My First (and the) First Appium Conference

Last year, I was selected for a scholarship to Appium Conference 2018 by White October Events. I’ve been aware of Appium for years now as I’m an app developer but I’ve not (yet) used this tool on any of my projects.

For those that don’t know, Appium is a mobile testing framework built upon the Webdriver technology. It was created in 2013 by Dan Cuellar. He was an Test Manager at Zoosk who  was finding that the length of the test passes on the iOS product was getting out of hand. Appium allowed him to write automated tests for iOS as easily as Webdriver was used for automating websites.

Five years later, Appium has a massive community building up a successful open source project that can be used on Android, iOS, Windows in a variety of coding languages.

This year was the first Appium Conference.

There was only one track which was great because I got to see everything and didn’t have to pick between two talks that were probably going to be beneficial to me.

Interesting Things to Note

  • There was a lot of variety of languages being used with Appium (part of the appeal of using the product I suspect).
  • Lots of people were using Jenkins with it as their continuous integration/continuous delivery tool. There were a couple mentions of Circle CI but none about TeamCity. Because of this, I think I’ll be looking into Jenkins more than TeamCity for my app projects.

All the talks were highly interesting and not too difficult to follow for a beginner like me. So I want to share my biggest takeaways from each of the talks.

Keynote – Appium: The Untold Story

The day began with a keynote from Dan Cuellar and Jason Huggins. They spoke about the history of Appium, where it is now and briefly touched upon where he wants it to be in the future and mentioned their vision of StarDriver.

They want to see Appium grow it’s users and the platforms it can test particularly to the internet-of-things and various hardware.

The best takeaway for me from this keynote was the phrase “Challenge everything you see”.

Appium: A Better way to Play the Game

This first talk was given by Charlene Granadosin & Charlotte Bersamin. What I found interesting within their talk was how they were integrating their release and exit reports within Jira using Xray. They used a curl command to upload their latest test results to Jira so these results are clearly visible to the Product Owners or Managers of the team.

My biggest takeaway from this talk was to investigate whether the tools we were currently using for test case management was able to integrate with Jira to give such detailed reports and to try and get the automation up and running.

Deep Hacking Appium for Fun and Profit

Daniel Puterman‘s talk explained how he had contributed to the Appium project by creating a new endpoint to gather native application screenshots.

Because the company Daniel worked with was Applitools, my biggest takeway from this was to figure out whether visual testing tools would be useful for testing virtual reality (VR) applications as much as they would be for websites of mobile applications.

Why the h# should I use Appium with ReactNative?

Wim Selles delved into a comparison talk about why they chose Appium (which was extremely useful as I’ve also been debating what automation tool to use for mobile apps).

Out of all the frameworks he mentioned, they went with Appium because it fit with a lot of his requirements for testing ReactNative apps.

There were a lot of takeways for me from this talk.

  • Consider your own project requirements when you pick your automation tools
  • What are your requirements?
  • What should your app do (now/future)?
  • Which tool supports your needs/expectations?
  • Do a proof of concept test
  • Do research into competitive tools

He also gave a couple of good ways that you can speed up app testing:

  • Remove animations on screens
  • Utilise deep-linking to get directly to screens

Layout Automation Testing (GUI)

Prachi Nagpal explained how she was using Galen to perform her UI browser based testing for mobile and desktop devices. Galen does this by measuring the distance between elements that are being tested. You can also produce heatmap results from this tool.

It was a good talk and interesting to see a tool that I had never heard about.

Can you please provide the full Appium Server logs? A Brief Tour of the Logs

Isaac Murchie next walked us through the Appium logs and the takeaway here was that he pointed out that some lines are bolded to highlight their importance.

He also noted that the following are ways to know which are requests and responses in the logs.

This is a request:

[HTTP] -> 

This is a response:

[HTTP] <-

Interaction with Native Components in Real Devices

In his talk, Telmo Cardoso told us how he tested native components of mobile operating systems. He explained the challenges that he faced (some tasks were difficult on one platform but easier on the other) and ways he and his team had got around them.

The areas he found challenging were:

  • Adding contacts
  • Pushing files to a device
  • Push notifications
  • Managing calls
  • Simulating low battery
  • Extracting logs

The biggest takeaway from this talk was that he used Cucumber for his automation framework along with with Appium successfully to test the native applications and features of smartphones and not just the applications running on them.

Using Appium for Unity Games and Apps

Because of my daily work with Unity projects, I was particularly looking forward to Ru Cindrea‘s talk on how she used Appium for her Unity games and apps.

She first explained how she used OpenCV an image recognition tool with Appium to try and test her Unity games.

The positives were:

  • Works for simple scenarios
  • No changes to game required
  • Found issues like performance issues or out of memory crashes

The negatives were:

  • Wasn’t fast enough
  • Not for games with lots of text

So she decided to create a component called AltUnityTester to help her with her issues.

AltUnityTester is created with Python bindings. It opens a socket connection and waits for a response on a specific port.

When the AltDriver is added into the Appium project it gets a list and knows everything about that Unity scene’s objects. It can then send a command to that port to get information back from the scene to perform tests e.g. checking the end position of elements or text output.

This solution is useful because it’s real-time but it does require changes to the project and it only works with Unity.

So my biggest takeaway was to investigate whether this AltUnityTester could be extended or something similar made in order to test VR applications using Unity.

It’s available as a Unity package or on Gitlab.

Docker-Android: Open-source UI Test Infrastructure for Mobile Website and Android

Application

Budi Utomo next talked about his Docker-Android image to test Android projects and websites on Android devices.

His plan for project development was to:

  1. Create UI tests for Android devices
  2. Write unit tests on Android
  3. Create UI tests on Android apps
  4. Implement Monkey/Stress tests

The biggest takeaway was the demo that showed how Appium can be used easily within Docker containers.

Application Backdoor via Appium

Rajdeep Varma explained how you can use Appium scripts to call development code methods from test code.

