April 17, 2014

7 Steps to Fix The Android Market

fix_android_market

There is no mistaking it.  The Android Market needs help.  As more apps are added,  and the Android user base grows, the complaints about its shortcomings are keeping step.  I’ve seen both developers and Android fans alike chime in with ways they feel it could be improved.

I’ve put together 8 steps that I feel could significantly impact the Android Market.  There’s no time like the present to implement some of these if Google wants the market to be though of as in the same realm as the Apple App Store.

  1. The “Real” Google Search
  2. Amazon-like Suggestions
  3. Continue to Improve the Comments
  4. Tags, Tags, Tags
  5. More Categories and Sub-categories
  6. Top Rated and Most Popular are Not the Same
  7. Desktop/Web Interface*

The “Real” Google Search
The first thing that really bothers me is the way search works.  It’s nowhere near what you’d expect from Google.  They need to bring over some of what makes their desktop search work so well.  Perhaps something that suggests a different search or spelling.  I love the “Did you mean?” that you get online.  I’d love to see that in the Market for those time when you type Twitdroid instead of Twidroid.

Amazon-like Suggestions
Nobody recommends products as good as Amazon.  If you’ve ever spent time on their website, you’ll notice that the movies and books they suggest to you are actually worth taking a look at.  Somehow, they find stuff relevant enough to recommend it to you, and they do it in a way that is helpful.  Imagine how many more apps might be sold if they were suggested to users who didn’t know they even existed.

Continue to Improve the Comments
While we’re talking Amazon, I’d like to also suggest taking a page out of the way their reviews are set up.  Yes, the comments have been improved in the market, but they could become much more helpful.  Ever read a comment that you found particularly useful?  Maybe it helped you determine whether or not you downloaded the app to begin with.  Wouldn’t it be nice to help push that comment towards the top of the list so that others might see it?  Many apps have over 1,000 comments, but who wants to read through all of them?  What if only the most useful comments were displayed first?

Tags, Tags, Tags
I don’t think you can tag stuff enough.  Whether it’s pictures, videos, or applications, everyone looks at something in a different way.  Maybe you view one app as a social networking client, while another person sees it a “chat” application.  This would also help enhance the search results for people who just don’t know the right terminology when looking for apps.

Google offers an online image labeler for people to play with in their spare time.  Bring something like that to the Android Market.  I’m sure plenty of people would tag an application with keywords after download if they knew it helped the cause.  

More Categories and Sub-categories
This one doesn’t need too much description.  If you’re not going to add keywords, or improve the search, the least you can do is to help narrow things down for us on the front end.

Let’s start with home screen alternatives, wallpaper apps, and ebooks.  Those alone would help trim clutter and help give apps more exposure.  Further, sub-categories would help where ebooks, or expansion packs are released.  Why dig through pages of apps when all you are looking for is new levels to a favorite game?

Top Rated and Most Popular are Not the Same
This has been a real problem child according to feedback I’ve received from many readers.  I wrote a piece a while back called “Getting Noticed in the Android Market – Will Anyone Ever Dethrone the Current Kings?”, which touched on this point.  I purported that today’s top apps will be very difficult to unseat as time goes, simply because they’re basically grandfathering themselves in as Most Popular.  This is where everyone new to Android is going to look first.  What I suggest is also throwing in a “Top Rated” category which uses some type of algorithm to calculate which apps are rated best.

The Internet Movie Database has a list of the top 250 movies of all time which is based on a handful of figures.  Maybe the Android Market could put together a list of apps that constantly evolves and adjusts over time.  I know that’s what the market is set up for right now, but I get the feeling that it could be improved.  It also shouldn’t be too difficult to put a list of applications once they cross a certain download threshold.  Perhaps a place for apps who are downloaded over 100,000 or 500,000 times.

Another sugggestion in this department would be to filter based on date.  Not everything needs to be based on all time downloads.  Let’s see what the top apps this week or quarter are.  This doesn’t seem like it would be too hard to do, and I am positive it would be well received.  They adapted the market so we can change our view of all apps to free or paid filters.  Time-based filters only seem logical to me.

Desktop/Web Client Interface
Probably the biggest difference in the Android Market and App Store experience rests with this.  This is also what could benefit Android the most in the long run.  When you are starting out a brand new (mobile) platform, you need to impress people with all that it can do.  How in the world will you attract people if they don’t get a glimpse up front?  Open the doors up and let people see what makes Android so compelling without forcing them to buy a phone first.  You already have a captive audience once they buy your device.  No need to preach to them.  Instead, you need to go after people proactively.

I don’t know who would complain about having more options and tools at their disposal.  Developers could offer up screenshots, videos, and more.  Want to compare various Twitter applications?  Pull them up in a side-by-side comparison tool.  This would help cut down on returned apps and buyer’s remorse after the 24 hour window passes.

It would probably be easier to implement some of the ideas I’ve listed above into a full web interface.  A nice, full sized way to read comments, search apps, and study up is a no-brainer.  Ask yourself – how many more apps might you download/purchase if you knew more about what is available?

Apple does a stellar job of advertising apps in print and commercial.  Everytime they show an iPhone, it has up to a dozen apps getting free exposure.  Since Google doesn’t advertise, and T-Mobile hasn’t really taken the reigns, consumers are missing out.  I can’t tell you how many times I see a commercial for something the iPhone does and say, “Well, my G1 does that and more.”  I have no doubt that more people would consider Android over other platforms if they could see the benefits beforehand.

What did I miss?

What suggestions do you have to improve the Android Market experience?  I’d like to hear from developers as well as Android owners on this one.

Edit: I dropped the word “client” and put in the proper terminology.  The first few comments indicated to me that I might confuse people.  Thanks guys!

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