Creating a well performing app is tough, especially when you’re a one-man squad. That’s why we’ve rounded up some pros to offer Michael Patzer advice on improving his Hawaiian Words app.
Michael is a mobile SDK Engineer for Millennial Media and Founder of Orange Group Apps, where he’s designed and developed over 20 apps for iPhone and iPad.
In his own words:
“With about 1,000 downloads a day from 3-4 main apps, I feel I’m very solidly in the middle of the road as far as App Store success and I’m hoping to redesign some of my more popular apps, and come out with new ones, in order to take my business from good to great” - exactly why Michael wanted us to take a look at Hawaiian Words.
“Hawaiian Words gets a solid 100 - 200 downloads per day, and generates about $20/day in revenue, but I haven’t updated the UI since I released it 2 years ago. I know it could be so much more, but I’m not really sure where to start on re-designing, adding new features, or taking a different approach to marketing.”
Here’s what the experts have to say about Hawaiian Words:
SYLVAIN GAUCHET, APPTAMIN
Overall I think it’s a good app for anyone curious about the Hawaiian language. I believe there is room for improvement regarding the user experience, which is a bit confusing compared to the simplicity of the app’s concept.
Right now the buttons for the different actions on the Translate screens have really different styles and positions. It might be better to give them all a similar feel, and make the Translate button really visible (currently the Pineapple).
I was kinda confused with the Pronunciation tab, where I was expecting to only find information (and sounds) on the Hawaiian language and not descriptions of the in-app purchases (which could be somewhere else).
If the app is for people going to Hawaii, then it would be nice to add simple and useful phrases. Or have another app just for that. I like being able to know the swear words too, but I’m not sure how Apple feels about that.
Cross-promotion / Inbound Marketing
I like the cross-promotion to your other apps: within the app, on the app store page and on your Orange Group Apps website.
Not all of your apps are related to travel or Hawaii, but for the 3 apps about Hawaii, it might be worth it trying to organically get users from the web (not only the App Store) by publishing a few articles on the subject. I feel that going Hawaii-specific (including on social media - or at least Twitter) could bring you more users.
I like the « Word of the Day » notification and the email (below) I promptly received following my request for translation. Good job on suggesting to share the app, rate it and try the other Hawaii related apps or sign up for the newsletter.
My question to you: is your app more used for fun (Hawaiianize) or actually trying to get by with some Hawaiian basics (Translate, Pronunciation). It could help you focus the UI on your key audience and most successful features.
There is no price in the in-app purchase popup, which makes it hard to take a purchase decision and had me hit the cancel button. You might be missing on some sales here.
Another monetization option (or cross-promotion option) could be to insert affiliate links for Hawaiian language learning books or even Hawaii in general.
ROBIN CAMPBELL, TAPSTREAM
What I like:
I dig the ukulele melodies in the background. It transports me to my Hawaiian vacation, ahead of my actual departure date, and that’s exciting. The Hawaiianize feature is also a nice touch, allowing you to turn any non-Hawaiian word into something seemingly Hawaiian. It’s fun, can actually work with locals, and is great for creating new slang.
What I would try:
New Backgrounds - you could offer beautiful Hawaiian images for the app’s background, sold as an in-app purchase - or even offer them as wallpapers for the phone itself. Don’t underestimate the power of an image to take someone where they really want to be! I see you have a Hawaiian Postcard app already - this could be the link.
As a free community-building alternative, users could submit their photos and be featured inside the app. I bet they’d share that.
Hold the user’s hand through starting the language - I always want to know the most common phrases for day-to-day living when I visit a new place - think hacking Hawaiian. What would be the most practical stuff for a visitor to learn to have fun on their trip?
Grouping words and phrases into situational categories, or even lessons, would be a great way to improve the user experience. Also, The “word of the day” appeared in my notifications, so I clicked it and then had no way to view it once inside the app. It would be nice to have a way to see the words I’ve been learning, and practice them.
