App Store or App Storage?

In a recent article in Talking New Media, a writer with the pseudonym Alain Parkeat takes the Apple App Store to task for its incredibly bad design.

While I am not a frequent user of the App Store, every time I have to access it, I wince. For a company that hangs its hat on its relentless pursuit of perfection in design and user experience, everything about its App Store is slipshod and half-baked.

Really, you couldn’t do it much worse. The problems start right at the core of the whole App Store concept: in a rush to have the most apps, it’s necessarily assembled a collection of the worst apps. And here I am not just talking about the quality of the apps. Rather, I find I must tread warily with every search, because the App Store is riddled with frauds and imposters. Search on the trademarked name of a popular product, and you’ll invariably get not only that product, but lookalikes clearly designed to fool those who are not careful. They use deceptively similar names, logos and trade dress. They also are apparently allowed to use competitive product names as search keywords. Scariest of all, many of these lookalike apps are free – and thus likely to be nefarious ploys to gain access to your data or your passwords.

Searching the app store is also remarkably difficult. You think basic search functionality wouldn’t be too tough to implement, but with the App Store, you’d be wrong. Searching is about as literal as you can get, meaning that you better get your input exactly right, because the search engine isn’t going to help much at all.

This of course leads to categorization. Yup, the App Store is all over that, with 25 categories to classify a reported one million apps. I guess I’ll just click on the category “business” and start browsing. Clearly, with an average of 40,000 apps per category, this isn’t a very effective discovery mechanism.

But the App Store does feature apps, and since these apps are about the only thing you can easily discover in the App Store, they get enormous numbers of downloads. How does one become one of the few, the proud, the featured? Well, you need a lot of downloads first. Yes, if you want to be successful in the App Store, you better be successful before you get to the App Store. Otherwise, you better be very lucky.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Apple App Store is that this is not some obligatory thing Apple threw together to keep customers happy. Indeed, it’s a major source of revenue, generating over $1 billion per month, with Apple helping itself to a nice share of the pie.

For most publishers, the harsh reality is that the App Store is, more accurately, the App Repository. Apple’s value is providing a central location for apps and easy downloads. As far as discovery goes, you’re on your own. If only there was an app for that!