iPad App Store Design - Bad for Consumers and Developers

By Ken Yarmosh
April 7, 2010 | Comments: 3

In re-designing the App Store for the iPad, Apple has done some fairly subtle and some fairly bold changes both of which are negatively affecting consumers and developers.

As a consumer my first observation about the iPad App Store was that it was frustrating to browse. On the iPhone, the App Store is mostly controlled with "flick" gestures. For example, when searching for an app, it's easy to browse twenty-five of them at a time by quickly scrolling up or down and then touching "Twenty Five More..." The iPad offers a vastly different experience. First, the initial search results page has iPad and iPhone apps competing with each other. Secondly and more oddly, even with a much larger screen, only twelve apps at a time are presented. Seeing the second page of twelve apps requires pressing the right arrow. With the iPhone App Store, it is possible to flick down to view the first set of twenty-five apps along with the second set. The iPad paradigm of arrows necessitates that only twelve apps only ever be present on the screen, with considerable effort required to move from page to page.

iPad App Store Search

While there are considerably less iPad apps available right now compared to iPhone apps, the changes to search alone will impact app developers. As with the iPhone App Store, search ranks are dependent on factors such as the number of downloads and the least popular applications will appear outside of the first several sets of results. The iPad presents a more significant disadvantage, however, due its paging metaphor. It will take more time for consumers to see the more lowly ranked apps. It's also very likely that they'll simply never reach them, resulting in the popular apps having a higher likelihood to stay popular.

iPad App Store

Apple also approached the "Categories" view differently on the iPad. They introduced the "In the Spotlight" view, where screens from featured apps can be browsed in cover flow. The more traditional category view can be accessed from this area but Apple also overhauled it by removing the explicit breakdown of viewing apps by paid, free, and release date. Instead, Apple decided to mix paid and free apps together, sorting them by default as "Featured" in a drop-down filter (the other options are "Name" and "Release Date").

iPad App Store Category View

While it's a more subtle change, this again gives preference to the most popular apps requiring a consumer to change the less obvious sort filter to "Release Date" in order to see the actual new apps. Free apps also have an order of magnitude difference in download totals, so while I'm sure Apple has a means to account for that, it's not exactly clear to me how that will be taken into consideration in the default "Featured" sort. Unless Apple were to add back in the paid versus free distinction (which I would think is likely), this revised category view would likely alter many developer's approach to launching free apps as a means to get visibility for the premium or "pro" versions of their app.

One would think that the iPad App Store represents Apple's most current thinking about how their App Stores should operate (iTunes, iPad, and iPhone). If that's the case, then it is evident that Apple wants to cater more to consumers and the most successful developers. Unless upstarts or independent developers somehow get featured by Apple, it's going to be substantially harder to have their iPad apps be discovered and receive the visibility needed to make developing for this device worthwhile. Of course, it's only fair to realize that the iPad App Store is brand new and will evolve over time.

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Spot on. The other issue is that sorting by release date doesn't actually show the most recently released apps. Even the "New and Noteworthy" is a week or more out of date and any given time. I couldn't understand why no new Education apps had been released since 4/9, then I noticed a Education app in the Spotlight that had a date of 4/14. Sure enough, when I browse the Education category and sort by date, that app was no where to be found. The app count of the Education category has been 100 since release. I discovered a wealth of new Education apps by searching for "education". It's clear that there are serious problems with the iPad app store.

when I am paging through the app store, and about 10 pages of apps in, I stop and look at an app, and when i return to the store, i am sent to the first page. this is so frustrating. what am I doing wrong?

I echo paul's frustration! Why can't the app store remember where I left off before stopping to look at an app? I get so fed up with being whisked back to page 1 all the time that I just give up and leave the App Store in disgust. I hate wasting my time plowing back through pages I've alread covered. ALSO, when looking over GENIUS recommendations on the App Store, why is it that even when I click on NOT INTERESTED for a given app, the app just stays there? It's like my clicking NOT INTERESTED has no effect whatsover. What's the problem with the App Store?

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