Publishing on App Stores – 6th Stage of the Mobile App Development Process
Learn how to prepare for publishing your app.
Once you have your app developed, it’s time to make it available to users. How can you submit a mobile app to the app stores? If you want to learn how to publish your app on both the App Store and Google Play, you’re in the right place. In this article, you will get to know some of the problems of mobile app publishing and the requirements imposed on app owners by app stores.
Sections in this article:
- Where does app publishing fall in the app development process?
- What does app publishing mean?
- How long does it take to publish a mobile app?
- What are the costs of publishing an app in stores?
- How to prepare for publishing your app on Google Play
- How to prepare for publishing your app on App Store
- Publishing your app on Google Play
- Publishing your app on App Store
- Common reasons for application rejections
- Next steps after publishing your app
Where does app publishing fall in the app development process?
Let’s briefly recall the stages of the mobile app development process:
- Choosing a partner – select a company to design and develop your app
Research, analysis, and selecting a company to cooperate on your product with. Signing an Independent Contractor Agreement. Read more about this stage.
- Product Discovery – define what you want to create, for who and why
Clarifying your app’s vision, defining your product’s goals & its final users. Deciding which features are the most crucial in creating your MVP. Useful tools: Product Canvas, Personas, Event Storming, Prioritization Chart. Read more about this stage.
- UX / UI app design – determine how your app will work and look
Creating a User Journey Map, clickable wireframes, visual user interfaces, and motion design (animations & screen transitions). Read more about this stage.
- Project kick-off & setup – last preparations before the start of app development
PO gets to know the development team and vice versa. Defining every role in the team, agreeing on rules, and the next steps, as well as configuring tools. Read more about this stage.
- App development with Quality Assurance
App production with Continuous Integration: plan, code, build, test (and repeat). Ensuring Quality Assurance at every stage of app development with manual and automated tests. Read more about app development with QA and Scrum framework useful in app development.
- Preparation and publishing of the app on Google Play and Apple Store (you’re reading this)
Releasing includes uploading assets required by laws, as well as promotional materials, beta testing, optimizing the product page/store presence, and everything else your app approval needs to go as smoothly as possible. You are reading the article about this stage.
- Post-development phase – app maintenance & further development
Detecting crashes, monitoring the app’s statistics, product enhancement, and further development. Your app stays attractive, and adapts to changing market conditions and user feedback.
So, as you can see, publishing the app obviously comes after the app development stage. But how should you decide if your product is ready for publication?
It’s generally best to gain user feedback as soon as possible. That’s why we suggest aiming for the MVP version of the application and releasing it to the market. As soon as the required minimal product scope is implemented and thoroughly tested, you should consider immediately releasing the first version of the app.
Releasing the MVP allows you to quickly acknowledge user experience before the app is used by a broader audience. This approach allows you to identify potential upcoming issues and immediately act accordingly. Read also:
- What is a Minimum Viable Product? MVP Definition & Business Meaning
- How to Build a Minimum Viable Product – MVP Guide for App Owners
What does app publishing mean?
Your mobile app should be available in exactly the places where the largest potential audience resides. Currently, these places for Android and iOS are, respectively, Google Play and Apple’s App Store.
Along with the development team, over the past few months, you might have created the best app in the world for a given sector. However, this app’s whole potential, gorgeous user experience, and state-of-the-art functionality can all be wasted if no significant user base is even remotely aware of its existence.
The application publishing process serves to make your app available to millions of potential users.
Nowadays, there are thousands of apps released in the app stores every day. Because of this, you have to stand out from the crowd. A successful app showcase requires a bit of a knack for marketing and presentation. Fortunately, an experienced partner will surely guide you through the whole process. Publishing an app is, after all, a vital part of the app development lifecycle.
Your app development partner should assist you in uploading your Android app to Google Play, and your iOS app to the App Store. There are also a few other app stores, like Huawei’s App Gallery. Nonetheless, there are still a few obligations that you as the App Owner should be aware of.
In this article, we focus on the publishing process, because it’s paramount to have an eye-catching app presentation page in an app store. The official guide from Google and the guide from Apple are great starting points for this. From these documents, you can find out what a successful application page comprises of, what the dos and don’ts are, and how to avoid common pitfalls.
How long does it take to publish a mobile app?
Provided that you have all the required promotional materials (showcase graphic assets, descriptions, etc. – see the exact list below in theses sections: How to prepare for publishing your app on Google Play, How to prepare for publishing your app on App Store), the app submition process alone only takes a couple of hours. This is by no means the end of the app review process, however.
