Apple has just introduced App Previews on the App Store alongside the release of iOS 8, if you’ve yet to create one for your app I’d encourage you to do so as soon as possible. App Previews are going to be a huge deal for app developers. They appear as the first image on your App Store product page, arguably they are going to be even more important than screenshots.
Engage customers with a short video of your app in action, directly on your app product page on the App Store. By showing the experience of using your app, App Previews can help customers better understand your app and encourage more downloads. - Apple
As you can see below the App Previews are displayed before any other screenshots. They even show up in search and can be played directly from within the results page, this saves customers from having to tap through to the product page.
Apple have some very strict guidelines in place for App Previews, and just like apps, they need to be approved before they appear on the App Store. For example, you’re not going to be able to reuse your old app promo videos you may have produced previously. What Apple will want and allow is much more focused, live footage is out for a start:
Don’t film people interacting with the device (such as over-the-shoulder angles or fingers tapping the screen). Stay within the app. - Apple
Lets get started, you should consider this article a crash course in getting started with App Previews.
App preview for Clear
I recently had to create an App Preview for Clear in time for the launch of iOS 8. Because Clear is universal it meant doing separate videos for both iPhone and iPad. Here’s the iPhone version:
Apple generally recommends overlaying text on top of the app UI instead of doing text interstitials. Overlaying text is better suited to games in my opinion. Clear's UI is so uncluttered and refined, I felt using text based cutscenes in-between each section made for a much classier video.
While you don’t have to submit an App Preview with your app, I think they are fast going to become an expected part of browsing the App Store, and apps that don’t have them are going to miss out on downloads and sales.
Capturing your app
Apple have added functionality to Quicktime on Yosemite to be able to capture directly from iOS devices. The best thing about this is it captures the iPhone display at a silky 60fps. It looks great and it’s not just limited to your own apps, you can capture anything, including the iOS Springboard and Notification Centre for example.
You don’t need much to start capturing video from your iOS devices. All you need is a Mac running OS X Yosemite and an iPhone running iOS8 that has a lightning connector. To capture footage you simple connect your device via a lightning cable to your Mac and open up Quicktime. Here's the basic steps:
- Connect your iOS device to your Mac using a Lightning cable.
- Open QuickTime Player.
- Choose File > New Movie Recording.
- In the window that appears, select your iOS device as the Camera and Microphone input source.
I’d recommend capturing a bunch of short clips (under 10seconds each) of your app in action. You only get 30 seconds in total so keep the interactions concise and deliberate, aim to capture the most delightful parts of the app.
Edit and export
I put together the Clear App preview using Final Cut Pro X and Motion 5. I used Final Cut to arrange the clips into a sensible order, along with the audio track and titles in-between each clip. To animate the Clear icon at the end of App Preview I used Motion. If you’ve never used Final Cut before it can take a while to get up to speed, but you've ever used iMove you should be just fine.
When you create a new project in Final Cut Pro, you need to make sure it's set to 30fps and the same resolution as the footage you're importing. Import all the video clips you captured from your iOS device, then start editing and putting it all together in the timeline. Remember it needs to be between 15-30 seconds.
Here's how the Clear App Preview looked in FCPX while I was editing.
When you’re done you need to export it and upload it to iTunes Connect just like you do with app screenshots. There’s a few important things to note here. You can only upload videos with Yosemite, if you’re running Safari on Mavericks, iTunes Connect will reject the upload. iTunes Connect is also extremely fussy about the format of video you supply, it has to be a .mov file encoded using H.264 and at 30fps.
App preview guidelines
As I mentioned earlier in the article, Apple have very strict guidelines on what you can and can't do in an App Preview. Here’s a quick overview:
- Up to 30 seconds of video showing app usage
- Focus on 2-3 of the best features
- Demonstrate UI, functionality or features
- It should mostly be captured footage
- Content must be rated 4+ (appropriate for all audiences)
- Stick to straightforward transitions, nothing too fancy
- Localisation not required (or supported)
- Voiceover is allowed, try to make it not sound like an advert
- Identify all in-app purchases (e.g. “Requires in-app purchase” subtitle)
- Don’t use live action footage
- Don’t use logos or copyrighted material
- Don’t include any time based sales or special offers
It's fairly straightforward for an iPhone app, however if your app is Universal you’re going to need to do two recordings. One for the iPhone and one for the iPad, this all adds extra time, effort, and possibly money (if you’re outsourcing the job).
Thankfully, Apple doesn’t support localised videos yet. I’m honestly not looking forward to it when Apple allows you to upload a separate App Preview for each language. It’s not like we don’t already have enough to do…
The number of screenshots required for a localised universal app is already getting very time consuming as my good friend Nik pointed out on Twitter.
Uploading localised screenshots for your #iOS8 app? 13 languages, 5 device sizes, 5 images per device. 5 x 5 x 13 = 325 - @nikf
Having said that I do hope Apple adds support for App Previews on the Mac App Store. Maybe we’ll have to wait until WWDC 2015 for those, who knows.
I honestly believe having a good App Preview will encourage more people to buy or download your app. I think customers are going to get used to watching a video before making a decision. One of the great byproducts of having an App Preview is that you can upload it to Vimeo, embed it on your website, include it in your press kit, and even share it on Twitter and Facebook. Much better than showing off static screenshots, and easier to put together than a promo video!
I have a feeling we’re going to start seeing less of the classic app promo videos and more of these short App Previews, and I’m totally fine with that.