You need to write down why people should bother downloading your app before you even start building it. An app description is an app store optimized product definition. It greatly influences your product’s success.
There are three components of an app’s ‘definition’: its Name, its Description in the marketplace, and Screenshots.There is no one way to write a product definition, but there are some terrible ways to do it. To prevent disaster, we gathered some helpful how-tos specific to each part of the app page on the App Store and Google Play. Let’s look at them first briefly, and then in greater detail.
There are currently 1.6 million apps on Google Play and 1.5 million on Apple’s App Store as of 2016. Let those numbers sink in for a while...
You want your customers to find your app through search on the App Store and Google Play. The only way to make this possible is by choosing the right name for your app.
Your app’s title should reflect two or three of the app’s most significant – and differentiating – features. Limit the title to one hundred characters. You should also make sure that the title includes keywords. Keywords help people to find your product on the App Store or Google Play Store.
1. The first 1-3 sentences of an app’s description should describe the main idea of your product. You can make this part more engaging by highlighting the problem that your app solves. These sentences shouldn't exceed a combined total of 225 characters.
2. Mention special achievements. Mention if your app has been featured on TechCrunch, has won an award, or if Johnny Depp is talking about it.
3. The body of the description can include 2-3 paragraphs where you describe characteristics and details.
4. List several main functions with concise descriptions.
5. Talk about “What’s new?” Inform customers about bug fixes, color changes in the side menu, or the addition of new features. This should be the final component of your app description.
The first screenshot is the most important. It describes what your app does. If you add text to your screenshots, use verbs. Verbs push people to take action better than any other part of speech. Verbs are your friends.
- be clear and concise when explaining how your app works and why people need it.
- use keywords both in the app’s name and in its description.
- write directly to your user (using you, as opposed to using people, or they, or users).
- avoid technical details and ambiguous sentences.
Now, as the brief part is over, we can dive deeper into how to create the ultimate app definition.
App definition in more detail
I. What is your app name? Why do people need it?
There is usually no connection between an app's name and what is does. As I’m checking the Best New Apps on the App Store, I am passing by CHOMP, Flowstate, Sloth – I have no idea what these names mean.
To make an app’s functionality clear for users – and to improve app visibility – you need to blend an app’s purpose into its name. Your app’s purpose should be boiled down to a keyword that people will use to search for a specific solution on the App Store or Google Play Store. The principle is the same for Google web search. If you type app development company into Google’s search box, you will find Yalantis. This is because our full name is Yalantis: iOS and Android app development company.
If you type travel app, you will find TripIt (TripIt Travel Organizer — Free), TripAdvisor (TripAdvisor Hotels Flights Restaurants), TripCase (TripCase — Travel Organizer) and other travel apps.
Let’s take our app My Day as an example. Its full name on both app stores is:
- My Day — Countdown Timer
Countdown timer, and countdown appare keywords.
- Flipboard: Your Social News Magazine
Looking at this title, we know exactly why we need Flipboard. What’s more, there are three keywords right away: news, social and magazine.
Vochi, one of our recent projects, uses the following name in the App Store:
- Vochi messaging — Future Delivery
This name not only lets people know what Vochi does, but it also emphasizes its competitive advantage. Let's see more examples of apps that highlight their unique features in their title:
- Shazam — Discover Music, Artists, Videos & Lyrics
- Magisto Video Editor & Movie Maker
- Bro: Social Networking, Bromance, and Dating with free live chat for men
Check out our Bro case study here.
You can have as many as 25 characters in the app name. If there are more characters, people won’t see them in the search.
II. How to write an app description
You should consider the following rules to write an app description that sells::
- SLAP – Stop. Look. Act. Purchase. Capture the attention of your potential customers by using simple sentences. People are more likely to download an app if they understand exactly how it can make their lives better.
- KISS – Keep it simple stupid. Get rid of all words that don’t carry any meaning. Don’t use cliche, buzzwords and jargon. Use real words.
- WIIFM – What’s in it for me?What will people get, learn, and feel once they download your app? What’s your app’s value proposition?
You should explain how to use your product from a user’s point of view, as if you were a user yourself.
Writing a great app description is easy. You need to answer only one question:
2. What features does your app offer?
Typical mobile apps have a lot of different functions from registration to terms and conditions. But we don’t need to talk about all these functions in the app description. It’s enough to point out just a few core features and one killer feature. The killer feature is your value proposition. It can also be your competitive advantage or positioning of your product on the market.