The app stores have to check your application for various possible misconducts. Nowadays, there are a lot of people who will try to introduce malicious software to the largest app stores. There are a plethora of ways to hide harmful code in the app. That’s why the app store platforms cannot take anything at face value. Later on in this article, we will also touch upon the popular reasons for app review rejections.
Google and Apple have to be constantly searching for potentially malicious software and have therefore both developed complicated review processes. It’s an inherent part of the publishing process. In Google Play, most of the work related to app verification is levied on automatic systems that rely on machine learning.
Platform operators were forced to harness complicated classification models. If it wasn’t for machine learning, the app review process would go on for weeks, literally. According to some sources like Statista, Google Play is now seeing three times as many new applications as the App Store. This means a border between still being able to process all of the apps manually (as AppStore does) and having to rely on algorithms (like Google).
The sheer amount of published apps Google and Apple are bombarded with is astounding. Every day, the app stores see thousands of newly released apps.
Google Play app reviewing machine learning algorithms, as sophisticated as they may be, often stumble upon ambiguous cases. They check every aspect of the submitted application. If there are any doubts, the app will then get flagged and passed on to be checked by an employee. This is why, in extreme cases, the application review process can last up to a few days. This is dependent on the current workload on the store’s side.
In some cases, the review process takes about a few hours on Google Play, but can last up to a couple of days. App Store reviews have similar reviewing times, but the whole process is a bit more mysterious. We don’t know if any machine learning algorithms check our app (probably yes), but we can be sure that an Apple employee always opens our app and checks it against the App Store Guidelines. Because of this, human errors happen sometimes and developers need to have additional talks with reviewers to find solutions.
What are the costs of publishing an app in stores?
Both Google Play and App Store require a paid development account to upload and update apps to the platform. The publishing license entry threshold is negligible compared to app development costs.
The price of the developer account required for uploading iOS apps to App Store is $99 a year. It’s the same whether you’re signed up as a person or organization. This is the fee for standard apps.
However, if your company wishes to develop proprietary software only for internal company use, that’s when you have to get the Developer Enterprise Program account, which costs $299 annually. You can use Apple’s publishing platform to distribute apps in the company: while are some other solutions, like Microsoft AppCenter, the app still has to be signed with an Apple certificate, so the account is required.
Keep in mind that, regardless of whether or not you have an app in the store, and regardless of whether or not you are profiting from your apps, you will still have to pay this annual fee. However, this payment does not change with how many apps you have in the store at any given time.
On the other hand, Google Play only requires a one-time payment of $25. You are then able to get access to your developer account and publish apps.
How to prepare for publishing your app on Google Play
Before devoting your time to app submission, it’s good practice to have a few things handy already. App stores have a structured way of presenting apps. That’s why it’s possible to know what’s needed for an app launch beforehand. Google has created a guide describing every part of the app upload process in detail. Here’s a list of all of the prerequisites:
- App name. The name that will be shown to users in Google Play.
- App package name. The app package name has to be unique across the entire Google Play. Moreover, it cannot be changed in the future. Every Android app has a unique application ID that looks like a reverted www address, such as com.example.myapp. This ID uniquely identifies your app on the device and in Google Play. If you want to upload a new version of your app, the application ID (and the certificate you sign it with) must be the same as the original APK*— if you change the application ID, Google Play treats the APK as a completely different app.
*An Android Package Kit (APK for short) is the package file format used by the Android operating system for the distribution and installation of mobile apps. Just like Windows (PC) systems use an .exe file for installing software, the APK does the same for Android.
- Short App description. This is a brief description of the app’s functionality. It’s an 80-character field that is shown to the user in the listings and can then be expanded to see the full description.
- Full app description. This is the place to list all of your most important features and short instructions for the users. It’s one of the most important sections on your app’s showcase page. The ideal description is a concise, informative paragraph. This field in Google Play gives you space for an up to 4,000 characters.
- Graphic assets. This comprises all of the graphic assets for the presentation of your app. It’s the app icon, videos, screenshots, and feature graphic. These assets’ purpose is to showcase all of the most important pieces of functionality. Here, Google describes the required assets in detail.
- Application type and Categories. Google Play requires you to state your app’s category. Assigning proper categories helps you make sure the app is more easily discoverable for the users. Here it’s described in detail.
