Tag Archives: curation

The iOS 11 App Store redesign story

Three years ago I wrote that Apple should end the App Store top 200 lists, learning from Beats Music how to double down on curation:

I wrote about Beats Music earlier, how it underscored to me that Apple needs to find the next product category to fall in love with, just like they used to feel about music. Of course we know that Apple already loves apps. Show that by doubling down on featured apps, staff picks, and app playlists.

And:

Apple shouldn’t wait until Thursday to feature a few great apps. Feature apps all the time. They’re on the right track with some of the “best of” sections in the store, and with the “Near Me” feature. Go a little further and it will make all the difference to bubble up great apps, and let the junk in the App Store fade away.

I think they’ve done it for iOS 11. While the top charts aren’t completely gone, they no longer dominate the App Store user experience. Featured apps are center stage.

Product manager Pedraum Pardehpoosh at WWDC even used the same phrase “double down” when describing Apple’s new focus on editorial content. During session 301, he said:

We thought this was a perfect time to double down on the editorial curation that’s distinguished the App Store since its conception.

Joe Cieplinski addresses the information density in the new App Store, pointing out that apps will be featured every day:

That’s a big change from the weekly update schedule Apple has maintained since the beginning of the App Store. You can’t name something “Today” and then not update it every day. So instead of a few new items getting featured once a week, something new will be featured every single day.

The “Today” tab is effectively a blog: reverse-chronological posts about what’s noteworthy in the store. It’s a much better default UI for content that is actively curated.

The old App Store was designed like a database. Databases are good at showing grids and lists from an algorithm. But the App Store should tell a story about new apps. A blog-like format is the best way to do that.

This plays to Apple’s strengths in design and taste. Where Google might hire more engineers to improve their store, Apple should hire more writers.

So far I’ve only used the new App Store on my iPad, and only for a few days. After we’ve all lived with it for a few months, it will be easier to judge whether it works for developers. But it’s almost exactly what I was hoping for a few years ago. This redesign for iOS 11 is one of my favorite things to come out of WWDC.

Apple’s control over app hosting

High-profile app rejections aren’t as common as they once were, so it’s even more shocking when an entire developer account is banned from the App Store. Dash from Kapeli ran into this after trying to migrate an account:

Today I called them and they confirmed my account migration went through and that everything is okay as far as they can tell. A few hours ago I received a “Notice of Termination” email, saying that my account was terminated due to fraudulent conduct.

Brent Simmons writes about the lack of transparency and minimal appeal process:

While this is legal, and within Apple’s rights, it’s not what we’ve come to expect from a moral judicial system. No matter what the context, we expect that the accused see the evidence against them, we expect avenues for appeal to be made available, and we expect proportional penalties.

I hope this misunderstanding with Dash will be cleared up soon. But issues like this will never completely go away until Apple separates app distribution from curation. As long as there is a centralized, tightly-controlled system for installing iOS apps, mistakes will happen.

Imagine instead if the App Store worked more like the web. Google dominates search, but they can’t shut down your web site. If you try to game the system, Google can remove you from search and limit your exposure. Likewise, developers should be able to distribute iOS apps with minimal involvement from Apple, yet apps that haven’t passed formal review won’t be searchable without a direct link, won’t ever be featured, and won’t show up in the top 100 lists.

A more open system for app distribution would cleanly solve several problems with the App Store. Apple would be more free to remove clutter from search results without necessarily purging apps from the store. And there would be a natural temporary consequence for suspected fraudulent behavior: simply demote the app, delisting it from search and featured collections.

Apple should focus on highlighting the best apps within a system that lets the app review team make occasional mistakes. There shouldn’t be such an easy toggle that wipes out an indie developer’s business.