If anyone should have felt they had a sure thing in terms of getting "featured" status on the Apple App Store, it should have been Nuzzel.
The firm, whose news discovery tool was only launched relatively recently, had all the makings of a hit even when it was still in beta. There was press coverage from major publications like The New York Times. There were early adopters buzzing about it on Twitter. Most significantly, someone from the Apple developer relations team actually reached out in response to the coverage to learn more about the app. These moments are all documented in a detailed and remarkable post by one of Nuzzel's creators, Jonathan Abrams, in a blog that I'm immediately canonizing as a must-read for all other developers, whether they focus on iOS or not.
The funny thing is, even with a build-up that could only seem destined, Abrams admits there was no guarantee Apple would provide that most-desired of promotional pushes.
"When we submitted the final version of our app to the App Store, we were excited and hopeful about the prospect of being featured, but we didn't know whether or not we would end up being featured," he writes. "From what we have heard from friends, this is the standard process. Overall, it's a mysterious system, and deliberately so."
What's striking is how deliberately Abrams and the Nuzzel team worked to increase their odds of success. Consider the following moves:
Accepting feedback that required a major overhaul. Most developers probably get told they have issues with their app and do the minimum tweaks necessary to keep their launch on schedule. Nuzzel seemed to have no fear of completely rethinking its UI, among many other things, in response to suggestions from the Apple developer team. I'm willing to bet anyone who was involved in that noticed that their input was not only acknowledged but implemented.
Learning from the best: Rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel, Nuzzel iterated its design by looking at major apps like Evernote for inspiration. Abrams also sought out advice from peers at startups like Estately, which had gotten the "featured" App Store status Nuzzel craved. This can be a competitive field, but Abrams' post is a reminder that it can also be a highly supportive community.
Treating "featured" status as a first step: Even after being promoted highly by Apple for a month, Nuzzel isn't resting on its laurels but continuing to plan as though it was still working its way up to its successful launch. This includes integration with other popular reading apps like Pocket, along with brand-new features.
There's also something to be said for paying it forward, which is what this blog post does. Act like an industry leader long enough and the industry will start treating you like one. You can't read Abrams' post without feeling glad Apple recognized its value. Couldn't have happened to a nicer developer.--Shane