If you position your app as the best notebook, for example, then you should focus on taking notes. If your app can find cheap tours, you should highlight this in your app description.
Talk about one specific use case rather than every single function that your app offers.
The main feature of our app My Day is a countdown clock with reminders. Other functions include wallpapers, holidays, widgets, color and style settings, and more. We position My Day as a beautiful product and this is its value proposition.
3. What does an app description include?
We can divide an app description into five parts:
- 255 characters.
- Review and awards.
- 2-3 paragraphs of the body text.
- A list of features.
- What’s new?
The first 255 characters that appear in the App Store listing are the most important — this is what users can read without having to tap “more.”
If this text isn’t catchy enough, a user won’t bother reading further. They might not download your app in the first place.
Use 255 characters to describe your unique value proposition.
Start with a concise, attention-grabbing sentence that explains why your app is cool and why people need it. Describe a problem and say how your app can solve it. If there doesn’t seem to be any problem for your app to solve, create one.
Sometimes a problem that a product can solve is obvious. For example, with a fitness app you can do exercises wherever you are. A dating app increases your chances to find love. A social app for movies offers you an opportunity to discuss art house with those who care.
Even if your app belongs to the entertainment category, you can describe it as a solution to a problem. Let’s take Vine, a social app for funny videos.
- Vine is the entertainment network where videos and personalities get really big, really fast.
Vine’s creators emphasize that you and your video will quickly become popular. This is important for the target audience of Vine. Then we see the following:
- Watch videos that create trends, influence culture and make you laugh. Discover stories, characters and remixes you can’t find anywhere else. Be the first to hear incredible new artists and songs.
They sold the app to me here. I can create trends, laugh, and watch “stories you can’t find anywhere else.” All this makes me think that Vine is a unique solution.
- Watch videos, discover stories, new artists and songs are all keywords that properly fit into the context.
Sometimes, a problem that your app can solve isn’t obvious. For example, Uber and Instacart are products created for comfort. When they were just launched, people didn’t even know they had a problem that these guys wanted to solve. Today, though, some of us can’t even imagine getting around the city without Uber.
- Rewind Time Automatic Tracking app:
- The best time tracking solution is the one you don’t even have to think about. Rewind automatically tracks your time based on your location. You just have to set up your important places and you’re done.
- Tracks time based on your location — this is the killer feature.
- The best time tracking solution is the one you don’t even have to think about. – this is a problem that the app solves.
- You just have to set up your important places and you’re done. — this is how to use the app.
They didn’t say much, did they? But we know why we need the Rewind app. Go download it if you wish, or stay here to learn more.
5. Review and awards.
If your product received a review from a respected source, you should put a quote from this review into your app description.
Examples of reviews:
- Quip — Docs, Chat, Spreadsheets: ** Featured in MIT Technology Review’s 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2014 **
- Wish — Shopping made fun: “Love, love this app. It’s a fun app that u can wish on things u love and want. Highly recommend it to frndz & fmly,” — Olivia Austin.
- “A must-have for moms!” — TechCrunch
Examples of awards:
- AP Mobile is the award-winning app from The Associated Press, the definitive news source relied upon by thousands of newspapers, broadcasters and digital news providers worldwide.
- Musixmatch Lyrics Finder: Musixmatch is the world’s largest lyrics catalog, that lets you enjoy diverse music with synced lyrics. Out of 155 countries it was selected for the Editor’s Choice on the App Store and was also chosen as an App Of The Year in 2013.
If your app won an award, make sure to explain why:
- news source relied upon by thousands of newspapers
- the world’s largest lyrics catalog
If you have neither awards nor reviews from a respected source, you can include a review from a regular user. But in this case, your app should have a specific use case: medicine, for example.
Awards and reviews provide social proof that your app is hot stuff.
6. Body paragraph.
App descriptions are like news articles: the main news comes first, details follow. The shorter the paragraphs in the app description, the easier they are for people to understand.
By now we've already talked about the most important features that your app offers:
- Wunderlist helps millions of people around the world capture their ideas, things to do and places to see. (Wunderlist: To-Do List & Tasks)
Now is the time to dive deeper into details and characteristics:
- Whether you’re sharing a grocery list with a loved one, working on a project, or planning a vacation, Wunderlist makes it easy to share your lists and collaborate with everyone in your life. Wunderlist instantly syncs between your phone, tablet, and computer, so you can access your lists from anywhere.
From this paragraph, I learned what exactly I can add to my lists and how I can use them. Being specific and personable allows you to connect with your customers.
The body paragraph is an excellent place for keywords (but never repeat what you have already said).
7. A list of functions.
It’s advisable to have 3-7 functions in the list. They all should have a name and a short description. Features can come with a subheading followed by a sentence or two:
- VSCO Journal™
- Publish original content to your Journal and share with the creative community. Find inspiration on the VSCO Journal, a publication highlighting creatives from around the globe.
One more example:
NYC Apartments and Real Estate by StreetEasy— an app that we developed for Zillow. The main function of this app is property search. That’s why search is the most used word in the app description for the App Store. Besides “search,” StreetEasy’s app description lists the following features::
- ability to view, save and share for-sale and rental listings
- email and call agents directly from the app
- tap into the database for all kinds of market- and property-level facts and history
Here's one more example from the health & fitness category:
FitStar Personal Trainer — Burn Calories & Lose Weight with Video Fitness Workouts led by Football Legend Tony Gonzalez(too long a name). The main function of FitStar is video workouts. But there are more features that the app description talks about:
- HD videos with legend
- Challenges (setting personal goals)
- Apple TV
- Custom audio tracker
- Track progress
- Connect FitBit, Jawbone UP, MyFitnessPal
- Integrated with Health app
When you list features, you should keep in mind the following rules:
Don’t make feature descriptions too long.
Place the two most important features at the beginning of the list and the third most important at the end of it.
Nobody reads anything here.
Nobody reads anything here.
Every new function should start with a new word. All these words should belong to one part of speech (verbs, adjectives, nouns).
The third most important function.
Then, you can talk about how your app makes money and why people should pay for it. But we'd recommend that you let people discover premium content after they have already downloaded your app.
8. What’s new?
Everything that you fixed or added to the app in the latest version(s) goes into the very last part of the app description. The easiest way to describe how you improved the user experience is by using verbs and gerunds. But you can use whatever words feel right to you.
- Now supporting iOS 9
- Likes: See who liked your post
- Now you can book up to 4 hotels at once on the app
- Fixed a bug affecting some iPhone 6 and 6 Plus readers
9. What you should and what you mustn’t do in the app description.
- Briefly describe the app’s value proposition.
- Speak to the target audience with the phrase “ideal for.”
- Convince: “Free forever!”
- Increase credibility with a phrase such as “From the creators of...”
- Overuse keywords in the app description: too many keywords with a loose connection to the content don't make any sense and spoil an app’s ranking.
- Make grammar mistakes and typos.
- Speak technical language.
- Write something like this: our product was made in New York by Tom Smith, an iOS developer.
- Lie. This is how you get bad reviews.
- Use confusing and abstract sentences.
- Exaggerate, use buzzwords, jargon and cliche. Cross out revolutionize, game-changing, disruptive, value added, impactful, cutting-edge, best-of-breed, and go-to and substitute them with real words.
III. How to write a description for screenshots
Screenshots need to describe the main functions of the app and talk about exact use cases. The first screenshot is the most important. It should describe the app’s value proposition. There should be a total of five screenshots.
- We make the news easy to follow.
- We make the news easy to understand.
- We make the news easy to manage.
- We make the news easy to share.
- The most interesting and exciting stories from around the web.
BuzzFeed News gives people an easy tool for following the news. This is exactly what they say on their screenshots. Making news “easy” is the app’s competitive advantage.
Another app whose screenshots are amazing is Spark – Like your email again:
- Take control of your inbox.
- Snooze your emails and get alerts.
- Use revolutionary smart search (I don’t like revolutionary though).
- Add personality to your email.
- Reply quickly with just one tap.
Some screenshots are so self-explanatory that they don’t need a description at all. Take a look at Drawnimal to see what I mean.
To learn more about screenshots, read our article: Top techniques for creating excellent app store screenshots.
IV. How to find keywords
- use your imagination
- use Google Trends
- use Google AdWords Keyword Planner
- check out App Store Statistics
Don’t stuff your app title with keywords, but do keep in mind that an app’s name serves as a the primary field for indexing by Apple. The Google Play Store counts keywords in both the title and description.
It doesn't matter what platform you launch an app for. Keywords should appear in the app description and in its title. This is because people also look for apps in Google web search or in other search engines as well.
V. What else should I read about app definition?
- Apple's Guidelines
- Ideal For Statement
- Value Proposition
- Value Propositions That Work
- Useful Value Propositions Examples
Listen to the podcast:
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