He used Appium in this way because he was having a number of problems when trying to write tests:

  • System pop-ups were called and were not needed when running tests
  • Driver limits e.g. mocking the device has been shaken or changing time limits
  • Tests were slow to run

This is where he is using backdoors and where he thinks they could also be used:

  • Changing backend URLs
  • Changing app locale
  • Getting session ids from the app
  • Disabling “What’s new” pop-ups
  • Disabling client side A/B tests
  • Faking SIM card for payments
  • Get analytics data from the app to validate it

The biggest takeaway from this talk was to be careful not to use backdoor for every test case and call incorrect methods in order to make tests pass.

Mobile Peer 2 Peer Communication Testing

Canberk Akduygu gave us a talk about his challenges when automating the BIP app (it’s like the Turkish Whatsapp).

He was building an extended grid solution to change to the right version of Appium and set the desired capabilities within their testing framework according to properties set in a JSON config file.

His demo was the biggest takeaway which showed two phones messaging and even calling the other. It was one scenario that was running two different steps on each device. It showed that the test steps needed to be synchronised.

From a Software Tester to an Entrepreneur: What I’ve Learned

Kristel Kruustuk next came on stage and walked us through why she founded Testilio and her struggles with the company despite being so successful and growing at a fast pace since she began.

My takeaway from this talk to was investigate and get in touch with the Testilio team and see if they had any future plans for expanding from manual and automation testing to VR testing.

Appium: The Next Five Years

Jonathan Lipps gave the final talk and began again with the history of Appium but then spoke more in depth about the vision of the product over the next five years and hopeful milestones. Some of these things were:

  • StarDriver
  • InfinityDriver
  • Extension to the W3C WebDriver protocol
  • Node js base classes and libraries for easily writing new drivers

Closing Remarks

Lastly, we were treated to a performance featuring Jonathan Lipps, Appium and Selenium. I believe four or five instruments were being played by Appium, Selenium was outputting the lyrics and Jonathan was singing and playing the ukulele.

My biggest takeway from this is that Appium can be used in a variety of ways to perform a number of impressive tasks.

After Party

The after party was held at a bar a short walk from St Paul’s Cathedral. There I managed to talk to Ru Cindrea in more detail about the project I wanted to use the AltUnityTester for and whether she thought it would work. I also, managed to talk the ears off of both Charlene and Charlotte who were the speakers from the very first talk of the day.

Overall

I had a great day, met loads of wonderful people (including attendees and speakers) and I hope that next year, I’ll have begun using Appium for something that I do so I can share my own experiences with the community.

Quiz Scramble Template on Sale!

Earlier this year, I redeveloped my app Werdz Movies from UnityScript into C#.

This was just a first iteration. I redesigned the interface so that the hint is always on screen and I still need to add in the power-ups somewhere. These will eventually become in app purchases, something I never got around to doing in the released versions on the App Store and Google Play.

I designed this new version as a template with basic graphics so that anyone can use it and make it their own. After doing this, I packaged it all up and uploaded it to the Unity Asset Store.

This has been available since the 23rd October but from November 27th to December 8th PST it’ll be ON SALE!

You’ll be able to buy this with a massive discount of 30% off.

So if you’re interested in creating your own version of Werdz Movies maybe with games, historical figures or TV shows trivia, grab this now from the Asset Store. It’s only on sale for a short time so make the most of it.

 

Testing Your App Using TestFlight

Here’s my next post which appeared first on Simple Programmer..

There are many types of testing that you can add at different phases of your project. Your last line of defense is testing within the final stages of the project—where you can catch those last-minute defects that can potentially harm your product’s use, damage its value to the user, and tarnish your company’s reputation as a manufacturer of high-quality items.

Various tools exist to assist you during these final stages. One of the most well-known tools for testing iOS apps is TestFlight.

If you’ve never used TestFlight, this post will be an introduction to the tool and will describe how you can best use it during your project to ensure few to no defects affect your final product.

What is TestFlight?

TestFlight is an online tool that allows you to install and test mobile apps “over-the-air.” Historically, app developers tested their projects on actual devices that had to be connected to the development machine using a wire to get a new build. Over-the-air allows developers to distribute their latest builds to testers without the need to connect to the phones physically. Because of this, new builds can effectively be sent to testers in any part of the world.

Who should use it?

TestFlight is perfect for small businesses that don’t have access to a large in-house testing team. And since it’s free, it allows for more businesses other than just revenue-generating companies to use it.

But it can also be good for enterprise companies with remote testers. The access and ease of distribution to up to 10,000 external users and the ability to gain their feedback is extremely useful to companies of all sizes.

When was TestFlight released?

On December 23, 2010, TestFlight was founded by Benjamin Satterfield and Trystan Kosmynka. At the time of its initial release, TestFlight was a single platform designed with the intention of testing mobile apps for both Android and iOS devices.

In 2012, TestFlight was acquired by Burstly, which raised a considerable amount of capital from venture capital firms in order to develop further features and launch TestFlight Live (a now discontinued service providing the user with real-time analytics and engagement metrics).

In February 2014, Apple acquired Burstly. By March of that year, they terminated support for Android devices.

How has TestFlight changed since being acquired?

Today, TestFlight is one of the many options for you to use to test your iOS app. Although there are alternative systems, a few of these still utilize TestFlight to do their app build distribution, especially since the limit for external testers was increased to 10,000 users. With that number of users, you’ll be sure to receive adequate feedback and get enough testing done to ensure a high-quality level of your app.

Currently, you can use TestFlight only for apps developed for Apple devices, as it’s available only to developers within the iOS Developer Program.

Once signed up for this service, you can distribute your app builds to internal or external beta testers who can provide you with feedback about the app. Along with this service, the TestFlight software development kit also allows developers to receive remote logs and crash reports from testers. Being able to gather data from users when they have experienced an issue can be invaluable, as some defects can be difficult to reproduce. The data from these crash reports could provide you with information to help you track down the issue and fix it before it affects anyone else.

At what stage should you use TestFlight?

Although TestFlight would be great during the earlier phases of development to test your initial builds, you need to upload a release build in order to use TestFlight. Using release builds to perform initial testing on isn’t typical, because they contain less debug information. In the event of a crash, you won’t have sufficient details in order to step through the code, find out what happened, and try to fix it.

Release builds are created when the developer is satisfied that the major bugs have been caught and it’s ready to be a beta candidate build. This is a close representation of the final version that will go to customers. Generally, the build is stable with few to no crashes. Any issues encountered at this phase usually require only minor tweaks, so release builds are better for beta candidate builds.

You can also use TestFlight after release to get live information about your app’s performance and feedback from users. Gaining ratings and reviews once an app is live is challenging, so giving users a way to easily submit feedback may help combat this issue.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of TestFlight?

While the history behind the product’s evolution gives you an idea of its features, there are many reasons why you may, or may not, want to choose TestFlight for your testing phase.

Benefits

Wide range of users
Being able to distribute your app to up to 10,000 external users over-the-air gives you the opportunity to get feedback for your app from a large number of users that you wouldn’t have previously been able to reach.

Having a beta testing group at this maximum amount is most common with game companies, as they have prospective users registering ahead of time to test the latest versions of a game iteration.

For normal apps, this number of testers is very large. I would typically expect a maximum of a couple hundred beta testers. Because remember, the more testers you have, the more test results you have to analyze and feedback you’ll need to review.

Keeping the number of beta testers to something sensible is recommended, no matter what maximum limit TestFlight provides.

Testing on multiple apps at once
You can test up to 100 apps at once with either internal or external users. You can also upload different iOS app builds—watchOS apps, tvOS apps, and iMessage apps—at the same time.

Internal users
Up to 25 members assigned to your team in iTunes Connect can also test your app on up to 30 devices.

Unlike external testers who will have access only to the build that their assigned link points to, internal testers will have access to all builds of your app. If you have multiple versions of your app—for example, a free and paid-for version—the testers could have access to each build of these different versions so you can get one person to test multiple apps.

Quick distribution
The tool allows you to quickly distribute your app to a specific set of beta testers over-the-air immediately. You may choose to build different versions to perform A/B testing of your app with your testers. Being able to send a specific build to a number of users at once will help you gain more results faster.

Easily accessible
TestFlight is integrated within the Apple Developer Dashboard that you need to use in order to distribute your app within the App Store. You only need to switch tabs to gain access; no separate login is required.

Drawbacks

iOS only
If you’re developing a cross-platform tool, this will allow you to test and receive feedback easily only on your iOS build. You’ll have to do additional work if you want to test the Android build.

Extra review needed to distribute via TestFlight
Apps that use TestFlight will require a Beta App Review and must comply with the full App Store Review Guidelines before testing can begin.

This is because your app is effectively going out to a select group of the public, so the Apple team wants to ensure that the build that is distributed is of the same quality as the current releases in the App Store.

Just like with the normal app submission process, if your app has significant changes between versions, you’re required to resubmit it for review. This will add extra time to the last phases of your app’s development before it reaches the public.

After you have completed beta testing, you will need to submit your app for review through the usual iTunes Connect screens.

Limited time for beta testing
Submitted builds are accessible from TestFlight for only 90 days after invitations to the testers have been sent. The app will stop writing after these 90 days, so you’ll have to either update your beta submission or get all of your testing completed within those 90 days. This restriction doesn’t affect your internal testers, only those external to the project.

Restricted to specific builds
Only release builds that are signed with the correct provisioning profile and distribution certificate are allowed to be uploaded for beta review. So the build needs to be signed appropriately in order for it to be built and accepted.

Only for devices running iOS 8 and above
A new iOS version is released every year, but not everyone upgrades and not everyone can upgrade, because Apple chooses to drop support for “old” versions of iOS hardware within about three years. This does slightly limit the reach to your audience, as you have no idea what devices they are using and whether their devices support iOS 8.

No application programming interface for continuous integration/continuous deployment
The upload process has to be carried out manually, as there is no way to integrate continuous integration, delivery, or deployment tools into iTunes Connect. So this will slightly slow your progress during testing.

Is TestFlight for you?

Testing your app is a fundamental step in the process of developing one. Without testing, you’re blindly throwing your creation into the wild with no assurance that it will even work for your potential customers. TestFlight is a robust tool for iOS testing that’ll help you manage your beta testing stage effectively and get it out to potentially thousands of users.

I can completely understand the excitement to develop your idea into something tangible, but you must keep in mind that the goal is to create a great app, not simply to distribute anything that resembles your idea into the app stores.

To do this well, you need to remember that integrating thorough testing (even if you’re a team of one) into your development is essential for building a robust product and successful project. And gaining feedback from beta testers via TestFlight before your product is opened up to everyone could reveal some key insights.

This testing could change some big features and could possibly put your app on the course to becoming extraordinary. So while there are several drawbacks to using TestFlight, I think the positives ultimately outweigh the negatives and make it worth considering TestFlight as a resource for beta testing your next app.

Releasing Your App to the Store in Style Part 3

Here’s my next post which appeared first on Simple Programmer..

During the first two posts in this series on how to release your app to the App Store, I discussed the importance of configuring the first two screens of your App Store page.

In Releasing Your App to the Store in Style Part 1, I stepped through the App Information screen and why each setting (for example, the title and category) is important to help drive more users to your page.

In Releasing Your App to the Store in Style Part 2, I discussed how the price and where you make your app available could affect your sales, and also how you could use this to help with trialing your app on a smaller audience.

In this post, we’ll discuss what you need to configure before you can finally submit your app for review to Apple, before you plan for that all-important release date.

We’ll discuss each section of this screen in the order that they currently appear so you can read through this post and the screen at the same time from top to bottom without having to jump back and forth.

Let’s go!

Version Information

This section gives prospective users a first glimpse at your app. Sure, the icon may have drawn them in, but you need to have your best images here. If your images aren’t high quality, they will not convince viewers to download your app.

App Screenshots

For the current generation of Apple products, if your app runs on an iPhone, you must provide screenshots appropriate for a 5.5-inch display. The Apple guidelines state that “screenshots must be in the JPG or PNG format, and in the RGB color space. App previews must be in the M4V, MP4, or MOV format and can’t exceed 500 MB.”

You will upload screenshots for both iPhone and iPad in this section. If your app supports both iPhone and iPad, you need to add at least one screenshot for iPad. You are allowed up to five screenshots for iPhone and five more for iPad.

Read iOS Screenshot Specifications for more information on the guidelines you need to follow when creating your iOS screenshots.

Screenshot Options

You have a few options available when managing your screenshots in this section.

Media Manager

This option allows you to upload individual sets of screenshots for each iPhone or iPad size. You can also make any one device use the default 5.5-inch display screenshots by checking a checkbox next to each device section.

The benefit here is that if you have different designs for different devices, you can showcase both on the store to your users. A small downside is that it may take a little while longer to gather and format the screenshots to the correct sizes. But if you went to the trouble of creating new designs, why not put in the extra effort to make sure they’re seen by as many people as possible?

For more information about the Media Manager, read this Get Localization post.

Choose File

This option allows you to select the images you want to use for screenshots from your file system.

Delete All

This option will remove all screenshots and any App Preview files you have added to the 5.5-inch display section. It’ll save you from having to remove them individually. Being able to remove everything at once will be useful if you have updated the graphics of your app and want to change them all.

App Preview

An App Preview is a short video users watch right on the App Store that lets you demonstrate the features and functionality of your app. You are allowed only one app preview.

This preview video is a great marketing tool, but don’t do it if you can’t create a high-quality, effective video that equals the brilliance of your app itself. Users may overlook your app if they’re turned off by the video.

If you really want to make a video, but don’t have a large budget to hire someone, please, do it yourself only if you know you can produce something spectacular. If the video is low quality, that indicates that your app could also be of low quality. And that’s the last thing you want.

One idea for those with small budgets is to look for contractors on Fiverr. Most jobs start from £5 (extra services may increase the price, though) and you can get a few free revisions included in that cost to tweak your project if you’re not happy straight away. Just remember that the devil is in the details. The more details you provide, the better your chances will be that your first version comes back close to what you are happy to use.

In addition to being high quality and well-made, it needs, above all, to be short. Time is money, so make sure your star features are showcased quickly in your video. Between 15 and 30 seconds should be your target range. If you think your video may be too long, try it out on a few people and get their opinions before you spend time reducing the length.

Read App Preview Specifications for more information on the guidelines you need to follow when creating your App Preview.

Other Sizes

When you add in your iOS screenshots for the 5.5-inch display, these will be resized and used for the other sizes: 4.7-inch display, 4-inch display, and 3.5-inch display. Again, the benefit here is that if you have different designs for different devices, you can showcase both to your users on the store.

To add custom screenshots to the Other Sizes section, go to the Media Manager.

Promotional Text

Waiting for your app to be reviewed can take up to a week if you’re a new publisher to the Store.

However, promotional text gets updated to your App Store page straight away, bypassing the submission process. It lets you inform visitors to your page of any current app features quickly.

This text appears above your description on the App Store for those with devices running iOS 11 or later.

Description

After the images, the description provides the user with the greatest insight into your app and its features.

Overloading the reader with every little amazing feature your app has is not the best strategy. Giving someone too much information may leave them bored by the time they get to the end (if they don’t lose interest and switch to something else halfway through).

And giving them something too short may not intrigue them enough to download your app and see for themselves.

You need to find a balance where you deliver the best information in a short, snappy pitch. List your best features to catch the attention of those that skim-read.

This description will also be used for your Apple Watch app, so you may want to keep it as short as possible. It really depends on whether you mind having users scroll to read the full description in their Apple Watch.

You also need to be thoughtful in the words you use to describe your app. Use keywords in your description you think a potential user will search with to make it more likely that your app will show up in their search results.

Keywords

This field is like the description in that you fill it with keywords. However, unlike the description, you can put in words that you wouldn’t use to describe your app, but users may search with. For example, the Google Sheets app doesn’t contain the word “number” or “calculation” in its description, but as users are familiar with associating these words with this tool, they may use them when they search for that app.

Make sure you add at least one keyword into this field to improve the chances of your app being listed in search results. Separate your keywords with a comma. (No need to add a space! You’ll just be wasting precious characters.)

Picking relevant keywords for your app has become as important and as much of an art as picking the keywords for your website. For this reason, choosing your keywords now has its own name: App store optimization or ASO. Tools like Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner will help you figure out what terms users are searching with the most so that you can find the relevant keywords to add into your app to ensure it appropriately turns up in the most search results.

ASO can be incredibly complex; the best keywords to use will depend on your app. I suggest that you spend a bit of time on trying to select the best keywords using the tools I described above to get you started.

Support URL

Visible on the App Store beneath your description, the URL tells users where to go if they need support information for your app.

Marketing URL

Also visible beneath the description, this URL tells users where to visit in order to gain marketing information about your app. For example, you may want to provide more in-depth information about the features of the app, the background of why and how it was made, any information about you in relation to the app, etc.

iMessage App

The iMessage App allows you to create an app extension that lets your users interact with your app within Messages, extending the functionality of your app. Users can interact by creating and sharing content, adding stickers, making payments, and more, without ever leaving their conversations.

The iMessage framework is available in iOS 10 or later.

You can add screenshots to your iMessage App extension here in the same way as the iPhone and iPad version detailed above.

Read the iMessage page for more information about iMessage.

Apple Watch

Apple’s wearable device Apple Watch has grown in popularity since its release in April 2015. By developing an app that is compatible with Apple Watch, you open yourself up to a wider range of people.

As the display for Apple Watch is smaller than a normal phone display, you’ll need to design an icon that’s a suitable size but also ties into your app across other devices. Upload your icon in this section.

In this section, you also add in your screenshots for the Apple Watch app. You can have up to five screenshots for the Apple Watch (just like the iPhone/iPad sections). Similarly, the options for the Media Manager, Choose File, and Delete All are also the same. As mentioned earlier, there’s no separate section for the Apple Watch description, as it shares the description defined for the iPhone and iPad.

Read the Apple Watch Screenshot Specifications page for more information.

Build

The “build” is the application file that you have produced using your development tool. This is the section where you actually upload the build that will become the public version of your app. You can create the build using Xcode 6 (this is the current version stated) or later. If you are unfamiliar with Xcode, it’s a piece of software known as an integrated development environment (IDE) that can be used to develop apps for Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.

Now, you can use a number of different development tools, or IDEs, to create your iOS build. Once you have created your build, you will need to upload it to iTunes Connect. iTunes Connect is Apple’s portal for developers to manage their apps.

The easiest and latest way of uploading your build is via the Application Loader 3.0 (this is the current version stated) or later. The Application Loader is a hassle-free graphical user interface, which connects to your iTunes Developer account and allows you to upload a new build or add new in-app purchases to a project.

Once you have created your release build, you select this IPA file from the Application Loader, and it will verify that your app is correctly configured to upload. If there are any issues with the information that you have provided, you will be shown these details so that you can fix it. Once uploaded, you will see it in iTunes Connect under the Build section.

This section also shows the build version extracted from the build file you uploaded and the date you uploaded the file.

If you included any assets within your build, these are also extracted and shown here. For example, if you included your app icon, you will see it shown above the version number on the left.

General App Information

App Store Icon

This icon is the first piece of content from your app that users will come into contact with, so you need to make sure it’s high quality. You also may want to ensure that the image is representative of your app’s core functionality so the audience will know intuitively what the app is about.

For example, the App icon for Google Docs is a document with lines on it. Most software users associate this image with a file, piece of paper with text, or document, which automatically suggests the functionality of the app. Linking your app icon and app functionality will lower the barrier to entry and help you retain users.

The icon uploaded here will be used on the App Store. It must be in the JPG or PNG format, with a minimum resolution of at least 72 DPI, and in the RGB color space. It must not contain layers or rounded corners. Your app icon must also be 1024 x 1024.

For more information, please see App Icon Specifications.

Version

This is the current build version number of the app that you are adding. It is advised that the numbering format follow standard software conventions (usually “major.minor”).

Rating

This section is related to the age rating for your app, not the entertainment tagging that users provide. The rating is automatically calculated for you to make sure that all apps are rated objectively.

To get your app automatically rated, you read through a list of categories and check either none (no examples of this occur within your app), infrequent/mild (only some examples occur within your app), or frequent/intense (many examples of this occur within your app) to each option.

Once you have entered an option for all categories, the system will calculate an appropriate age rating based on your answers.

Copyright

This is the name of the person (or entity) that owns exclusive rights to your app. The year the rights were obtained are placed before this name.

Trade Representative Contact Information

This section outlines the contact details of the trade representative contact for your app. It is to provide additional information for the Korean App Store. If you’re a hobbyist or a solopreneur, your contact information will be provided here. If not, you should list whoever handles your business’s external communications.

If you wish for this information to appear on the Korean App Store, then check the box next to the text “Display Trade Representative Contact Information on the Korean App Store.”

If you provide your details in this field, your information will be displayed in the Korean App Store. If you don’t wish to show your contact details in the Store (which is perfectly understandable), you can choose to omit your details. This shouldn’t prevent you from having your app in the Korean App Store, but you should double-check with an Apple representative to confirm.

By default, your contact information is placed within these fields. If you remove your details, you may find that they default back to using your real contact details. The only way to remove your details is to add something like “no address” into these fields. Again, I’m not sure how this will affect your submission and being displayed in the Korean App Store, so you should seek advice from an Apple representative.

If you don’t want your app to be available in the Korean App Store, you need to disable the app within the territories section in the previous screen, “Pricing and Availability.”

Routing App Coverage File

If you would like to specify the geographic regions supported by your app, you can do so by providing a file in the format GeoJSON and uploading the separate GeoJSON file in this section.

Game Center

This option includes your app within Game Center. If you have added in functionality to your app that makes use of the Game Center features, once you enable this option, your build properties that relate to Game Center will be extracted and displayed here.

App Review Information

Sign-in Information

If you give users the option to sign into your app using a particular social media channel, Apple will need a social media account to test this, enter your app, and test its functionality.

In order to proceed through the review process, your username and password credentials for any social media accounts you want to be tied to your app must be valid and active for the entire review process. If they aren’t, your app will be denied and you’ll have to start again.

If you want users to sign into your app, check the “Sign-in required” checkbox and provide a username and password in the hidden fields.

Contact Information

You need to include the contact information of the person the App Review team should contact if they have any questions or need additional information during this process.

Notes

This section can be used to provide any additional information about your app that can help during the review process. Include any information that may be needed to test your app, such as app-specific settings. Providing these here may speed up your review.

Version Release

After the app has been approved, Apple can release the app straight away if you check the option “Automatically release this version.” However, most publishers that aren’t hobbyists usually have a marketing strategy with a whole release timeline etched in stone so that they can build anticipation for their product.

If this kind of plan is what you have in mind (albeit maybe on a smaller scale), you may want to choose the option “Manually release this version.” To delay the release of the app until a certain date after it has been approved, you can choose the option “Automatically release this version after App Review, no earlier than [provide your chosen date].”

The earliest date your app will be made available on the App Store is based on your current time zone. If the App Review process isn’t complete by this date, the version will be made available directly after it has been approved. So if you want to maintain control over the release of your app, make sure you allow for ample time between submitting for review and getting your app approved.

Once you have submitted your app, it will be set to the “Processing for App Store” state. While your app is in that state, you can’t get new promotional codes, invite new testers, or reject your app. You can upload a new build, though, in case you missed something small but significant.

After it has been approved, the app will move to the “Pending Developer Release” state. Once it is in this state, you’re able to generate and give out promotional codes, continue beta testing, or reject the release and submit a new build (because, you know, accidents can happen).

So that’s it!

I’ve shared with you everything that I’ve learned so far about how to create a great App Store page.

Having this page configured to a high quality will put you ahead of the competition. You’ll drive more traffic to your page and downloads of your app will increase. But actions make all the difference. Make sure that you put what you’ve learned into practice as soon as possible.

Once your page is live, it’s important to check how your page is doing by looking at the analytics surrounding your page.

The algorithms that Apple and Google use when listing your app within search results change all the time to make sure that no one publisher remains on top.

Because of this fact, you will need to adjust the content of your page accordingly to try and make sure you keep getting a high amount of pageviews and hopefully downloads.

It’s not easy sailing from here, but you’ve done a great job in getting this far.

Good luck with your release!

Releasing Your App to the Store in Style Part 2

Here’s my next post which appeared first on Simple Programmer..

Configuring a great App Store page is usually one of the last stages in the app development life cycle. Because it comes at the end, it is sometimes overlooked, or the information is added in a slapdash sort of way, without much time or attention dedicated to the content.

However, even if you have created a great app, no one will find it if you don’t put some thought and attention into the screens on the Developer Dashboard that make up your App Store page. And even if by some sheer stroke of luck, a few people manage to find your store page, if what they see and read doesn’t convince them to download your app, all your efforts will have been for nothing.

Two key aspects of configuring a winning App Store page are getting the pricing and the availability right.

The price of your app can make it more or less appealing to users, depending on who your audience is and what platforms (iOS or Android) you release to.

And availability of your app can also affect your sales and analytics results. If you release to too wide an audience when your app hasn’t been tailored for all locations, you may hinder your app’s progress.

You must find that balance and use your findings to guide how you configure your App Store page.

In this post, we’ll delve into how to set Pricing and Availability—as shown below—in a way that gives your app the best possible start in life.

You’ll learn to set up the price, set up a price change schedule (if necessary), and set the availability of your app.

Setting Your Price

You should already know from your chosen business model whether you want to sell your app for a fixed cost or price it as free. You would have gained all of this information from the idea validation and research stages of development, and from audience feedback and competitive analysis.

We tend to equate price with quality, so your initial instinct may be to price high and at a fixed cost. This strategy has been known to work on the Apple App Store, as the typical user of iOS devices prefers high quality. But if you try to use the same technique on Google Play, you may find that users are less likely to buy your app. This is because apps in the Play Store usually sell for lower prices or are free, without this being indicative of their quality.

Please be aware that if you decide to sell your app, you must have a Paid Application agreement.

What is a Paid Application agreement?

The Paid Application agreement is a contract you have to review in order to sell apps. You don’t need to submit anything to Apple in order to be compliant with this agreement. It’s simply an online form that you complete with the necessary bank and tax details.

In order to review the agreement, sign into the Apple Developer Account page and select Agreements, Tax, and Banking.

Under Request Contracts, click Request for the iOS Paid Applications contract type. An agreement will appear.

After you review the agreement, check that you have read and agreed to the contract, then click Submit.

The iOS Paid Applications contract will now be displayed under Contracts In Process. You then need to set up your Contact Info, Bank Info, and Tax Info in order to get your sales paid into your account.

For further steps on the Paid Application agreement, please read this step-by-step guide.

What’s the best price for my app?

Only you can decide that, but there are things you can research to guide your decision. Look at similar apps currently on the App Store to help you figure out an appropriate cost for your app. If you can, try to find out how many downloads these competitive apps have had. When pricing your app, take into consideration how long it took you to create your app and how much effort you have put into creating it.

Get feedback from your target audience to gather their opinions about what they would pay for your app. Ask strangers for their opinions over direct friends or family. Strangers won’t care so much about your feelings and are more likely to give you their honest opinion and thoughts. If you’re not a social butterfly, talk to friends of friends, colleagues at work, or online users via groups such as Facebook groups or forums. Ask these people a specific set of questions that will help you justify your price model.

Use the feedback you gain from your target audience and competitive analysis to come up with a price that’s suitable for your users.

Before you set your price …

You should take a look at the All Prices and Currencies link, which takes you to the pricing matrix that details the pricing tiers for each territory. A territory is a country where the Apple App Store can distribute apps.

Pricing tiers are what you use to set your app price. Each tier is of a different value. The lowest tier is Tier 0. This is the tier you select if your app is going to be priced as free.

There are 87 pricing tiers and seven alternate tiers available for you to pick from. The pricing tiers are set by Apple, and they vary across territories.

How do you set a price?

In the Price Schedule section, you will see that you already have a default value set to Tier 0. The Start Date will be today’s date, and the End Date will be “No End Date.”

Select Plan a Price Change to change these defaults.

You will then be presented with a table where you can set the Pricing Tier, Start Date, and End Date for your pricing change.

The Start Date is the date that this new price will come into effect on the App Store. The price changes at the beginning of the day. To make the price change immediately, select “Today.”
The End Date is the date that this price reverts back to the prior value (if you’re setting it for the first time, this will be the default of Tier 0). Selecting “No End Date” will set this price permanently. Prices change at the start of the day. One-day sales have to end at the start of the next day.

Promotional Pricing

You also have the option to configure any promotional pricing periods. For example, if you have a launch price of 99p (or USD $0.99), then you can schedule this so that after a month it increases to £1.99.

Price changes and promotional offers are something that are good to have planned prior to configuring your App Store page.

It’s important to understand how to use price changes to build up scarcity by lowering the price for short periods. But you must be careful, as many users equate price with your level of quality. Ensure your full price reflects what you think is the accurate value of your product.

A good example would be to run a Summer Sale promotion and cut the price of your app by 25 percent for one week. By advertising that the sale is only on for a short length of time but not stating when it will end, your app may get more downloads, as buyers will be uncertain when the original price will be reinstated. However, if you do feel compelled to advertise a certain time period, don’t state anything longer than three days. If you do, buyers will think they have time to come back to it later. The next thing you know, more than three days have gone by, the sale is over, and those who were keen on downloading your app are no longer interested, because they didn’t get a reminder that the sale was ending. Again, make sure you plan this carefully.

Keep in mind also that too many price changes may lead users to believe that you don’t know what you’re doing or that your product just isn’t worth the higher price. Also, if your users know your app frequently lowers in price, they may decide to strategically wait until it drops, in order to get a bargain.

Lay out a plan for when and why you will schedule a price change. Use your marketing channels—Facebook page, website, et cetera—in order to properly communicate these changes. If a special occasion like Christmas is coming up, consider lowering the price for a set period and posting when you’re having the sale.

Availability

Availability is where your app will be available. Setting this means you determine which territories your app will be available in. You can select individual options from the 155 territories currently supporting the App Store or by choosing Select All, which will highlight all territories.

