iOS has a long-standing reputation of providing the largest stock of applications compared to other mobile operating systems. With Android increasing in popularity however, that reputation is declining as more developers, and users, are jumping on the Android bandwagon. According to the International Data Corporation’s second quarter statistics, Android users corner the market at 79.3 percent of all smartphone sales. Since Android owners currently rule the market, it is no wonder why developers would now cling to programming apps for this operating system. The Android Developers website offers a complete step-by-step list of things you should do to prepare your app for publication on Google Play. At first glance it may seem overwhelming, especially considering not every step is required, but by adhering to the tips outlined could mean the difference between 100 downloaders and 1000. This guide is meant to simplify the process, and get you headed in the right direction.
Android Developers has outlined a four-step process that will help you prepare your application so it is suitable for distribution. This includes: Setup â†’ Development â†’ Debugging and Testing â†’ Publishing. Before getting ahead of yourself, you should thoroughly read and understand the workflow process. Once you have done that, familiarize yourself with Google’s program policies. This will help you stay out of trouble and create a viable, Play Store-worthy app. In summation, your application must be of your own intellectual property and be void of certain common sense items such as spam, content you would not want your grandma knowing you were distributing, depictions of violence or bullying, references of discrimination, illegal activity, gambling that offers real prizes and cash, and more. All aspects of Google’s Play Store requirements are actively enforced. Anyone found abusing those requirements could end up with a terminated developers account and be forced to try their luck developing for iTunes.
The maximum APK size that Google will publish is 50mb. If your file size exceeds that however, Google will publish and manage up to two additional 2GB APK extension files. The use of these extension files require a change in your binary code so make sure to include the changes before creating a release-ready APK. Running the Proguard on your code when building the release-ready APK can help limit the size of your binary.
Once you have created your APK you will need to set it up in a testing environment. This will help you confirm that it meets the basic quality expectations required for Android apps. If your app is specifically meant for tablet devices, follow the Tablet App Quality Checklist to ensure a smooth experience for those over-sized smartphones.
Before attempting to publish your app, specify the API level using the <minSdkVersion> tag. Failure to attribute a value to this line will result in your application defaulting to compatibility with all Android versions. Also declare the minimum screen size using the <supports-screens> attribute.
When it is time to publish your app you will be presented with several options that you can tailor to your needs:
In order for Android users to limit the type of material they are browsing, Google requires a rating be set on every application submitted to its store. Apps are filtered by the ratings, which include “Everyone, Low maturity, Medium maturity, and High maturity.” Ratings can be set in your Developer Console and does not require changes to your app binary.
If you wish to limit the audience that uses your app, you can set what country of distribution. For the widest audience, choose to distribute to all available countries and territories. If your app is territory specific however, this may not work for you. Decide in advance what your needs are, and review the Localization Checklist for help in specifying where your app will be available. How you localize your app could change its time zone, pricing and legal requirements.
Unlike Apple apps, the majority of Android apps are either free or have a free version. This is something you as the developer will need to decide. Free applications are available to all users using Play, regardless of having a payment method on file. Applications with a price tag attached however, are only available to users with a registered payment method attached to their account. Once you publish an app free of cost there is no turning back; you can never change it to a paid app. This does not mean you cannot make money off your sweat and tears; you can always add in-app purchases to your app through Google Play’s In-app Billing service. If you choose to charge for your work, you can switch it to no cost at any time, but you will be unable to revert it back to paid. Paid apps require developers to set up a Google Wallet merchant account before publication.
The latest trend in application programming, especially for games, is to sell digital content within an application. This can be done through Google’s in-app billing service. This moneymaking option allows you to offer a range of product and subscriptions all within the comfort of your own app. To use this service will need to make some changes to your binary before creating your release-ready APK.
You can set prices for both individual apps and in-app purchases from within your Developer Console using a variety of currencies. To help you decide how to price your product visit the Google Play help section, specifically paying attention to the sections “Selling Apps in Multiple Currencies,” “Prices and supported currencies,” “Transaction Fees,” and “Specifying tax rates.”
Marketing your Android App is the most important part after developing a great app. Pictures say a thousand words. If you post high quality images of your product it is more likely to draw attention from prospective downloaders. If you are not a graphic designer, consider hiring one to produce engaging product logos and pictures for you. Screenshots and videos can also help entice people to your app. Concentrate on showing what makes your app stand out from the rest. Work towards uniformity when setting up your graphic showcase. Make a brand for yourself that is easily recognizable and interesting. Graphics can also be localized to fit specific audiences and languages using your Developer Console.
In order to allow Google to feature your app in the Play store, you must set a featured image at a size of 1024 x 500 pixels. Feed on Android user’s innate curiosity and tease them into wanting more. Do not use a black and white image, and make sure it is colorful and fun. Make it simple and do not drag it down with overstated text. Make sure your image is scaled to work on all types of displays.
Although many promotional offerings listed in the Developers Console are optional, do not overlook what you could achieve with them. Your goal is to attract users to your app. Without a showy display, you are less likely to keep their attention. Google requires at least two screenshots be displayed on the details page of your app; you can have up to eight. Image dimensions should range from a minimum of 320 to no more than 3840 pixels, using either 24-bit PNG or JPEG formats. Other graphic asset requirements and options are available here.
For me, if the graphics are not attractive I rarely read the product information. On that same hand, if the product information lacks detail I am less likely to download the app. By combining engaging photos and detailed specs, your audience is more likely to grow and your name as a developer will also reach new heights. To take full advantage of the tools available in the Developers Console, you should familiarize yourself with all the options available on the product details page before you release your app.
Google Play badges can help promote your app by providing a direct link to your products from social media profiles, ads, reviews, blogs and websites. It is highly recommended that you engage in a promotional campaign to announce the arrival of each new app. Google badges is an easy way to do so.
Once you have crossed your “i’s” and dotted your “t’s” you are ready to build and upload your signed, release-ready APK. For more information on how to do this, read how to prepare it for release. After following those instructions, you are ready to upload to you Developers Console.
Before officially launching your app you should create a beta release and get feedback from the community. Include users from across your designated market to help workout any bugs that might be crawling around. You can set up groups of beta testers using Google Play’s alpha and beta testing services. The information obtained through a Google-driven beta release is not posted for public view and is only available for debugging purposes. Start with a small group of testers and gradually increase the amount of people involved until you are happy with the application functionality.
When you think it is time to share your work with the world (or whatever locality you choose), ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my developer profile complete with all my correct information, and is it liked to the Google Wallet merchant account where I want to receive payment from?
- Have I uploaded the most recent version of my app?
- Will my use of graphic assets, screenshots, video, localized descriptions, etc. on my product page engage Android owners?
- Have I set my apps pricing?
- Have I targeted the groups of people who I expect will download my app by using localization options?
- Is the “Compatible devices” reaching the proper audience?
- Do I have an email address for people to contact if they need support?
- Does my app violate any of Google’s policies?
- Have I acknowledged that my app meets Google’s application guidelines, and local government laws?
If you answered yes to all of those questions you are ready to press the publish button in the Developer Console. Your new app should be available for downloading within a few hours of publishing. This is not the end however. You will need to keep the updates flowing and support available if you plan on retaining customers. For ideas on how to do this, review the article “Supporting your users.”