The health app for adolescents, luna, launched on Apple’s App Store in November last year. The startup’s cofounder, Jo Goodall, was in charge of getting the first version of the product onto the App Store.
As a non-technical founder, she joined the second cohort of the Apple App Store Foundations programme which, she says, has given her a deep understanding of the intricacies of the App Store. She shared her top tips for launching and making sure people know you’ve launched with our Startup Life newsletter — sign up for free.
Don’t worry about having a native app
If you don’t have the resources to create different apps tailored specifically for Android and iOS, you can launch the same app on both platforms. You can always build a native app in the future, once you’ve grown your team, understand your customers better and have more money in the bank. Bear in mind that you do need to purchase a developer licence before you can get your app on the App Store — it’s an annual fee of $99.
Your app doesn’t have to be perfect
Build an MVP (minimum viable product) to get your product into people’s hands as quickly as possible, to test what does and doesn’t work. You can build out your idea with no or low-code tools.
Make the most of TestFlight
Apple’s pre-App Store platform allows you to test your app with a select group of people before making it publicly available. You can provide the most basic version of your concept here without worrying too much about design, UX, etc — the goal is to understand what your customers actually want and need. We used TestFlight with 100 teens before building a beta version based on their feedback. That beta is what we eventually launched on the App Store.
Factor in review time
Apple reviews everything — from the first app you launch to all future releases. This can take a while, especially if it’s an initial launch of an app or a bigger feature. Also, if you’re launching during holiday seasons, the review team gets busier. When we first launched, the review time was a few days. Now, when we release new features it can be as quick as a couple of hours.
Apple’s team provides thorough feedback on everything via email. For example, we received feedback on our placement of buttons — we needed to make some more visible to ensure it was accessible for all users. Also, they highlighted that we were missing some source references for information that we had provided.
If anything doesn’t make it through the review, you’ll be sent reasons why and pointed in the right direction to fix them. For more complicated fixes, you can head to Apple’s Developer Forums where developers share their experiences. You can also schedule a call with the Review team to discuss any challenges. Once you’ve made the changes and resubmit your app, the review process is usually really quick (less than 48 hours).
Appoint a key stakeholder
You want someone in charge of the App Store process because you build relationships with the Apple team, which can lead to other opportunities. Normally, this lands with a product manager-type role. However, when you’re an early-stage startup with a small team of maybe one or two, this normally lands with one of the cofounders. It can be handed off later down the line. I've kept the App Store in my remit even as the team has grown.
Make sure you get seen
- Make sure your marketing campaigns are in line with your launch date — traffic won’t generate itself! Use new features to create new campaigns too.
- Use well-thought-out descriptions and imagery in the App Store — it acts as your shop front so you want to create the best first impression.
- Release new features regularly.
- Reply to all reviews left on the App Store about your product — whether they’re good or bad — as the algorithm rewards you for the engagement and pushes you up the rankings.
- Build good relationships with the App Store team and its developers.
On the subject of... launching on the App Store
💸 How much should you charge? Here’s a whole lot of information about app pricing strategies, from freemium to paymium.
🗣️ Focus on your best referral channels. Word of mouth is the best way to get people to download your app.
⭐️ Get better ratings. Here’s how to encourage users to leave reviews for your app.