Before our readers can evaluate the worth of our branded app, they first need to know it actually exists. With so many apps available now and so few ways to promote them within app stores themselves, this is a quite a challenge — irrespective of content quality.

Unless you are in the top 20 of your category (such as news), you cannot expect too many readers to find you. Your marketing efforts therefore need to be focused on driving readers directly to your app store presence.

One way is to place mobile ads within other apps and on mobile Web sites, but different marketing and promotional strategies are required for the various application platforms. In the Android Market, for example, apps are not approved in advance in the same way as Apple’s App Store, meaning competitors are of varying number and quality. This explains to some extent why Google has caught up so quickly with Apple in terms of the volume of apps available.

Quantity does not equal quality.

Android is an open system and has no approval process. That leads to a large number of applications on the market that perhaps shouldn’t be there as they crash easily or don’t load properly, leading to a bad customer/reader experience.

That aside, once readers have found our app we then need to give them a reason to use it. Not rocket science, but this is so often not thought about. Are we using the built-in features within the handset such as the compass and GPS? Have we built in functions that will provide a good seamless user interface and experience? Is it easy to use? Will readers find value in it, whether paid for or not, and come back again and again?

It’s worth noting that there have now been around 15 billion downloads from the App Store worldwide, but only 20% of all apps published by large brands were downloaded enough times for results to be recorded, according to a recent report by consultancy Deloitte. And of these, only 1% has been downloaded more than a million times.

So, some tips for how to build a good app that will be noticed … and some points to avoid.

Do:

  1. Make sure you consider using the device capabilities such as compass, calendar, and others.

  2. Make sure your marketing stresses the differences between your app and your Web site or print edition. Perhaps highlight rich media interactivity of content on your iPad app that can’t be found on your other platforms.

  3. Use social media. Encourage readers to share your content and evangelise for you!

  4. Consider the cross-pollination of linking your app and its content to your Web site or mobile Web site.

  5. Test, test and test again. Make sure it works well and has a good user experience, BEFORE you unleash it on your audience. You might think this is obvious, but I have seen so many apps which have not considered and planned for this.

Don’t:

  1. Don’t have an app that is no different than the experience you can get elsewhere. If you can get the same on your mobile Web site, what’s the point of the app?

  2. Don’t build in functions — be it for yourself or your advertisers — which, once in the app, allow for the user to be taken out of the app environment. Build sponsored sections or advertiser content within the app itself. Don’t let them leave; you may not get them back!

  3. Don’t build an app that takes ages to download the content. Consider the balance of embedded content versus streamed content.

  4. Don’t build an app that doesn’t give you an opportunity to communicate with your readers when they come out of the app. Capture data, even the bare minimum, so you can go back to them.

  5. Don’t forget who your readers are. That is, build your app based on the profile or demographics of your audience, important in terms of how an app feels, looks, acts … again all part of the reader experience.

Some facts to end with, and maybe some reasons why you should be in the app space if not already: