Mac AppStore Rejection - Design Spam

The Background

This hasn’t been a very good week. Earlier in the week, I submitted several app updates to the Mac AppStore for several of my apps. Two big apps got approved but the other smaller apps got rejected with the “Design Spam 4.3” with the template message.

[quote]Guideline 4.3 - Design

Your app provides the same feature set as other apps you’ve submitted to the App Store; it simply varies in content or language, or uses different names, icons or marketing text.

We understand the word “spam” can have a negative connotation. However, we use it simply to characterize a large number of very similar apps that causes the App Store to seem “cluttered.” Apps that replicate functionality but provide different content contribute to a sense of clutter in the App Store, hindering users’ ability to find apps.

Next Steps

Apps based on a common feature set should be combined into a single container app that uses the in-app purchase API to deliver different content. For example, it would be appropriate to consolidate your similar apps currently live on the App Store, using in-app purchase. Doing so can positively impact your app ranking by consolidating your sales to one app rather than distributing them across multiple apps.

It may be appropriate to revise your app to use the in-app purchase API to provide content purchasing functionality.

in-app purchase provides several benefits, including:

  • The flexibility to support a variety of business models.
  • A positive impact on your app ranking by consolidating your sales to one app rather than distributing them across multiple apps.
  • An effective marketing vehicle to drive additional sales of new content.

For information on in-app purchase, please refer to the following documentation:

In-App Purchase for Developers

In-App Purchase Programming Guide

For step-by-step instructions on in-app purchase creation within App Store Connect, refer to the In-App Purchase Configuration Guide for iTunes Connect.
[/quote]

Had this issue back in December and I removed the apps which are not performing well on the AppStore then things got better. At that time, I decided to start a website to sell the Mac Apps independent of the Mac AppStore. However things are slow moving there. After removing those apps from the App Store, the AppStore income dropped by about 70%.

Initially did apps for Photos and then dabble in TIFF and PDF. I did have several apps which handle TIFF and PDF for different aspects. One rejection earlier this week was for this single purpose built app which does PDF optimization. The Apple Template suggestion was to do In-App Purchase which I am not comfortable with. Besides I wouldn’t buy a full app which I may not need so as to get to buy the in-app portion. So decided to incorporate that feature in to my comprehensive and only TIFF and PDF app and offer that as free update.

Submitted that app and got rejected for the same Design Spam. All the other apps I have are not remotely similar. Now I really do not know what to do ? I did launch a App Review Board appeal.

Thankfully, it is a Mac app as I can still offer this outside of the Mac AppStore. It’s pretty upsetting and it really stopping me from wanting to develop iOS apps as if they decided to deal a heavy hand, all the effort would be lost.

Question

Thank you for reading this rant.

Currently my own store, the only place I know to promote a Mac app is Macupdate.com but it isn’t really performing that well. Most of the Shareware Repository sites that I know are either gone, no longer actively maintained or don’t support Mac Apps. I am no one famous and my social media reach is extremely small.

Not sure where I should go from here ? Anyone has any suggestions ?

Thank you

Hi Edwin,
Its pretty heartbreaking to be an Apple developer these days. We fight through broken API, buggy OS releases, scaremongering security models, all for what? It’s hard enough building a solid Mac app theses days, and now they’re fucking with how you can sell the product.

Appeal is the first step; it seems like someone may have left a black mark on your account as an App Spammer. This might be an uphill battle, but you have to go through it.

My next suggestion is to seriously think about all the different products you have. Apple hates one-trick ponies now. But that shouldn’t stop you from creating a reliable business model. I suck at this part also, so please only take my suggestions as ideas and not actual working methods.

I believe combining all your tools into 3 products, so that they cover 3 pricing tiers might work.

  1. A FREE tier; with enough options to help a user solve a problem, or basically give them a positive vibe about your application.
  2. A regular price tier. For a reasonable amount of money, the user can upgrade to get a bunch of features that are truly beneficial (this is a gray area as needs can vary). This too should make the user feel happy about paying you for a tool that will truly help them.
  3. The Advanced Tier, which again for a higher (but still reasonable) price, it includes everything you got which could possibly help the user solve whatever task they’re trying to do, or a task that they didn’t know they’ll need to solve in the future.

