Lessons from the front page of the App Store: Part 1

My fingers are poised above the mouse, excitedly tapping the left key without actually clicking. I’m mentally running through the launch checklist... Review the app’s description for spelling errors. Check. Upload the app preview screenshots. Check. Open it up on my iPhone to make sure it still works. Check.

The Be - Career Discovery app was ready to submit to the Apple App store. I simply had to click and it would be live to millions of users around the world and become my biggest foray into the world of software.

This is the story of what happened after I pressed that button on May 11, 2016 and what I learned.

Be - Career Discovery is like Tinder for helping students discover and learn about STEAM careers. Free for iPhone & iPad

Part 1: Getting Started

Getting the news on June 3, 2016 that Be could be featured on the App store was incredible news. According to Apple’s recent WWDC stats, there are over 2 million apps currently in the App store and 3rd-party estimates say over 1,000 apps are submitted everyday.

This means that from the launch of Be on May 11 to June 3 about 24,000 new apps launched, all of us competing for the coveted spots on the front page of the store.

Lesson 1: This incredible flow of new apps means that developers should hope and pray about getting featured by Apple but not rely on it as a launch strategy.

Apple’s selects featured apps through a committee who meets mid-week to decide on apps for the following week. After they have decided on a list of potential features, they message the app’s developer to request promotional artwork. After the artwork is received they perform some voodoo magic to decide who gets in. In other words, it’s kind of secretive on how they actually determine who gets in.

I do have one theory about why Be made it however. On June 1, 2016 Be was featured on Product Hunt.

For those unfamiliar, Product Hunt(PH) is a tastemaker in the internet community. Wired magazine has even equated it to another golden child of tech news, Techcrunch, for the glow that surrounds products featured on it’s front page.

PH is popular because it is an invite only community, which gives the appearance of quality and exclusivity. I couldn’t post Be myself, I had to find a champion who was in the club, so to speak. I found mine in Tristan Polluck (@writerpolluck) of 500 Startups fame. I didn’t just choose him at random, Tristan was the top-rated participate in the PH Education category and came across as someone interested in making things happen.

Lesson 2: Find people who are relevant to your cause to help with your app/product launch. Be specific and ask politely.

After reaching out to him on Twitter a few weeks prior, he agreed to post Be on Product Hunt on June 1 at midnight.

Check out Be on Product Hunt.

I stayed up late on May 31, incidentally my wife’s birthday (shout out to her), to be online at midnight when Tristan would post Be. This was important because Product Hunt organizes posts by day and upvotes. The logic is the earlier you post in the day the more upvotes you are likely to get and you won’t get buried beneath the dreaded “Show More” button.

 

You don’t want people to have to click this button. Try to get enough upvotes and comments on your PH page to stay above it.

You don’t want people to have to click this button. Try to get enough upvotes and comments on your PH page to stay above it.

Immediately after posting, the actual creator of the product comments first to introduce themselves and generally set the tone for the conversation.

I stayed up for several hours after that commenting, refreshing the page, and emailing people I thought would be interested to know Be was on Product Hunt.

The impact of Product Hunt was multi-faceted. The most obvious was the increase in users to Be’s website, IW2Be.com.

IW2Be.com analytics for June 1 show a huge spike in traffic from Product Hunt.  

IW2Be.com analytics for June 1 show a huge spike in traffic from Product Hunt.

 

The web and download traffic from Product Hunt was a flashbang. Short lived but enticing. From the data, the largest spike in traffic came around noon on June 1. I don’t have data on why this occurred but it could just be a correlation between people eating lunch and browsing PH.

June 1

1,181 visitors to IW2Be.com
147 Be app downloads
12.4% conversion rate

June 2

174 visitors to IW2Be.com
91 Be app downloads
52% Conversion rate

June 3

70 visitors to IW2Be.com  
42 Be app downloads
60% Conversion rate

Lesson 3: Users make you work hard for each download. Impressions don’t necessarily equal downloads.

The other side of success regarding the Product Hunt launch is harder to equate. Yes, Be got a few hundred downloads but that’s not an astronomical amount and nowhere near the numbers needed for it to be a sustainable app.

So why bother with Product Hunt? Influence.

Product Hunt is currently a nice corner of the internet where entrepreneurs, techies, and Silicon Valley types hang out and keep coming back. I myself check it nearly everyday to see what has been hunted.

Even though I have no quantifiable proof, I think someone from the Apple App Store review committee is a dedicated Product Hunter who is on the lookout for what’s new in the community. 

Lesson 4: Engage your community and use the tools they use to reach them. Could be: Product Hunt, Twitter, Facebook, email, or maybe even showing up in person.

Check back soon to read Part 2 about what happened when Be went from a few downloads to the front page of the App Store.