MakeItApp’s Federico Soncini - “A new dimension of payment more personal, more intimate, faster and impulsive”

I recently got in touch with an Italian agency that facilitates app development on iOS and Android and I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about Apple Watch and what clients want in an app that web development doesn’t offer.

Federico Soncini Sessa is the co-founder and CEO of MakeItApp.eu, a platform with 25 apps under its belt that allows everyone to develop their own app. The whole idea is helping users to connect with people with specific skills without any investment required. With this background I wondered about the type of projects being pitched and why people want to make apps.

In a recent ATP podcast the hosts talked about an Indian retailer going app-exclusive. What is the main advantage of an app over the web? Are they compatible?

Mobile devices have revolutionised the way in which we interact with the web. Before the introduction of smartphones, we could use the Web only with our PCs, at home or at work, and mobile phones brought the Internet into everyone’s pockets. The problem is that in a small screen it’s more difficult to use a classic browser and a search engine. The web for mobile phones must be immediate and must be simple. That’s where apps come in, optimised tools for mobile devices, designed specifically for small screens with great results within just few clicks. Generally, apps have only one function and are vertical. Websites continue to exist and will always continue to exist, as the PC is still the tool used at home and at work.

What are the most requested features that you keep seeing in your projects?

The users want useful apps that can help them, therefore, the main demand is for apps which can solve problems and simplify our users’ life. That’s the key idea for app creation: satisfy a need or solve a problem? If you can give a good answer you’ve got a great app for sure!

Where would you like to see mobile apps moving in the future?

Apps have revolutionised our phones leading them to be smartphones. In the future, apps will revolutionise other tools such as television, vehicles, household appliances and many more. Today, we can see the first step towards it with the new smartwatches.

Have you noticed any interest about Apple Watch integration?

The Apple Watch is surely a new device to keep an eye on. I guess that the only risk for a failure is the watch’s battery life. We’ve studied and tested the Apple Watch when we launched our first app for the device “Do Not Forget Your Pills”, with which your watch will remind you when to take your medication and much more. Also, other members of our team are working on making their app compatible with the Apple Watch.

What could be the best uses for third party apps on the Apple Watch that we haven’t discovered yet?

The Apple Watch will be for sure used for health and sport, but in my opinion the real revolution could be payments. This is the match that Apple wants to play: a new dimension of payment more personal, more intimate, faster and impulsive!

About MakeItApp MakeItApp is a online platform / community that everyone can join for free. We are very open about everyone joining us and contributing their skills to create apps, following the principle “by users, for users”. MakeItApp also takes care of the Launch and Marketing of any App produced, so that users can focus only on what they are good at, be it Translation, Coding or Design!

The fakery used to game the App Store's search

Yesterday I read two articles about the deplorable state of Apple’s iOS App Store search and some hints pointing at the future that awaits ahead. Andrew Fretz at Touch Arcade argues that in mid-2015 you are not going to launch the App Store app to find the app or game you need. There are youtubers, big sites, small blogs alike and people on Twitter doing a great job sharing the good stuff. The problem starts with the App Store app, but is that the main reason why the system is “stuck in the dark ages”?

On any shopping site, from my online supermarket to Amazon, my ritual is the same. I select a main very broad category and narrow down what I’m after through subcategories. If you want to buy a chair, for example, you would expect to find a department called Home & Garden, a sub section called Furniture where you would find an area just called Dining chairs. If you cannot guess where your item is filed, it only makes sense after a couple of clicks. Once I’m sure I only have dining chairs in front of me I will sort this information according to its price, customer review or popularity.

A discovery problem

Unfortunately shopping for apps and games is nothing like this. Although you can clearly differentiate apps from games, anything after that is a very subjective exercise. You may argue, as Fretz does, that the genres provided are very broad. I’m of the opinion that using more specific labels could complicate things even more. In any case, what’s really confusing is how the same product appears on several categories and not just one.

The App Store was launched based on past successful experiences with iTunes using similar infrastructure. Perhaps Apple could not foresee the monster it would become and neglected the now clear fact that multimedia content and apps are, actually, very different animals.

To take advantage of this situation, welcome the marketing gurus that have ruined the web to find the best way to optimize the App Store. Some people believe that the key to discovery is adding some “magic keywords” to position your app properly. ASO, short for App Search Optimisation, is the discipline that promises developers to “get more downloads today” by bidding on popular search terms used by App Store users. The so-called ASO marketeers use expressions like “gems in the ocean” and “gold mine” to pitch their service to developers — always classy.

That seemed to be an odd strategy since it’s unclear how many consumers will willingly download an app with a title that appears so spammy

Apple is making changes, though. Sarah Perez over at TechCrunch notes, the old algorithms used to highlight what’s popular are being substituted by lists curated by actual people. She is also the author of the quote above. Hopefully this will stop regrettable ASO practices and put at the store front the contact editors deem worthy.

The approach introduced in the US store in the last month has its own pitfalls, but it definitely feels more like the way the modern Apple wants to behave. Wouldn’t you like something like Beats Music curation and the way music is presented with a context. Not like the old iTunes marketplace where everything looks the same.

We are approaching WWDC territory and with a new iOS 9 with rumoured improvements I can only wish for more information about the editorial changes, how iTunes analytics are helping developers without having to rely on dodgy third-party agencies and the value of great honest apps.