What makes the Mac App Store good for users

Vidit Bhargava
Last week PaintCode moved out of the Mac App Store In what seems to be a trend off late. But what put these developers on the Mac App Store in the first place?

The Mac App Store is the best place to get your app discovered. This is why PaintCode, Sketch and every other popular app that left the Mac App Store was there in the first place. Back in 2014, no one knew about Cinemagraph Pro, Sketch or PaintCode. But since these were good apps, they were featured on the App Store and they gained popularity in a market dominated by the likes of Adobe. It’s impossible to get that level of Attention and instant publicity anywhere else on the web. Ofcourse it makes sense for them ‘now’, to leave the App Store. Because now that a lot of people know about them, it’s easier to be discovered and not having to play by Apple’s App Store rule book gives them more of an advantage.

Not being on the Mac App Store gives a lot of flexibility: You can issue updates more frequently, you can charge for major updates, you get the 100% of the sales of your app and you aren’t bound to Apple’s App Store review guidelines.

What you are taking away from the customers though are some key user experience elements:

  1. Ease of Global Payments: Everytime I visit the website of a software vendor selling these apps from his website. I’m vary of the payment process. Most of the time the price is in US$, making me wonder if my card can make international payments and since the Indian currency isn’t very stable at the moment, I need to double check the conversion rates too. Then there’s this whole process of making sure that that the transaction happens securely. There have been one too many credit card fraud cases to not tread carefully here.

    The Mac App Store provides is designed to keep this in mind. Transactions occur in the local currency and the App Store is a trustworthy portal for app purchases.

  2. Ease of installation and deletion: This is how you install an app downloaded from the Internet : Download a dmg file -> Open that File > Deal with System Security settings to allow an app downloaded from the internet to install > Drag the app to Applications folder (I forget this all the time and it ends up in Downloads) > Check the dialogue box that says it’s an app downloaded from the Internet and then run the app.

    How is the Installation process on the Mac App Store? You search for the app. Press Buy > It downloads. Launch the App from launchpad where it appears instantly. Moreover you can go to the launchpad, make the icons wiggle and then press cross to delete the app.

  3. App Updates are simpler: Whenever I download an app from Safari, there’s this ugly dialogue box that I have to deal with to update it. The dialogue box usually appears at the wrong time, i.e. whenever I’m in a hurry to get work done. In the Mac App Store there’s one place to update all my apps And I don’t have to deal with poorly placed dialogue boxes.
  4. Restoring Purchases is not painful : I’m not even sure what the proceedure to restore purchases is, when I download an app from Safari and accidentally delete the DMG after uninstalling / deleting the app. On the Mac App Store, you can go to the purchased tab and get the app from there.

For new indie developers who don’t have the popularity of the more established players in the market, it’s difficult to set up the website for all of the above use cases. Apple’s not only providing them with greater discoverability but also providing them with the infrastructure to handle all of these user experience needs. It’s a win-win situation, even if you loose some of the flexibility.

To me the greatest problem the Mac App Store is facing is retention. It’s difficult to retain the developers when they become popular. Because, once you establish a credibility or need even amongst a small niche, you no longer need to take care of all the benefits that the Mac App Store is providing and it’s more lucrative to move out of the App Store than stay within the walled garden.

I think, the Mac App Store has always had this tricky problem to solve. Most of the popular apps I’ve seen leave, were the ones that were heavily featured by Apple. PaintCode sat on the featured list for weeks after it released. Sketch one a design award, which it still touts as a badge of honour on its website. How do you retain the very developers whom you helped gain so much traction? With every feature and award, you are one step closer to making them leave the App Store.

But retention is not what we hear when we hear about the Mac App Store’s problems. We hear of the flexibility of faster updates, Paid Updates, App Review and all the things that would help developers But might not necessarily be in the favour of users and security. Maybe those currently reaping the benefits of the Mac App Store aren’t loud enough to be heard about how much of an advantage it is.