In my experience, I’ve found having separate products (make sure you clearly define in the description the differences) works the best on the App Store. Releasing one single product with IAP, it’s just been terrible. I don’t know why, but App Store customers seem to respond better to buying a different product, than paying to unlock the one they’ve already got.

Outside of the App Store, it goes in reverse, customers are much happier to have a product which includes a FREE trial and then pay to unlock it.

Hit all the shareware sites you can find, you may have to go digging for some more. Write a Press Release and sned that out to the Mac media. prmac.com is a paid service that can do this for you, they also offer advice on writing successful press releases.

Find Mac websites and write a personal letter to the editor, asking if they’d like to review your product and provide them a NFR copy. You can even provide them with multiple copies that they can give away.

Find Mac bundle website and contact them, make sure someone there knows about your product and how it will help.

Make some YouTube video tutorials on how your products help people solve their problems.

[quote=430735:@Sam Rowlands]Hi Edwin,
Its pretty heartbreaking to be an Apple developer these days. We fight through broken API, buggy OS releases, scaremongering security models, all for what? It’s hard enough building a solid Mac app theses days, and now they’re fucking with how you can sell the product.

[/quote]

Thank you for taking the time to read and reply.

In the past, I did have those Lite and Pro version which got sort of flagged with the Design Spam back in December last year so I decided to remove the lite ones. Did my own website and took a while to figure out how to get AquaticPrime working but managed to do so and offered Apps with Trial on my website.

Early this month, the single purpose apps got flagged and I removed them. Now is just to wait up for the appeal results. I wouldn’t do any updates on the Mac App Store until that is resolved.

Thanks for the suggestions on promoting outside the App Store. I will look into that.

For the time being, I think I will do something to clear my mind.

Kinda figures as this is the more successful model we’ve encountered when dealing the with the Mac App Store, I personally don’t like it. If Apple is blocking this model, I would imagine that there’d be a larger number of developers up in arms.

If I had to guess, I would say that it might be because the lite/paid are not different enough. Hence my suggestion of combining your utilities into 3 products, if you have a bunch of them it should be easier to do.

Yes dealing with the Mac App Store is one of the worst things about Apple; especially when you get a shitty reviewer who seems to have made it his personal mission to prevent your app from being on sale.

Never ever do this; you need to take what they’ve already said and attempt to understand it, and then apply it to your work as smoothly and quickly as possible. Otherwise you could end up waiting for a very long time, and I mean waiting for weeks or even months (been there done that, I had to write directly to Tim Cook).

You’re welcome and this is something that every developer should be doing. For the time being the Mac App Store is simply an alternative channel for selling software, so take full advantage of that.

As for iOS, Apple’s running into some legal issues for having a monopoly on that platform. They’ve clearly abused their power there and I hope that they lose, so they either become fair or allow for a third party app store.

Yes take some time and calm down, but it sounds like you need to spend some time and think about a business model that will appease the App Store overlords. Apple have suggested in-app-purchase and it may not have worked for us, but it might work for you.

[quote=430743:@Sam Rowlands]Never ever do this; you need to take what they’ve already said and attempt to understand it, and then apply it to your work as smoothly and quickly as possible. Otherwise you could end up waiting for a very long time, and I mean waiting for weeks or even months (been there done that, I had to write directly to Tim Cook).

You’re welcome and this is something that every developer should be doing. For the time being the Mac App Store is simply an alternative channel for selling software, so take full advantage of that.

Yes take some time and calm down, but it sounds like you need to spend some time and think about a business model that will appease the App Store overlords. Apple have suggested in-app-purchase and it may not have worked for us, but it might work for you.[/quote]

There isn’t really much I can do now. A Container App with In-App Purchases seems to be what they wanted me to do. As it is now, it means just grouping unrelated app together to form a mini app store.

Of course, all that I was trying to do this time around was consolidate the features from different smaller apps into the more comprehensive app. That’s when I got hit by this Design Spam rejection.