- Content rating. You have to comply with Google content rating policy and truthfully state the correct age rating and what content you are presenting to users. A full guide on assigning a content rating is available here.
- Contact details to the App Owner
- Countries and localization. You can choose the countries your app will be available in and also provide localization for all of the uploaded content. More details can be found here.
How to prepare for publishing your app on App Store
Similarly to Google Play, the App Store has a list of things required for an app upload. These things can and should be done before you commit to the app uploading process. Apple has created an official guide describing these parts of the final app presentation page. For a successful launch, you have to have prepared the following list of showcase materials:
- App name. Choose a distinctive name that is up to 30 characters long.
- Icon. The app icon is one of the first things an app store user sees. Work with a graphic designer to create an icon that is simple and recognizable.
- Subtitle. This is a quick, 30 character long app summary which appears underneath your app’s name
- App Previews. The app previews section presents the main functions of the app. App previews autoplay with muted audio when users view your product page, so make sure the first few seconds of your video are visually compelling.
- Screenshots. Screenshots highlight the essence of your app. You can feature up to 10 images on your App Store page. Depending on which types of devices your app supports, you have to add screenshots for different screen sizes, such as separate examples for big iPad Pro and iPhone Pro Max devices. If your app supports Dark Mode, consider including at least one screenshot that showcases what the experience looks like for users.
- Description. The ideal description is a concise, informative paragraph followed by a short list of main features. The first sentence of your description is the most important — this is what users can read without having to tap for more. You can update your app’s description when you submit a new version of your app.
- Promotional texts. Your app’s promotional text appears at the top of the description and is up to 170 characters long. This section of the app can be used for communicating the latest news concerning your app.
- Keywords. A list of words that will be used for competing for top places on the app search results list. Keywords are limited to 100 characters in total, with terms separated by commas and no spaces. In addition, keep in mind that promotional text doesn’t affect your app’s search ranking so it should not be used to display keywords.
- In-App Purchases section. If your app features in-app purchases, users can view and start an in-app purchase from your product page. Each item has its own display name, promotional image, and description. In-app purchase names are limited to 30 characters and descriptions are limited to 45 characters, so be descriptive, accurate and concise.
- What’s New section. When you update your app, you can use What’s New to communicate these changes to users. This text appears on your product page and on the Updates tab.
- App categories. You can assign a primary and a secondary category to your app. The primary category is particularly important for discoverability, as it helps users find your app when browsing or filtering search results, and it determines in which tab your app appears on the App Store.
- Localization. If your app is available in multiple languages, make sure to localize your app description, keywords, app previews, and screenshots for each of the markets in which you offer your app.
Publishing your app on Google Play
Now that you have collected all the required information and graphic materials, it’s time to actually submit your app along with all of the marketing content.
This part of the process is normally conducted by your development team.
- You can decide whether or not you’d like a full rollout of a new version of your application.
- You can decide which countries the app will be available in.
- Moreover, you can also set up some alpha and beta testing tracks that allow only selected people to access the app and give their feedback before the app goes live to a broader audience.
Releasing the app first to a small testing group of users allows you to quickly get valuable feedback. It may happen that, with their feedback, you will want to iterate and introduce some minor changes to the app to make the overall user experience better. If you’d like to know more about uploading your application, please refer to our article describing the process in detail.
Publishing your app on App Store
Similarly to publishing your app on Google Play, we have created a separate article about the technicalities of uploading an app to the App Store. You can read it here. It describes how to create provisioning profiles required for submitting your app, as well as the general setup, and will walk you through the many forms and fields to complete.
Common reasons for application rejections
There are a few reasons why most of the app review rejections happen. As an app owner, you are surely concerned about the quality of your application. So are Google and Apple, and for this reason they aren’t keen on letting substandard apps slip in. Here’s a list comprising what aspects of the app you should be especially aware of in order to get successfully listed on Google Play and App Store.
- Crashes, bugs and performance issues. This factor plays a big role and is responsible for a big chunk of app rejections. Both Google and Apple naturally aim to be identified with quality products. Both companies hardly ever turn a blind eye to apps containing explicit bugs or blatant crashes. If the testing process of your app suggests some problems with performance and/or crashes, you’d better get that resolved before submitting for review. Otherwise, your app is almost guaranteed to be rejected.
