Navigating iTunes Connect: a Developer’s Guide
If you are a mobile app developer and are planning to publish an app for iOS devices like the iPad and iPhone, you will inevitably face navigating iTunes Connect (ITC), Apple’s portal for managing the app publication process.
If you are a new iOS developer and have not set up an account, head over to the iTunes Sales page and decide what kind of content you want to sell. You have the choice of selling media (music, movies, or TV content), apps (downloaded from iTunes to a mobile device), or books. There is a distinction between eBooks (considered to be books) vs. e-storybooks that are allowed into the apps store.
If your book does not have interactive content such as voiceovers, clickable elements or animations you will be obligated to deliver it using another account in the iBooks store, and possibly in a different format such as an ePub or pdf file. Deciding whether you want to publish in the iBooks or Mac App Store will impact your project, even down to the software used to build it. You’ll need to decide early on in the project which store you will target.
Two portals for one store
If you have content that qualifies as an iOS app deliverable via the Mac App Store, you will need to create an Apple Developer account and an iTunes Connect account. Activating your developer account will cost $99 per year to publish apps. The portal enables you to set up an app ID, certificates, configure the devices associated with the account for testing, and the provisioning profiles needed test and deliver the app to production.
Apple’s Developer Center
One of the trickiest parts in setting up an iOS app is navigating through Apple’s Developer Center. The process I use, because most of my apps use push notifications, is to create a separate app ID for each new app.
Next, create a production APN (Apple Push Notification Service) certificate associated to that app ID. Install that certificate onto your development computer so that you can build and test onto devices during the development process.
Finally, create a Provisioning Profile using that device ID for development builds. The process I use is to create an ad-hoc Distribution Provisioning Profile called a variation of “myApp_Dev” for device builds. Then, when I am ready to release, I create a new App Store Distribution Provisioning Profile called “myApp_Dist”, which I will use to create my final build.
Once you have set up your app’s basic identification and have gone through most of the development process you are ready to start the publication process. Head to ITC (there is a convenient link in the Developer Centres’ homepage).
Sign in using your Apple ID and password as configured in the Developer Center. Look at the Developer Center as the place to prep the app to work on a given device, and ITC as the place to handle the polishing, marketing and delivery of the app.
Monetization and your app
You will manage the app’s monetization strategy in ITC, even though you may get your sales reports elsewhere. Many developers prefer to get their sales reports from services like App Annie, as sales can be aggregated from Google, Apple, and Amazon.
However, you can’t avoid using ITC to set up two critical elements of your app’s monetization strategy: in-app purchases and your tax and banking information. Before doing anything else, make sure to have all your tax and banking information correct in the “Contracts, Tax and Banking” area. You’ll want to regularly revisit this area to ensure that your money can find you.
Also, set up any in-app purchase information in this portal. Do this by creating a test user in the Manage Users area. Test in-app purchases on a device by logging out of iTunes and logging back in using this test user’s credentials.
Now you’re ready to start setting up your app by clicking “Manage your app > Add New App” on the ITC home page. ITC will present a dropdown of bundles IDs for your new app that reflect what was previously setup in the Developer center. Give your app a descriptive name and you’re ready to start managing the front-facing, important marketing elements of your app.
The four killer elements of a winning app
ITC is where you assemble all the pieces to deliver your app, including four essential marketing elements: the icon, screenshots, title and keywords. These elements, plus your app’s reviews and ratings, determine its ASO (App Store Optimization) ranking (similar to SEO) and influence the downloads and sales. When you’re ready to release your app, have decided it’s keywords and have your screenshots ready, you’re ready to start the ITC app submission process.
Upload your app’s graphical assets, including icons and screenshots (for iPhone4, iPhone5, and iPad), enter a descriptive title, keywords, and include an extensive description detailing exactly what your app is about.
Beware of including too many keywords in the app’s title, as that can trigger an app rejection. Avoid “keyword stuffing” such as using popular app names unrelated to yours in the keywords. It’s better to use a service such as SearchMan SEO or SensorTower to help you determine which keywords will give the best results. This is an inexact science and is quite murky on the App Store, but proper keywords can give you a real boost in the rankings.
ITC has a mobile app that can be downloaded on iTunes to check the status of your downloads. For some, this is the first thing they do each morning. Other useful tools in ITC include the Application Loader, which delivers the app to the app store. Finally there are Game Center and iCloud tools that help manage game users and app data respectively. You’ll also want to look at the iAd workbench, where you can set up ad campaigns for your app to display in other apps.
ITC may not be the one-stop shop to publishing apps on the Apple App Store, but it is an essential tool for that process. Learning its ins and outs, and what parts of it are useful to you, aid and accelerate the development cycle.
What are your experiences of Apple’s app delivery process? What advice do you have?