I have only one more app which I actually intended to add more features to but the fear is that I will get another Design Spam rejection. I can only take so much rejection in a week.

Probably just wait a week or two before I do anything Mac. I will work on some other projects this time. One of which would be to explore promoting the non-AppStore apps.

The In-App model would not work for my case. I feel that it is better suited for app which consume virtual contents such as games or books. In-App feels like putting road blocks in productivity.

Do they think to sold Mac computers with 64GB SSDs ?

Can you tell us what your app/apps do?

Sure. That’s not an issue

The 7 existing apps are listed on my website and on the app store

Here is the link of the Batch TIFF & PDF Converter (app in question) and the rest is on the bottom (appstore link) and on the site bar (my website)

https://www.completemagic.com/apps/batch-tiff-pdf-converter-appstore/

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/batch-tiff-pdf-converter/id997636311?ls=1&mt=12

Hope that helps paint the situation clearer.

Thank you

Hmm… some of your apps like the rotator and the shrinker appear very simple. At least from the name.

What is completely missing both from your website and the MacApp Store are testimonials. I don’t mean the sort “love your app”. More like this: “I had problems doing x, I found your app which solved my problem by doing y and saved me a ton of time or money.”.

And as you want your users to be professionals the main app could do with a higher price.

Something like this: I had to create a tiff with multiple pages for the DMG of my application. I’m sure that Photoshop and the like are also able to do this. But I didn’t want to invest multiple hours into the investigation. Instead I used ComboTiff which has a very simple and easy to use interface to make my TIFFs as I needed them.

I thought that your apps sounded familiar. I haven’t used Combo Tiff often. The icon could do with an update.

[quote=430735:Sam Rowlands] I don't know why, but App Store customers seem to respond better to buying a different product, than paying to unlock the one they've already got.
.[/quote]

I could bring light into the darkness here: as a customer I feel ripped off when I pay for an app and then have to pay again to get this feature I need. I am willing to pay a little more when I get the 100% working product but try to avoid apps with IAP (which is not always possible). Not all customers might react like this, but this is how I think about it.

1 Like

[quote=430769:@Beatrix Willius]Hmm… some of your apps like the rotator and the shrinker appear very simple. At least from the name.

What is completely missing both from your website and the MacApp Store are testimonials. I don’t mean the sort “love your app”. More like this: “I had problems doing x, I found your app which solved my problem by doing y and saved me a ton of time or money.”.

And as you want your users to be professionals the main app could do with a higher price.[/quote]

It’s definitely something I would look into. As for the Icons, I’m no artist but will definitely go look into refreshing them soon.

Thank you for your comments.

As for the Rotator and the Shrinker, they are one purpose apps and they are not found on the AppStore. Just hosted them on my website for those who do not need all the other features.

Definitely agree with you there. If i can help it, i will skip such app. It just feels like being penalized for wanting to use a feature and not knowing if suddenly another “toll booth” would suddenly pop up for some other parts of the app.

Just to confirm here; as I also don’t like this and therefore don’t do it; when we tried IAP, we issued the application as FREE, then used IAP to unlock more features; I was trying to give the user a FREE trial.

I also do not like Apps that are offered as free with in-app purchases. Free should be free.

But I understand: why should people buy an app that might not what they want. This is one of the problems I have with App-Stores in general. There should be the possibility of trial applications like we had since the time before App-stores were a thing…

A few years ago, a MAS reviewer objected to a description of an app of mine where I was saying that trial versions were available on my website. When I objected to his objection, he bluntly wrote me back: “Apple is interested in making money”. And I had to comply…

1 Like

Yes, same thing happened to me. In fact when I mentioned in the description that there is a Windows version of the App on my website, they told me to take that reference off.

There was the other time I was told the product URL on MAS cannot reference to the web page which mentioned trials or that the customer can buy from my website. That is why I have MAS specific pages with no obvious links to the non-MAS version.

This might be a question worthy of its own thread, but it’s somewhat related. Is it worth developing and selling a Mac app outside of the app store? I am not allowed to have an Apple developer account so it is my only option, but I’m worried I’m wasting my time because nobody will ever find it.

