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360iDev: Lessons learned from four years on the App Store

Andreas Linde is the developer of an app called WorldView+, which is designed to let you view webcams from around the world on your iOS device (we took a look at the app here). He released the app on Apple's App Store over four years ago now, and this week at 360iDev in Denver, he went through some lessons that he'd picked up working on Apple's platform.

A lot of what Linde has learned echo what we've heard before from other developers: Polish and stability are extremely important when you're creating iPhone apps, because if a customer can't use the app for what it's designed for, it's just not going to be successful. Linde talked about how, when his app first arrived on the App Store, it was crashing about every one in 50 times. But as he did more and more work on it, the app now crashes only ever 0.01 percent of sessions, and that's a much better figure.

One of his big recommendations was that developers look very, very closely at every single one of Apple's apps, both the released public apps from Cupertino (to see the design patterns and UI elements used), and the sample code included in Xcode's documentation, to learn just how it's all done. He also said that every developer out there should get a designer to work with, because "it really, really, really matters. Take your time, plan it early and find the right guy," said Linde.

Linde also gave a few pointers on how to handle customer support -- he suggested to developers that "the customer was not always right." Obviously, developers shouldn't completely avoid customer requests, but Linde says that users don't always know what they want, and even when they send requests to a developer for a certain app feature or fix, it may not exactly be the one they'll actually use.

Linde also suggested that developers do their best to keep support requests and communication out of iTunes reviews, where it often ends up if not otherwise handled by developers. Early on in WorldView+'s life, Linde created an option for in-app support, and he says that helped a lot in terms of getting support requests to him through the right channels. Linde also asked customers to rate his app directly, and he saw ratings go up substantially when he did that. "You can get better ratings just by asking," he told the crowd.

Finally, Linde said he's still learning. He has gotten some press on the app, and that exposure has encouraged a few bumps in sales, but even he admitted that he's not sure how or why that coverage came about. So even as an experienced developer, says Linde, he's got quite a bit to still learn about how the App Store works. Linde's experience seems typical of a lot of developers out there -- there are certainly plenty of great lessons to have picked up from the App Store over its lifetime, and things are still changing so much that there's also lots left to learn.

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