- Substandard user interface and user experience. Similarly to the previous point, the user interface and experience is a quality issue. The stores will want to make sure that your app offers clean, refined, and user-friendly interfaces. Make sure your UI meets these requirements by planning your design carefully and following best practices for UI and UX. Please refer to Apple’s UI Dos and Don’ts and Google’s UX Best Practices.
- Inaccurate screenshots and advertisements. Your app presentation page should accurately communicate your app’s value and functionality. Even the unintentional misleading of users will result in your app being rejected. Please make sure that your showcased movie clips and screenshots accurately reflect the list of currently implemented key app functions.
- Inappropriate content. If your app contains any form of violence, sexual or mature content, you must mention it in the app’s rating details. It’s best to not sign it off as something of negligible importance, otherwise, your app will surely get flagged for inappropriate content and rejected during a review process.
- Incomplete app information. In order to successfully get through the app review, you are required to enter all of the detailed information. If certain features of the app require signing in, on both platforms you are expected to provide some sort of demo credentials so that all of the app functionality can be shown to the store employee. In edge cases where significant parts of your app rely on a custom hardware piece, you may have to provide additional details and even a physical device to the reviewers. Please also make sure all of your contact details are up to date.
- Repeated submission of similar/clone apps. There was a time when Google was especially plagued with massively uploaded clone apps and games. This was an avid attempt from numerous creators to piggyback on their successful predecessors. Both stores are now particularly alert to this matter. Make sure your app cannot be mistaken for any other, either by name or visual similarity.
- Extensive and shady permission requesting practices. Why would a very simple file browser app need the permissions to manage user’s incoming calls or SMS messages? This is an over-colored example but you get the point. Your app might not have nefarious intentions but, nonetheless, too many permissions can potentially open a way for exploits to take their toll. Both Google and Apple go the extra mile to make sure that an app doesn’t request more permissions than really needed to fulfill the included app functionality demands. You have to have a clear reason for requesting specific parts of the mobile OS functionality. You are also required to make it unambiguous to the user when explaining why you need a specific set of permissions.
- Placeholder content and broken links. Mistakenly including in the app unfinished functionality that shows any kind of placeholder content is heavily frowned upon by the app stores. It’s deemed inappropriate and unprofessional toward users and is another common mistake made during the app release process. Please make sure to exhaustively test your release candidate build before uploading it to the app stores. On Android, it’s as simple as installing the release build on your device, while iOS developers can use the TestFlight tool.
More details on common causes for App Store rejections can be found on the Apple Developer page.
The common causes for rejection are pretty much the same across both main platforms, so this might also be a good guide for common reasons for app rejections on Google Play. The industry has pretty much a unified definition of what conditions a good quality application meets.
Congratulations, you have made your application available to a broad base of millions of users. Now, you can monitor your app performance live. Using numerous tools available in the app stores, you can quickly get hold of user habits and how they find your app. You will be given access to powerful tools like app ratings and written feedback. These built-in tools will enable you to track key metrics like user acquisition, retention and usage patterns.
Moreover, if your development team integrated some analytics tools, you will be able to get detailed user crash reports from the released version of the app. Such a valuable insight will enable you to act accordingly – you can schedule work on some new features or plan work focused on fixing crucial errors. This maintenance process will be described in detail in the next article in our mobile app development process series.
Publishing a mobile app on the app stores – summary
In order for your app to be available in the Google and Apple app stores, it has to comply with their guidelines. Don’t treat these guidelines as a form of restriction, rather a valuable resource for creating a successful app showcase page.
Both the app owners and app stores work for a common cause – to have great, professional products put out to the public. Don’t hesitate to devote as much time as needed to create eye-catching and concise marketing materials. Keep in mind that it’s always better to do your best to comply with all guidelines and requirements stated by app stores. If there are still some parts of the process unclear to you, don’t worry. A competent partner will guide you through the whole process, keeping your attention to common pitfalls and ensuring a successful app launch.
To sum up, in order to upload your app to Google Play and/or App Store, you have to have several things ready:
To upload your app to Google Play and Apple App Store, you need to have several elements ready:
|Google Play||Apple Store|
If, by any chance, your app gets rejected during a review process, don’t let it discourage you. It’s not the end of the world and, with a few quick fixes, you will be eligible for resubmitting your app.
- Read also: What is Product Discovery in mobile application development?
- Get our Free Ebook for Product Owners: Drive your Product to Success
Don’t worry if some aspects are not clear at first glance – an experienced partner will guide you through the process of publishing your product painlessly. With their help and expertise, you will know the ins and outs of the app publishing process in no time.