Assuming if you could get a MAS account and asked this some time in 2010 to 2014 about whether it was worth getting onto the Mac App Store, I would give a definitely yes. During the early days, you can throw any app which is of value in there and without doing any form of promotion, you can easily get sales.

Over the years, they been promoting the bigger names for the popular categories and the rest of the smaller apps get pushed far behind and might not be found. If you are small, you probably now need to do a lot of outside promotion or work on some niche category in order to get sales. Because the bigger names get the recognition, they probably get the bulk of the sales.

It is no longer that attractive to be on the Mac App Store but it still worth being there.

Ok back to your question. In my case, most of my apps that I build was initially made to meet my own needs. They started off just doing very specific task but then I thought that if I need it, others might need it too. When it wasn’t too hard to just refine the UI and make it to handle a little more general audience needs then it is worthwhile putting it up.

Getting a website through a virtual hosting site is pretty cheap nowadays. So far I know of Macupdate and Sam did mentioned PRMac which can be used. The other thing is to get a Google Webmaster account and Bing Webmaster account and submit your sitemap for your site there. It should give you some visibility from web searches.

I think the key is don’t purposely just build an app with the hope to sell but rather build what you need then offer it up for sale.

Getting audience in and out of the MAS nowadays will still take time and effort on your part to stand out in the crowd.

To add to Edwin’s response, I’ll fill in what I know.

Number 1; the App Store is just an expensive channel for distributing your app. It’s targeted at consumers, so price matters more than anything. While Apple do (as Edwin says) promote apps, it tends to be the bigger companies that get promoted all the time, which leads me to believe that you can buy your way into promotion. So do expect any special treatment.

Thankfully it’s not the only way to sell Mac software; and there is hope. Especially as more literate customers tend to do research before they buy that $0.99 app of the apps store. These are the people that you want to reach, and for that you must spend a considerable amount of time doing marketing.

  1. An appropriate application name, don’t try to be too clever, but yet it should pique a potential customers interest.
  2. An attractive a well polished application icon, one that stands out in a way to make it instantly recognizable (in a good way).
  3. Figure out the price. You ideally want to reach a point where a customer feels happy paying that price, in terms of what they get. Start off smaller than what you actually want.
  4. Ht every download site you can. Some take weeks to process your release, but don’t worry.
  5. Use prmac.com to send out a press release to the mac media, if needs be pay for some advice on writing a good press release.
  6. Write personal letters to editors of Mac sites that are on your audiences radar, but do not use prmac.com.
  7. Write personal letters to major Mac publishers, offer a copy for review or some for promotion, or a coupon they can share.
  8. Write personal letters to YouTubers who do videos that your audience pay attention to, again free copies.
  9. Use social media; put interesting and relevant information and coupons to your apps.
  10. Write some tutorials on how to solve problems using your products.
  11. Sacrifice a lamb and rub the blood around your front door.
  12. Don’t be afraid to give out free copies, obviously not too many, to people you meet in forums, social media, friends, family, even existing customers.
  13. You need to define a way of how you can reach customers when you have a new product, be this a mailing list, Facebook page, or whatever. An existing happy customer is so much more likely to purchase another one of your products.
  14. I forgot, throw coupon codes into the wind, put them everywhere.

That’s what I was trying to solve with IAP, there is now a 14-Day trial option over IAP, but I seem to recall that this has to be tied in with a reoccurring subscription (although it’s a little foggy).
I really don’t understand why Apple has been so against free trials and upgrade pricing on the App Store.

if you’re a promoted partner you can do whatever the fuck you want. There’s this one company that have copied almost all of my apps now, their stuff is constantly promoted and they do things like offer a “Pro” version of their site, which they promote in their MAS app. Apple don’t care. This company is a VC backed cloning company, that have pretty much duplicated all the semi-successful apps in my segment, and sucked the segment dry of any customers, and Apple actually helps them do it. I complained to Apple and as of yet, have zero response. The cheeky sods even wrote to me and asked if I’d like to sell their software on my site!