Yes, you may think that in order to get the most amount of traffic, you should make your app available to the maximum amount of users. But if you plan to serve only a specific market, or are releasing your early versions to gain feedback, you may want to limit your audience to certain territories.

Companies like Supercell are known to carry out this type of strategy. They frequently do soft launches in Canada to test their ideas and see if what they have just created is a hit, is a miss, or needs a bit more work. If they have a hit, they then open the app up to all of the other territories. If not, they move on to the next idea. Their soft launches differ in length of time, and in whether they release to iOS and Android simultaneously, or one following the other if the initial release receives good enough results.

Volume Purchase Program

This program gives certain groups, like academic institutions, the option to gain a discount when purchasing large volumes and multiple copies of your app.

If your app targets clients that have multiple devices, you may want to have this option. Places like schools and businesses have multiple smartphones and portable devices; therefore, every device would have an individual app. Giving a discount could encourage your clients to buy your product.

These are the options you can choose from in this section:

  • Available with a volume discount for educational institutions
  • Available with no discount
  • Available privately as a custom B2B app

Bitcode Auto-Recompilation

Bitcode refers to the type of code that is sent to iTunes Connect. This is known by its full name of “LLVM Bitcode.” Sometimes Apple automatically rebuilds apps that include bitcode to improve hardware support or optimize Apple’s software—for example, to downsize executable sizes. If Apple needs to alter your executable, then they can do this without a new build being uploaded.
If you want to retain full control of your app, you can opt out of using bitcode. To do this, select the option: “Don’t use bitcode auto-recompilation.” Checking the box means that you have opted out of having your app auto-recompiled.

However, you may want to consider granting permission of this feature. If you disable bitcode auto-recompilation, a few things may happen:

  • Your app may be unavailable for some devices.
  • Your app (including when it’s within an app bundle) may become unavailable whenever apps must be recompiled.
  • If your app is unavailable on the App Store, then Universal Purchase, re-downloading, and Family Sharing won’t work unless all platform versions have been approved.

To make sure your app remains available on the App Store, you need to upload a new build of your app that contains bitcode, test it, and submit that build with a new app version to App Review.

To read more about bitcode, see Apple’s support page.

Where to next?

You now have a thorough understanding of how to set up pricing and determine where your app will be available.

In this post, I’ve taken you through:

  • Pricing tiers and how to set a price for your app
  • The reasons you might choose to make your app free or sell it at a fixed price
  • Paid Application agreements
  • Promotional pricing
  • Apple territories and availability
  • The volume purchase program
  • Bitcode auto-recompilation

Your App Store page is beginning to take shape.

Releasing Your App to the Store in Style Part 1

Here’s my next post which appeared first on Simple Programmer..

It seems like everyone’s making apps these days, and maybe you want to be part of it, too.

Maybe it’s to help you build that passive income you’ve always wanted, maybe it’s a hobby, or maybe you just want to cross it off your bucket list.

It’s hard to believe App Stores have only been around since 2008, a year after the release of the first iPhone in 2007. At that point there were only over 800 apps in the App Store. Now, there are over 2.2 million iOS apps in the App Store alone (as of May 2017).

Knowing there’s massive competition, you still want to go ahead and release an app yourself. That’s great. A little competition never hurt anyone.

You’ve done the hard work of designing, developing, and testing your app, and you’re ready to upload your build.

So how do you get your new, well-built, and well-designed app noticed in an ecosystem where everything is fighting for attention already?

First off, put together a really great store page to make sure when it’s seen, it gets downloaded. A catchy title and making sure it’s placed in the right category can get you far, but there are a few more things you can do to improve your app’s chances of getting discovered.

A quick note before we begin…

Developing an app requires an overall knowledge of the different areas within the Developer Console, so before releasing it to the App Store, you’ll need to have already done the following things:

  • Used XCode to create your build
  • Created debug, development, test, and release builds
  • Signed builds
  • Created provisioning profiles
  • Fully tested your app
  • Created an Apple Developer account for iOS (be aware this requires a yearly purchase of $99)

If you’ve already done all these, then you’re ready to go.

Getting Started

You should know from your app’s design and development stages,what devices you’re targeting, as this will have informs the design. Therefore, you should also know which resolutions and sizes you’ll need to create images and app icons. Refer back to your documentation if you can’t remember the specifics.

There are a number of configuration screens that you’ll need to complete when preparing your app for release.

You should also know which languages and countries your app will be available in, because the translations should either be included in the initial release, or planned for at a later stage in your production schedule.

The Developer Console

The Developer Console is the dashboard for setting up the information about your app and managing your App Store account.

There are many areas to the Developer Console. Once you have an account, make sure you explore all the areas, familiarizing yourself with what you can do and anything more you need to do to set up.

The section you’ll mostly work within when releasing your app is the My Apps section.

Every app you release to the store has an individual place in this section. Once you have created a new app in this area, you are ready to begin.

The details that make up your App Store page come directly from the App Store information you include here. And your App Store page only includes the information you include on these screens, so you need to be thorough. These details can be visible on your page—like the description, title, and screenshots—or work in the background—like keywords.

Double-check before you submit your app for review, as submissions from new developers could take up to a week to pass submission. If you have to make changes to this information, you have to start again from day one.

Configuring your App Information

Once you’re familiar with the Developer Console, you need to configure, and then add settings and the details for your app.

The details within the App Information section will be used across all devices that this app serves. Once your app is released, any changes you make to the App Information will be reflected in the next version of your app that you release.

Localizable Information

These are all of the details of your app that can be translated into languages other than your primary language.

Name

This is the name that the buyer/consumer/customer will see on the App Store page. Making your app name easy to spell and related to the functionality of the app means that you’ll have less to explain about the main features of your app. A good example of this is Snapchat.

Ensure your app name isn’t longer than 50 characters. In fact, sometimes two short words are better than a single long word, as (from your testing) you’ll know that the words wrap. Overall though, one short word is the best option for a name.

Privacy Policy URL

This URL links to your privacy policy. You may not think you need one if this is just a hobby or you’re doing this for fun, and you may be right. But it all depends on your app’s target audience and content.

