Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Android app quality: Time for a change, and here's how.

Have you ever heard the line that iOS apps currently rock the crap out of Android apps. Well what the people have spoken is true. So today as a good citizen and user of Android I'm putting forward my idea on how Google should change the working of its app market to increase the quality of the applications submitted to it. You see, today Google announced that Android was getting a rating system for its apps. This is the article I read on Mashable. The sentence that actually interested me the most was this,
The mandatory rating system represents the maturation of the market
What interested me even more was a comment left behind by tom dahm.
now all they need to do is filter out all the crap in the market and we'll be set. I know its 'open', but theres a lot of just plain garbage apps in it. having quality standards in the app market would be a great move imo.
I’ve responded to several comments already left behind on this post on how Google should actually set about improving their app market quality which is what I need to put down here in proper point format.

Since I’m going to be taking into consideration only the quality of apps here I’m not going to head into problem areas like searching within the app market which everyone knows is clunky at best. Looking at the comment left behind on the post, I thought to myself, should Google actually embrace Apple’s model? Sure the app market is filling up a lot faster but with what? I can actually search for “Hello world” apps out there. Seriously? Those are all included in the final tally of apps which Google so proudly pronounces every quarter. Let’s get serious here. Android can no longer be regarded as a maturing platform. It is mature and it is big time. The developers can’t be regarded as new comers. There’s been plenty of time for seasoned developers to be around now. Developers new to the platform can’t complain of not knowing how to develop a good quality app. Android has in fact released a very well documented guidelines platform on how to develop applications for it. From performance to icon design it has it all. The recent move of adding ratings proves even more that Google is actually making that shift towards making their app market more accessible, more professional and overall a lot healthier. Maybe this is to do with the advent of tablet form factors about to burst out from the Droid side. They certainly don’t want people using absolute layouts when that comes after all right?

On to business then. What does Google do? Embrace the Apple philosophy? Continue to show their support of open? Spend more months dreaming up ways to help people identify which apps out there on the market are crap and which aren’t? A bit of all of that actually. Fear not Google! I can haz your solution! Take the following steps and call me in the morning. You can thank me then too.

Warning. This solution is human resource intensive, but there is always a price to pay to beat Apple at their own game. No pain, no gain.

Following Apple’s philosophy?

“We don’t like it so there’s no way your app can make it into our app store. Kindly redo this before attempting to join the ranks of the upper elite”
– Apple (with my own salt and pepper chucked in liberally)

Ok so maybe that is a little unfair to say they are totally snobbish since they give feedback too but you get the idea. It’s a closed world and it can be discouraging for aspiring developers to spend 99 bucks while knowing there’s a fair chance that they can be rejected with whatever they come up with for some time. Yes it is good in a way since it instantly sets a bar for even the new developer to aspire to reach. But fact remains, it is Closed. C.L.O.S.E.D!

Google should NEVER follow this sort of thing. It isn’t in their philosophy and the amount of backlash they would face not to mention the fact that it doesn’t even feel right just makes the Apple philosophy a no no. But if Google does want to up the look and feel of the apps out there on the market, how about introducing,

App developer feedback program

Introduce this concept to the app market. Every app submitted to the app market goes through the same process that an app would go through if submitted to Apple. Check for bugs, check for performance, check for conformance to standards set for Android developers. Rate each factor. Put down recommendations. For a better experience have app developers submit a small document with what the functionality of the app is. Check what percentage of that functionality actually exists.

We still haven’t really stepped outside of what Apple does by the way. You can ask Apple for recommendations if they reject your app you know. Once all of this is done, send a full feedback report to the app developer. DON’T block the app if it doesn’t perform well. Let it go online but every app that goes online will go online with the Google ratings attached to it.

So why should developers be worried about this if their app goes to the market anyway? Well for one I’m fairly sure a lot of developers out there would love to have reviews straight from the Google staff. Second those ratings will still go with the app onto the app market and that means a lot since a high rating will have users downloading the app knowing that its quality is good and that the app does what it’s meant to do.

Oh and finally. This all matters because Google’s next step should be,

Bring on the Top Apps zone

Well fine that’s a crappy name. But bring in a new area for the Android Market which carries only the apps which have passed all the tests. To put it simply, if Apple were in charge of the app market, the apps that get through Apple’s checks, put those apps into this special zone. Now picture the enthusiasm. Users would go straight there knowing they would find the best of the best applications within it. Developers would instantly get it into their heads that if they really want to be there they need to be better. So there, happy day scenario. People can still develop their hello world apps and upload them while the more serious developers would actually be working hard to get their apps into the elite zone.

Ok this brings up a problem. What if there’s a hello world app that does what it should and conforms to the user guidelines. Well. Introduce one more rule that the app should actually do something useful. Yes unfortunate step there but no way around it really. More importantly however, give a choice for opting in to the program

So it might be a mistake to say go through all apps. After all how do you make recommendations to the infinite list of “Hot girls” apps you see out there. Give people a chance to opt in to get their apps on the list.

Summing it up

Essentially the plan here in its simplest form is, create one more category in the App market where if people want their apps in it they have to apply for it while uploading the app. And basically whether or not you get in would be governed by a set of rules very similar to what Apple has set.

There you have it. Best of both worlds in one simple easy package and no one gets hurt.

Yes you’re welcome.

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