Sharing to Twitter or Facebook - I noticed that you don’t include a download link for your app in the default share messages. Add one in, using a Tapstream shortlink, to see if you get a lift in sign-ups through social referrals. (FYI: I recommend Tapstream here because Michael is already a customer).
SEO improvements (by far your biggest hole) - Hawaiian Words has no web page of it’s own and very little content or links driving traffic towards it. Even a small improvement can make a BIG difference in an uncompetitive space - Google “Hawaiian Translation” or “Learning Hawaiian” and you’ll see the lack of quality results.
Build a landing page, create a Hawaiian Words Twitter handle - so you’re not conversing from @orangegroupapps - and then see what content makes sense to create once you’ve got to this point - let your users drive the content you create (FAQs are a good place to start).
Advertising - It looks like keywords around Hawaiian translation on Google are quite low on competition, but decent on search volume. I suspect that’s why you’ve told me your AdWords campaigns are doing quite well (based on the data Tapstream’s been providing you). Now I’m curious to see you try an ad on a Hawaiian tourism site, and see how that performs.
The little known gem Tweet Adder is an incredible alternative to advertising through Twitter’s promoted tweets or promoted accounts. The followers I’ve gained through Twitter ads are often fake, and from the Middle East.
1. Read this article to get a run-down, purchase a single license for a one-time fee of $55.
2. Create your “to-follow” list by finding Twitter accounts with followers who might like Hawaiian Words (i.e. Hawaii related accounts), then follow their followers.
3. Set the process (almost) on auto-pilot.
This seemed slimy to me at first, but, if you think about it, it’s an almost free alternative to advertising. The key part is that it uses natural actions, like ‘following’, instead of something that takes away from the user’s experience - an ad.
You don’t have hours to spend researching and following new people who might be interested in your app, so Tweet Adder does it for you. It’s worked for me and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the high quality followers you gain.
More ratings - I’m pretty sure I was asked to rate the app the second time I ran it. Give users more time to enjoy it, then ask, and see if you start getting more ratings.
ROBI GANGULY, APPTENTIVE
App store presence - The app store description is helpful, simple and highlights why other people would want to download the app. It’s a great way of connecting with the potential audience and understands that marketing is more about your audience than yourself. This app is new, so it could use some more ratings & reviews, but it looks like it’s making some headway there.
App execution - It’s a simple approach to design and while functional, the app could benefit from more polish. It ends up feeling like the design was made for something on paper as opposed to an interactive app.
More attention to the readability of the text involved in the app (and it’s fairly text-heavy, so this is important) could help improve the ability for the consumer to take in the information.
Also, the music by default is really overbearing. Perhaps a strategy of introducing the music and then deferring to silence would be a way to maintain some personality while not assuming that every consumer is ready to be overwhelmed with music.
External/Inbound Marketing - The company behind the app is clearly working on a web presence and creating a series of apps, you can see the potential of their approach. Again, it looks like they’re early here but they appear to be headed in the right direction, even including social sharing options on the site.
Their emphasis on using customer input and feedback within the app as well as highlighting it on their site is important and should pay dividends. I would continue to emphasize this approach as they grow.
Sense of your audience - I think that this is a nice initial pass, the question I have is this: who uses this app on a regular basis? Is it someone visiting Hawaii or someone who lives there? Is it a novelty app or a long-time utility? It’s a little tough to tell from this app what the standard successful use case is like.
Monetization - I think that there are some interesting approaches to monetization in this app, like the ability to use in-app purchase to turn off ads. However, they have hidden these options deeper in the app and don’t seem to expose them at more relevant or appropriate times. I would work to experiment with the presentation of these options to see what drives upgrades and when.
TOPE ABAYOMI, APP DESIGN VAULT
Marketing - I like the App Store description. It makes good use of social proof by inserting 5* reviews that have been left by users. There is also enough whitespace between paragraphs so it is easy to scan through the description.