If you have any of the following features, or target these audiences, you need a privacy policy:

  • An app for children
  • If you offer free subscriptions
  • If you offer subscriptions that auto-renew
  • You allow account registrations
  • You access a user’s existing account

If you collect user- or device-related data, you are only recommended to have a privacy policy.

Primary Localised Language

This setting is very important, however it’s not subtitled, and your attention isn’t really drawn to it as it is with other sections on this screen.

You can also set your primary localised languages here via a drop down.

General Information

Bundle ID

This is the ID that you used in Xcode. Be aware, it can’t be changed after you upload your first build. So get it right!

You have the option to register a new ID or chose the iOS Wildcard App ID option. You usually use the wildcard option for apps that don’t use app-specific functions like in-app purchasing or Game Center. You can read more about Wildcards App Ids in the Apple Developer library.

SKU

This is a unique identifier for your app. Don’t worry, it’s not visible on the Store so you can use any obscure ID you wish. Just make sure you keep a note of it if it’s that unusual.

Getting into the habit of creating SKUs in a specific format is a good idea, so that even if it’s not clear to someone outside of your team, you’ll be able to look at your SKU ID and know what it relates to without looking it up. For example, you may choose to use the first three letters of your app name in capitals, and then maybe the date it was first released. It’s really up to you.

Apple ID

This ID is automatically generated and assigned to your app. It’s arbitrary, so don’t try and make sense of it. But you may want to keep a note of it somewhere easily accessible. It’ll save you logging back into the app store and going to this page in order to find it.

Languages

Primary Language

This is simply a read-only text field set by the localizable primary language you already set. I know it’s confusing having language defined in two places, but it’s the way this screen is laid out at the moment.

You need to set up the primary language in which the app will be used. Additionally, you have to set up the languages for which the app will be localised.

If your localized language isn’t available, then the content served will be from the primary language.

If you can’t find a supported language you would like to use, see the FAQ.

Category

Now you must define what category your app is best suited to.

What’s the main function of your app? Does it provide entertainment, improve your productivity, or make it easy to keep up with the activities of your favourite charity?

You could try and classify your app in a category that you know is popular in the hopes of it getting discovered, but this kind of classification may mean that those looking in the correct category for your app will miss it. It’s up to you to decide what’s more important.

If you’re not sure about what to choose or have other questions, you can see the App Store Category Definitions.

So, you’re analysing your app to see which category will suit it best. But what if you think it could fit into more than one? Well, you’re in luck. You have the option to assign a primary category and an optional secondary category.

The primary and secondary categories are currently as follows:

  • Books
  • Business
  • Catalogs
  • Education
  • Entertainment
  • Finance
  • Food & Drink
  • Games
  • Health & Fitness
  • Lifestyle
  • Magazines & Newspapers
  • Medical
  • Music
  • Navigation
  • News
  • Photo & Video
  • Productivity
  • Reference
  • Shopping
  • Social Networking
  • Sports
  • Stickers
  • Travel
  • Utilities
  • Weather

License Agreement

Here you can set Apple’s Standard License Agreement or edit it to best suit your project’s or team’s purpose. The License Agreement is in place to detail who has ownership of the product from the End User’s perspective, i.e., the person who downloads your app. This differs from the Privacy Policy, because in a privacy policy you as the developer define what you are doing with the information you gather through your app, in order to protect and enforce the rights of the users of your app. By contrast, the License Agreement arguably works more to protect the interests of the app developer.

Rating

An age rating is required, as it classifies the minimum age of the audience that can use your app. The age rating of the app is based on the most mature rating required across all devices.

The current list of age ratings that you can clarify your app under is as follows:

  • No Rating
  • 4+
  • 9+
  • 12+
  • 17+

Additional Information

This section allows you to preview your app and see how the details you have set up will look on the App Store.

It’s a good idea to see how the settings you have chosen are depicted and positioned on the App Store page before it goes live. For example, it could be that when you preview it, details in an image you’ve taken look a lot smaller and are only visible when you open the full size image. This may not be good for catching the eyes of those just browsing for a new app on their smart phones.

If you find something that looks incorrect, you can always go back and update the details, even after you submit your app for review.

What’s your next step?

So, now you have been introduced to the Apple Developer Dashboard. You have a basic understanding of how to configure the App Information screen in the My Apps section in order to start building an attractive and informative App Store page.

So now what do you do with this initial knowledge of the App Store? Why not build upon it?

There are still two more screens left to populate with information before you submit your app for review.

In my next post, I’ll share what information you need to supply on the next screens to build a great App Store page.

Instantiating uniquely named objects

So my first major hurdle in September left me stumped for ages.

Highlighting some of the challenges I faced when creating Project 1.

Task

I was trying to instantiate a grid of button game objects. Whenever a button is pressed, the object is destroyed and after x seconds it’s recreated in the same position. I managed to get this working with a single object, but not a grid of them.

Problem

Nothing was getting recreated when I clicked a button in the grid.

I was giving every button in the grid the same name when it was instantiated. So when I tried to check if the object was destroyed there were obviously multiple more on screen so nothing would get recreated.

Tasks towards a solution

I needed to try to:

  1. Name each object individually!
  2. Check for each object to see if it was destroyed
  3. Recreate the destroyed object

Using the tag property

For task one, I tried tag every object, but learned that tags can only be created in the editor, are used mostly to group objects of the same type (like the same type of button) and they are static. They can’t be created dynamically from code.

Using the name property

Next, I tried to give each object an individual name using the Name property. This worked great. I used a variable to count how many objects were being created, then used that variable to construct a unique name for the object.

Task one solved!

Checking a list

For task two, I decided to create a list of the named objects. Then I looped through the list to see if any are found then return a bool of the result. I could then use this to decide whether to call the recreate object method. Nice idea, but unfortunately the way I called this method led to a loop of only seeing that the first object had been destroyed.

Back to the keyboard with that then.

Lessons learned

So far, these are my takeaways from my first challenge.

    • How to use tags appropriately
    • The Tag and Name properties of game objects

<!–

  • The difference between local position and world/global position.

–>

Obviously, I need to overcome task two so I can focus on implementing the rest of the gameplay and releasing this as soon as possible.