Sometimes we forget that app stores (and not just Apple’s App Store) are still extremely new. The App Store itself is only nearing three years of existence and while we’ve all learned much in that time, we’re still learning.
One area in particular that has been slow to mature is branding. Many developers don’t do a good job establishing a common experience or known identity across their portfolio of apps. An extreme case of this issue would be a customer that has purchased all of a developer’s apps but is unaware of having done so.
To be fair, branding issues are not entirely the fault of developers. There are, for example, inherit challenges in creating a brand with the limited screen real estate available for mobile applications. The app stores on devices could also better surface all of the apps that a developer has created. Despite these challenges though, there are ways for developers to establish stronger branding across their apps. Let’s take a look through the lens of three developers: App Cubby, Hog Bay Software, and Tapbots.
The app name is one of the easiest ways to help customers link a developer’s app portfolio together. App Cubby includes part of its developer name in some of them, such as Gas Cubby and Trip Cubby, while Tapbots does so with all of its apps (i.e., Weightbot, Convertbot, Pastebot, Tweetbot, and Calcbot).
Of course, not every developer can follow this approach. For example, Hog Bay Software wouldn’t fit. Their alternative is that each app is a concatenation of two words, with the second word capitalized: WriteRoom,TaskPaper, and PlainText.
Another means to create a strong brand identity across apps relates to the app icon. This method is slightly more involved but may offer the best way to solidify a developer’s brand.
Hog Bay Software uses the same color and logo style on its icons, where App Cubby has a wood texture across all the “cubby” app icons. Meanwhile Tapbots makes each of its icons feel like robots, with the icon drawing heavily from the application interface itself.
Since each app has a different purpose and goal, the application interface is the hardest way to address the branding issue. Even if the application has completely different functionality, however, it’s still possible to design it so that it exudes the essence of the developer.
Tapbots has some of the best examples for putting their spins on any application they develop. Whether using Convertbot or Calcbot, a customer knows he’s inside a Tapbots apps through the interface, design, sounds, and interactions.
App Help & About
An element not to be overlooked relates to application support. Tutorials and help screens can be standardized, as what App Cubby does in Gas Cubby and Trip Cubby.
Similarly, it’s a good practice to put support or about areas in the settings of an app. In this case, Second Gear does a great job showing its actual brand (logo), as well as directing customers how to connect with them. Some developers also choose to use a section of the settings to link to other apps they have developed.
If you haven’t launched an app yet, consider these kinds of approaches from the start, as you’ll have an easier time moving forward. If you already have one or more apps available, still implement some of these recommendations to bolster your customers’ recognition of your brand, and ultimately of all the apps you’ve labored to produce.