Design - I like the natural look and feel of the app. The flowers and fruit is not something I would personally use in any of my own apps but I can understand why it has been done in this case.
Please get rid of the sound that plays when opening the app the first time. This goes against all laws of usability.
Also, it is not obvious that the pineapple in the middle is the translate button. It took me a while to figure that out.
JASON SHAH, HEATDATA
App Store Presence - Simple, straightforward name must do well in search. With 4.5 star ratings, there’s obvious social proof. Most people probably don’t even notice the ½ star it’s lacking.
The screenshot is pretty good because it gets the concept across by displaying the two versions of a word (English and Hawaiian). But the ‘Translate’ action is very difficult to see, so a user may not perceive quite how powerful the app is. They may be led to believe it just shows random words in a flashcard style. Other screenshots bolster the case for how useful the app is by showing lists of words and how one can toggle between English to Hawaiian and vice versa.
App Execution - The music is annoying. Maybe the typical user of the app likes it, but I’d prefer the sound to be off by default and think you’d have less users close the app immediately if you did this.
Also, why not pre-fill a word and have an easy X in the ‘Enter a word’ box? Without a word there by default, there’s friction for a user. It also lacks an element of user education on what goes where.
There is a ‘Search’ section but I was looking for a ‘Browse’ section. That’s lighter for a user. The default Translate page is basically search, so I would diversify to perceived utility by renaming Search to Browse (doesn’t require any specific word to have in mind).
Monetization - Besides the banner ad, the paid features are hidden. One of your 5 tabs should be just for those upgrades. Alternatively, you could limit users to say, 10 words. So, the people who download it will still do so, and light users still get value, but if someone is using it heavily and it’s delivering value, why not charge them for the additional help? It may hurt ratings and overall downloads, but it may drive more revenue.
IAN SEFFERMAN, MOBILEDEVHQ
Summary - It’s a clever app that I could see being useful and fun for travelers to Hawaii. It’s also nice to see it’s pretty single-purpose, as I’m a big fan of single-purpose apps that do one or two things really, really well. There’s a lot that could be improved (always) around polish and presence, however.
App Store Presence (title, description) - The title and description of Hawaiian Words in the app store is beginning to head in the right direction, but could still use some improvement. For instance, rather than just “Hawaiian Words” (which it shows up first in search, by the way), perhaps it could be improved to, “Hawaiian Words - Translation and Dictionary.” This simple change could improve the discoverability from users searching for “Hawaiian dictionary” or “Hawaiian translation,” both likely important search terms. The publisher could do research on app store search volumes to find out what terms users search for frequently and use those to guide keyword choices.
The description could be improved to include more information and make it more attractive for users to understand exactly what features the app has. Adding authoritative, cited reviews always adds an element of social proof to descriptions as well.
Using the What’s New field for more effect is another great way to get more content in front of the user quickly. The What’s New field is displayed prominently on a device in the app store, allowing the publisher yet another opportunity to “sell the dream.”
App Store Screenshots - Screenshots are such a crucial part of your app store experience. It’s often useful to think of Screenshots not as “Screenshots,” but instead as “Promotional Graphics.” You have just a few opportunities in the App Store to display promotional graphics to potential users, so take advantage of them. Rather than boring screenshots which portray a static screen, why not make a promotional graphic explaining what your app does in a visual way? This is even more important with the card layout that began with iOS 6, where the first “Screenshot” is shown in search results.
- What is the primary use-case for most of your users?
- In-app purchases seem to be hidden, and more could be added
- Non-uniform button styles in the Translation tab cause confusion
- Consider developing common phrases and the UX around this
- Not sure about the music (what do users think?)
There you have it. A tear-down of Hawaiian Words and how the pros think it could be improved.
If you were Michael, what would you do to enhance Hawaiian Words? Join the discussion on Hacker News!
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