Thoughts on App Review

As some of you may know, getting Yoink for iOS through Apple’s App Review was, to say it lightly, a bit of a pain.
In the end, I was able to release it, but a month late. Had this been my first app as an indie developer, there’s a good chance I would have had to declare bankruptcy now.
I am fortunate enough to have a couple of apps out already that create a steady income, but still, I spent about two months exclusively on this app, so it’s still scary thinking about how I got rejected over and over.

Long story short, here’s a couple of thoughts I’ve had during all of this.

TestFlight App Review

From the very beginning, I’ve had Yoink available to a couple of (awesome) testers via TestFlight.
Now, when you add a new app or a new version of the app to TestFlight, it has to go through a review before testers can download and test it.

My question, then, is: Why not reject the app right there if it doesn’t comply with the rules in the App Reviewer’s eyes?
If this is not checked, why have a review for TestFlight apps in the first place?

Or if that’s unrealistic for some reason, perhaps TestFlight App Review could give sort of a “likelihood of getting through the ‘real’ App Review”. Maybe on the levels of “yea, good luck with that” to “possibly, tentatively not going to be rejected”.

It would have saved me (and the App Review person) a *lot* of time and nerves had, for example, the File Provider extension been rejected right then and there for not being cloud-storage based. Or the keyboard, for not having a traditional method of input. Those are all things that could have been avoided, had TestFlight App Review caught these things.

Reasons for Rejection

Yoink was rejected for different reasons and in different areas of the app.
But those reasons were given to me one by one, one submission and “Waiting for Review” -> “In Review” cycle after another.
That’s *such* a waste of time (not only for the developer, but also for the reviewer. But *especially* for the developer).
Why not keep going after finding a reason for rejection and see if there are other issues after that? If so, the reviewer could note them all down and give them to the developer all at once, not one by one.

Notice of Escalation

When an App Reviewer isn’t sure about an app, the review is “escalated”, meaning it goes up one instance in the App Reviewer hierarchy to be reviewed by a “superior”.
That would be the perfect time to let the developer know in advance that, “look, review is going to take a little longer because we’ve run into an issue with your app. Please stay tuned, we’re working on it.”.
Not only would the developer know that it’s going to take longer for the app to be reviewed, they’d also have reassurance that the App Reviewer hasn’t forgotten about the app – anybody who had an app “In Review” for more than twelve hours knows that feeling 😉

In closing, I’d like to say that I have nothing but respect for App Reviewers. Their job is difficult and, mostly, unthankful.
But I believe a lot of grievances on both sides could be avoided if some of these suggestions were put in place.

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Yoink for iPad and iPhone now available – Improve and Simplify Drag and Drop

Yoink for iOS Icon

It’s here.
After an unnecessarily long, extended time in App Review, I’m so happy to be able to tell you that Yoink for iPad and iPhone with iOS 11 is now finally available on the App Store.

What’s Yoink for iPad and iPhone?

Yoink strives to improve and simplify drag and drop and speed up your workflow.
It accepts almost anything you can drag, copy or share on your iPad and stores it for later use. This way, your fingers are free for more important things.

Here’s a quick YouTube video of how it works (check your sound, there’s some music) :

How can I add stuff to Yoink?

Obviously, especially on iPad, Yoink was designed for drag’n’drop use, and using it as a Slide-Over or Side-by-Side app, I’d say that’s the best way to use it. Just slide Yoink over any app you’re in and drag to it anything you need later. Then slide it back out, if it’s in your way.
There are, however, other ways to add items to Yoink. It can grab the contents from your clipboard and it offers a Action / Share extension, so that whenever you use a Share sheet in iOS, you can add that shared item to Yoink – no drag and drop required. The app doesn’t even have to run.

How do I get stuff out of Yoink?

That’s just as easy. Either use drag and drop, or copy the items, or share them from within the app.
Yoink comes with a custom keyboard extension, which lets you use items you’ve stored in Yoink without having to leave the active app you’re currently editing text in – just switch to Yoink’s keyboard and drag out (or copy, if you’re on iPhone) the items to the destination in your text.
All items in Yoink are indexed by Spotlight, so you can use the system-wide search to find items. The results are draggable as well.

Yoink Custom Keyboard

How are items in Yoink represented?

Yoink creates a rich preview for every item you add, so that, at a glance, easy identification is possible (for example, web link items show part of the website, map locations show a preview using Apple Maps).
A full look at the item is available by tapping onto the item.

Deleting Items

Yoink doesn’t delete items right away. Instead, like in Photos.app, items you drag out of Yoink or delete are put into the Trash, where they remain for a specified amount of time, after which they’re really deleted.
So should you find you still need an item, you can restore it right away.

