Help for Clearing the Online App Store Submission Hurdle

The last stage of any journey may prove the hardest.

That observation seems to hold true for app development. Some mobile technologists cite the online app store submission process as one of the more difficult parts of app development. The process can take a while, particularly if an app needs to be resubmitted for running afoul of submission guidelines.

“It can be very frustrating, especially when you pay the submission fee and then are required to make numerous revisions that can take several weeks of correspondence and tweaking prior to getting accepted,” says Chris Vendilli, founder of ProFromGo, a Pittsburgh-based Internet marketing firm that specializes in mobile application development.

William McCarthy, director of app development at Mobile Magnus, a mobile app maker with a development team in Ireland and the U.S., says the app submission task isn’t so much arduous as it is time consuming. “I wouldn’t say the process is difficult, but it is long-winded,” notes McCarthy. He says the process can take five to 10 days, adding, “If you mess up and have to do it again, it takes another five to 10 days.”

Timing was particularly important for the targeted release date for Mobile Magnus’ Leapin’ Leprechaun Lite: St. Patrick’s Day. The game -- with some help from an email to Apple -- made it into the App Store on March 17.

Each app store submission process -- from Apple’s App Store to Google Play to BlackBerry App World -- requires developers to follow different criteria and poses its own set of challenges, says a spokesman for Verivo Software, a Waltham, Mass., company that offers a mobile enterprise application platform. “One of the items that becomes difficult for nonplatform developers is re-submitting to app stores following every change made to their app, forcing them to repeat the process numerous times over the course of an app’s development and management.”

In listening to developer feedback and trying to make the submission process as painless as possible, some stores have changed how they accept apps to make submitting easier. For instance, Intel AppUp, a digital store designed for PCs, has redesigned their onboarding process and changed some of the requirements so developers with existing applications can more easily submit without making code changes. [Disclosure: Intel is the sponsor of this content.]

Avoiding Trouble
The app submission routine seems simple enough: It generally requires completing a form that describes the app and uploading the binary code. But there are pitfalls to avoid and, for developers, the task is finding ways to make things run as smoothly as possible.

Where to begin? For starters, app makers should avoid any obvious infractions that bring out an app store’s rejection notice.

“There are certain functionalities that almost always get rejected -- anything that interferes with the native functions and operations of the phone will get shot down every time,” says Vendilli. “For example, if you were to try and use a ‘Call Now’ feature that attempted to use your own VoIP protocol to place the call to the business, Apple will never allow it because they want you to use their built-in functionality for making calls.”

Earlier this month, ProFromGo announced a mobile app development service for iPhone and Android that aims to help Pittsburgh businesses roll out apps for their customers. The development service includes getting the businesses’ apps approved for the iPhone and Android app stores.

The company will focus on using a set of features that most business owners find valuable and that are also known to be easily accepted in the app store submission process, says Vendilli. “As app designers/developers, we’ve grown very familiar with what will fly and what will die ...”

Verivo, meanwhile, suggests that use of a mobile app development platform can help developers make a favorable app store impression. The company’s enterprise mobility platform steers developers in the right direction, matching UI and UX design standards set forth by multiple app stores, according to its spokesman.

App Testing
After the development phase, rigorous testing can help avoid app store trouble. Chris Eyhorn, executive vice president of the Testing Tools Division at Telerik, which provides developer and automated testing tools, says developers are under pressure to deliver “master golden copies” of their apps to app stores -- a situation he says recalls the days of physical software distribution.

“It goes back to where we need to make sure the quality of the app is super high,” says Eyhorn. “If we get an app with bugs in it, we will get nasty feedback and one-star reviews. It has a significant impact on downloads.”

That situation, says Eyhorn, underscores the need for putting apps -- and software updates -- through a series of tests, including unit tests to test the atomic features of the app, and integration as well as functional tests, to examine end-to-end scenarios.

Eyhorn also emphasizes that developers should observe caution when it comes to the test subject. An end-to-end test should be conducted against the final build to be uploaded as opposed to release builds. “Take the final output of your compilation process and use that for test,” advises Eyhorn.

by John Moore