For the past year, Apple has signaled its intent to clean up the App Store. While Apple has always maintained a rigorous app acceptance process, years of meteoric growth has naturally resulted in a glut of outdated, abandoned apps in the store.
Since last September, Apple has been working to weed out these apps from the more than 2 million titles currently available. Following this year’s WWDC developer conference, Apple updated their App Store guidelines, allowing the company to ban apps created by a “commercialized template or app generation service.”
While the change was initially seen as an extension of a general cleanup, the change has broader implications which are now now being realized. Earlier this month, many small development firms have been given a deadline of January 1, 2018, after which apps they submit will be rejected.
In the near term, app makers who service small businesses will take the hit. These companies that provide templates and off-the-shelf industry solutions are most vulnerable to the new scrutiny (and are its intended targets).
While these companies rarely produce chart-topping titles, they often service small companies and audiences who lack the budget and time to build custom apps (think local restaurants, venues, and retailers).
What’s behind the new standards?
While damaging to some, the change makes sense for Apple. Apple’s dedication to perfecting user experience puts the new restrictions in a different light. Discoverability within the App Store is a well documented problem. With more than 2 million current apps, finding what you’re looking for can be a daunting task, and every successful app is likely to spawn a slew of sub-par imitators.
App discovery was a key driver behind the App Store redesign in iOS 11, and removing low-volume apps from the mix can only help. By raising the submission standards, you continually improve the overall quality of the apps available in the store.
Good UX wins the day
From our perspective, these movements reinforce what we already know about design and user experience; good UX design is a competitive advantage. From Apple’s perspective, they are making a clear statement about the quality of the apps associated with their brand. They don’t want your app and the apps of your 10 closest competitors to be carbon copies of one another.
Apple wants App Store apps to represent only best-of-breed experiences, and it’s not surprising. You don’t have to look very hard to recognize Apple’s obsession with crafting superior experiences. Apple Watch, AirPods and the new iPhone X are industry-leading products, which further position Apple as a luxury brand. They recognize that user experience is their competitive advantage, and they are constantly working to improve that position.
Long term, the change will better serve the app ecosystem overall. App store growth isn’t slowing, and an improved focus on quality design will ensure that future titles will meet their high standards. With users spending more than 90% of their time in apps as opposed to the mobile web, it’s increasingly vital to differentiate your app. A dedication to creating quality experiences ultimately serves the needs of users and businesses alike.