Pricing and Availability

Yoink for iOS is available on the App Store right now, for the introductory price of $2.99 (€3,49) – it will rise in November.
An iPad or iPhone with iOS 11 is required.

Yoink is also available on the Mac, and for the occasion, its price has also been reduced for a limited time! 🙂

Links

Yoink for iPad and iPhone Website: https://eternalstorms.at/yoink/ios
Yoink for iOS Usage Tips: https://eternalstorms.at/yoink/ios/tips
Yoink for iPad and iPhone on the App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id1260915283?mt=8
Yoink for iOS Press Kit: https://eternalstorms.at/press/Yoink-iPad-1-Press-Kit.zip

Yoink for Mac Website: https://eternalstorms.at/yoink/mac
Yoink for Mac Usage Tips: https://eternalstorms.at/yoink/mac/tips
Yoink on the Mac App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id457622435?mt=12
Yoink for Mac Press Kit: https://eternalstorms.at/press/Yoink-3-Press-Kit.zip

Delay of Release

I had planned and was ready for releasing Yoink for iPad together with iOS 11, on September 19th, 2017. As you may know, that didn’t work out. The app was ready, I was set, but App Review wasn’t happy with the app and so I missed the date, while other, let’s say similar apps, were allowed in.
After a lot of discussion by mail and phone with the App Review team, and having to remove some things from the app, Yoink was finally approved yesterday.

Thank you for your patience, and I hope you enjoy the app 🙂 Please spread the word and if you have the time and like the app, please consider leaving a little review on the App Store – it would mean a lot to me!

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iTunes Affiliate Program – One Year In

Last year, I started using the iTunes Affiliate Program.
The program allows you to make a little money by linking to your apps with your affiliate token and lets you track where clicks and purchases come from, as well.
I thought it’d be interesting to do a little retrospective, now that a year has gone by.

Using Affiliate Links

Turning an (Mac) App Store link (or almost any other iTunes – based link) into an affiliate link couldn’t be simpler.
All you need to do is append your affiliate token (like &at=your_token).
Additionally, you can provide context with your links so you can track them more easily later on.
For instance, I “tag” my links with “twitter”, “facebook”, “blog”, “website”, “newsletter”, “yoinkdemo” and so on.
That makes it very easy to track where your customers come from.

I use affiliate links for every iTunes link I share – be it an app of my own or that of another developer.

Tools and Info

There are tools available to you to make affiliate linking even easier, like John Voorhees’ Blink (for iOS).
I personally don’t use any extra software – I have a note in Notes.app with all my affiliate links and then just change the aforementioned context string.

If you’re interested in an in-depth look at the iTunes Affiliate Program, I recommend you read John Voorhees’ excellent comprehensive guide about it on MacStories.
It’ll get you up to speed on how to set it all up.

Where do Clicks Come From?

A very interesting aspect of the iTunes Affiliate Program is its tracking capabilities.
When someone clicks your link, you know:

  • the country the user is in
  • when the link was clicked
  • the context string you provided for the link (like “website”, “blog”, etc)
Live-View of Clicks on Links

A click presented in the live-view of iTunes Affiliate Program’s dashboard. I can see the click came from the US, and from within Yoink‘s “Demo Expired” window.

Furthermore, it tracks what the user purchased – a Mac app, an iOS app, a song, a book, etc.

Top 5 Countries

Based on the number of clicks, the top 5 countries from where people click on my links are:

  1. United States
    22,498 clicks
    $254.15
  2. Brazil
    924 clicks
    $4.96
  3. Germany
    570 clicks
    $76.70
  4. United Kingdom
    91 clicks
    $46.10
  5. Spain
    50 clicks
    $19.17

Apparently, more clicks don’t automatically equal a higher payout.

Conversion Rates

The program allows you to see the conversion rates for your links.
Who really purchased after clicking my link? Here’s what I found out:

  1. 38.62% purchased an app after clicking a link on my website
  2. 25.70% purchased an app after clicking on the link from the “demo expired” window inside the app
    (I haven’t had the affiliate link in the “demo expired” window in Yoink for the entirety of the year, more like only half a year)
  3. 00.72% purchased something when they clicked on a link on my blog

I can’t be sure what the user purchased – once a user clicks a link with an affiliate token, that token is used for the next 24 hours for that user.
Which means that they might click on a link for Yoink, but don’t purchase it. Then, some hours later, they purchase a book on the iBook Store – that will count towards that link’s conversion rate.

A Year of iTunes Affiliate Program Links

Here’s the gist of my first year in the iTunes Affiliate Program:

  • Clicks: 24,647
  • Items Bought: 4,465
  • Revenue Generated: $ 9791.12
  • Payout: $ 685.38
  • Average Conversion Rate: 18.12%

Granted, $685.38 isn’t a lot, but it’s money I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, and as an indie developer, every bit counts 😉

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