. The current prominence of product videos in online markets and other app stores mean this feature is likely to become a differentiator among apps in consumers’ minds, and certainly something every developer will want to make use of sooner rather than later. While App Previews hold great potential, creating a compelling video while adhering to Apple’s guidelines may prove to be a challenge. To help you get the most out of your apps’ previews, we’ve enlisted the help of Sylvain Gauchet, co-founder of Apptamin (a studio specializing in creating previews and trailers for apps).

Can you provide some of the technical details behind app previews (when can they be uploaded, do they get reviewed, are there any restrictions Apple has in place?)

As an app developer, you submit your App Previews just like you currently submit your screenshots : when updating your app. Apple’s staff then reviews and approves the submitted App Previews.

Once in place, App Store users will see your App Previews on your app details page where it will be one of the most visible assets.

The format defined by Apple for an App Preview is pretty specific:

• Device specific (if your app is for both iPhone and iPad you need an App Preview for each)
• Up to 30 seconds
• Composed mainly of device-captured footage (video screen captures)
• Shouldn’t look like an ad (not too flashy, not too salesy)
• One localization
• Resolutions:
       •640×1136 for the iPhone, 900×1200 for the iPad
       •1080×1920 (or 1920×1080 for landscape mode) are OK too

If you’re interested in leveraging video on your app details page, make sure to read Apple’s guidelines and to watch the WWDC session on creating great app previews (along with some examples).

Can you give us some tips for getting started, with these guidelines in place?

There are several ways to create an App Preview that follows Apple’s guidelines. You can do the screen captures how you see fit (using HDMI captures, Reflector) and use your favorite video editing tool (if you have one).

With iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Apple seems to make it quite easy to do with their tools..
1. You can capture the device footage by using the lightning connector, your Mac and
       QuickTime Player
2. You can edit the captured footage in iMovie or Final Cut Pro X
3. You can then submit your App Previews via iTunes connect

Video production can get expensive which may send some developers down the DIY path. What are some Dos and Don’ts you can give those developers?

The key to creating a great app preview is more or less the same as for any video you’d create to promote your app.

You need to write a script before getting started. Define what your goal is and what your app preview should include. Start by writing an outline (you can use your app description as a starting point then boil it down to the most essential benefits) and then define all the data you’ll populate (or the specific parts of gameplay you’ll show) before recording the screens.

In your App Preview, you want to focus on what’s magical about your app, as well as on the core benefits.

When writing your script, make sure you respect Apple’s guidelines, at least until we know what kind of flexibility will be allowed.

Some Don’ts:
– Don’t make it look too much like an ad
– Don’t show unimportant parts of your app
– Don’t forget to mention it when showing features that require in-app purchases
– Don’t forget to define your goal when producing your video

Besides that, you probably want to have a “testing approach”: the same way you experiment with your app screenshots on the App Store to see what converts more, you want to get a sense for what works best for your App Preview. Which means you’ll have to test and optimize different App Previews, for example with variations on the features/benefits shown, length, voice over, text, music and the “poster frame” (video thumbnail shown in the App Store).

Some App Preview examples:

Here are a few App Previews we’ve done so far at Apptamin. You should also take a look at the ones Apple showed during the WWDC session on App Previews.

RetailMeNot
Astro Defender (iPad)
Geeksterink
Artkick

What are some potential limitations you can foresee?

In some cases the App Preview format, and the fact that it has to be composed primarily of screen captures, will make it hard to show an app in its best light, especially for apps that require specific gestures, that use the accelerometer or that interact with another device (a connected object, other iPhones, etc.). Sometimes the best way to show an app is to show how it is used in its context.

That said, it’s great to finally see video on the App Store. Even if you still need other types of videos to showcase your app, you will have to pay attention to App Previews from now on.

We’re looking forward to seeing how creative developers will be to leverage this new format and get more engaged customers!

How do you see App Preview affecting downloads in the App Store?

In terms of downloads, I think it will depend on the app itself. I believe that video is the quickest way to assess an app and therefore people will sometimes look at the preview to make up their minds rather than actually downloading the app. However, if they like the preview and decide to download it, this will most likely result in more engaged users.

What type(s) of apps do you think will benefit most from having a live preview?

App Previews should especially be useful for paid apps. Also, for apps in which data is key; seeing the app populated with data will help new users get a better sense of how useful the app can be.

Games are another type of app that should benefit from App Preview. It can be hard to figure out how the gameplay is going to be with static screenshots, and a video will go a long way. Especially if it’s well done.

Do you have any experience with videos on Google Play? If so, can you talk a bit more about their effects there and how you think videos will play out on the iOS App Store?

The situation is a bit different on Google Play, as there aren’t the same format limitations as there are for the App Previews, which means developers can truly show their app the way they want (a good or a bad thing depending on their video production skills and budget).

What we hear from our clients is that Google expects you to have a video (in order to get featured, for example) and it will be interesting to see how much Apple pushes developers to create App Previews.

Regarding download numbers, it’s hard to isolate the impact of video on the Google Play Store, but it’s clearly one of the most visible assets on the page and a good video can convince a user hesitating to download an app.

If other app stores are anything to go by, App Previews are poised to become a differentiator among apps in consumers’ minds, and likely to have a profound effect on discovery in the iOS App Store. In the coming months, having a well-made App Preview may go from luxury to basic necessity. You can best prepare by checking out Apple’s guidelines and WWDC session, learning from examples, and following the advice of video experts like Sylvain.

Thanks to Sylvain for giving us some pointers on making our first app preview video and helping us better prepare for iOS 8. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our previous installments on App Bundles, and Improved App Store Discovery, and check back for the final chapter in the series where we’ll be hosting a roundtable on what iOS 8 means for indie developers.



Sylvain Gauchet is the co-founder of Apptamin. Apptamin produces app videos and game trailers for developers, startups and companies. Apptamin also has a blog with content on how to market an app, including the iOS App Marketing Guide.