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Tips on making app screenshots for App Store and Google Play

wrote this on Май 23, 2015

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OneTwoSplit, a team of a service which carries out A/B-testing of mobile metadata, has written an article on how to attract a user’s attention to a service in App Store and Google Play and how to make screenshots so that they show app functionality and “catch” potential clients.

App Store, Google Play and Windows Phone Marketplace are gradually becoming a digital battlefield. Developers fight for users to recognize their apps. Otherwise, they will drown in an ocean of competing services.

App Store Optimization (ASO) is a strategy similar to SEO but applicable exclusively to app pages in stores. It has become a useful addition to a developer marketing plan and is summoned to increase the number of app installs.

ASO contains many elements and should be considered as a key component while publishing an app. It describes each detail concerning an app page and may be divided  into 2 groups of elements: inner and outer ones.

Inner optimization elements include everything which is displayed on an app page in a corresponding store:

  • name.
  • description.
  • icon.
  • screenshots and video.
  • category.

Outer optimization elements are external links which lead to an app download page:

  • rates, reviews, comments.
  • app recommendations.
  • app landing page or website.
  • press coverage.
  • advertisements.
  • activity in social media.

Before showing your app to the world, it’s necessary to work on all the above mentioned elements thoroughly. In the article we will talk about app screenshots, one of the factors affecting install quantity.

 

Do you need it?

It’s almost impossible to make a user keep attention on what you want to deliver to him/her in the era of constant information and madness flow around social media. We’re constantly distracted and we have no time to sit quietly and consider something carefully. Investigations have shown that the period of concentration has decreased to 8 seconds. Slate editors have written an interesting article about the phenomenon and told why you won’t read any article till the end.

We go back to the principle when the first impression is the most important one: you have only several second to grab a client’s attention. Use it wisely in order to evoke interest and make a user to click, scroll or download.

The importance of screenshots consists in bring a clear message to a user. App Store has made a small revolution — screenshots have pushed app description to the background. These are the changes in iOS7 compared with iOS6.

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Today, when we have iOS8, Apple continues to focus more on pictures rather than on text. The same thing happens with Android.

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App design is a key quality factor for almost  50% of users. It yields to only to other users’ reviews and rating.

While user reviews belong to outer elements as you can’t affect them, screenshots are inner elements and you can make them the way you like. App design and corresponding screenshots should get №1 place in the list of marketing events.

Visual communication is surely faster than verbal one. That’s why a beautiful design and quality screenshots will contribute greatly to your mission realization.

 

Let’s start from the essentials

App screenshots shouldn’t be chosen randomly. The best approach is to chose the screenshots which describe app creation goal the best.

Main app stores allow to upload 5 screenshots. Is your app for teenagers? Is it a fitness-app for the pregnant? A mobile scanner? An adventurous game? You should make it the way so each user understands your message.

Another approach for choosing screenshots consists of 2 questions:

  • What problem does your app solve?
  • What’s unique about your app?

If you can answer the questions relying on screenshots, half of the job is already done. If you can’t find the answers, dig deeper.

 

About originality

Independently of what you need to do, you will find a corresponding app for that.  May be even 10, 50 or 100 apps. Creating a unique app is quite a rare phenomenon.

There are 2 trends: to build a large platform as, for example, Salesforce which offers all-in-one solutions, or create a micro-app which solves only one small problem. Developers often think that they create unique apps but get disappointed when they find a great many of competitors on the market.

Both real and digital worlds are oversaturated now. There are hundreds of variants of any item a person needs, from blankets to entertaining systems and we’re overloaded with variations of one and the same thing.

The key to success is a difference, not originality. We live in a competitive environment. And even if you create something unique, you’ll notice soon that there are competitors around you.

The differences may concern several aspects which relate to app design and screenshots. Here are some of them:

  • your app allows a user to finish an action in 3 steps while a competitor’s app does it in 5 steps.
  • your app is build on advances technologies, bases on UX and UI principles and changes buttons for swipes.
  • your app integrated with other services and makes it easier to transfer files among apps.

I think you’ve got the idea. The main goal is to do better than anybody else and find a way to describe the advantages with the help of visual demonstration.

 

About order

There’s one rule: the most important screenshot should be the first one. There’s no sense in placing them in a logical order. If you think a user needs to know the steps of using an app, you’re wrong. You have only several seconds to catch a user attention.

 

What can you emphasize with the help of screenshots

Now let’s have a look at the most successful examples of screenshot use.

 

Main screen and app functions

The most widespread screenshot is a description of what your app does. The main screen of the app is usually placed on such a screenshot.

Spring presents a nice screenshot of a screen with categories. It’s a great variant to show a clear app design. Homework app creators upload the most important screen which shows what a user will get after an install. Everything is simple with Threes app. A real app screenshot. No text, no distracting elements.

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Important notes

  • be simple and clear as possible.
  • single out the main goal of your app.

 

 

Describing app functions and content

Some screenshots displays how an app functions. In this case you should check that a screenshot is easy to “understand”.

Healthbook by Apple focuses attention on both functions and design simultaneously.

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PressViewer has another approach to describing functions. Instead of displaying all the functions in one screenshot, the app uses all the 5 marked places in order to demonstrate step app functions (the app is no longer available for download).

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App behavior and description of how to use it

If your app doesn’t use traditional functions as tapping and scrolling, don’t be afraid to show it. There are several interesting ways to demonstrate app behavior.

Inbox by Google is a quick app. If you swipe to the left/right, you can mark an email as one you’ve read or make a reminding. Currency uses transition functions in order to liven up the app. Slide to the left and the number you’ve entered will be deleted.

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Swype tells a user how to make up words with the help of swipe on keyboard.

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Important notes

  • creativity is the key. Find a way to interest a user.
  • add elements of app management to a screenshot (taps, scrolls, swipes).

 

 

Additional text for screenshot description

A definite trend has formed in a screenshot niche. Instead of using all the available space for demonstrating app screen, developers retract screenshots in order to have some space for additional text.

Asana briefly describes what is shown on the screenshot. TeamStuff uses strategy of additional text and has a creative approach while choosing a place for text.

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Important notes

  • this advice is the most useful, don’t forget about it.
  • don’t be over-diligent. 2 lines of text is enough.
  • make sure that the text is easy to read.

 

 

Include mentions in media and awards

If some respected edition has written about your app, don’t be shy to boast of it. Adding of corresponding icons may evoke more trust in users.

Good.co points out 4 main app functions and tells about mentions in Internet in order to create trust and interest in users. SkyView Free displays its awards on the screenshot.

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Important mentions

  • don’t overload screenshot space.
  • only true comments. Don’t create a false image.

 

 

Understanding of how design works

A screenshot design depends directly from your app design. Don’t forget about using the same fonts, colors and style on the whole.

 

Font, color and style

If you have decided to add a couple of text lines for the description, choose a font which sorts with the app fonts. It creates an impression of unity. Choose the colors which suit the style of the app.

Pocket uses the same font both in the app and on the screenshots. Aconex uses additional text in order to share app functions. The font differs from the one they use in the app. But it looks natural as it reminds of a handwritten font and suits app theme.

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Trim & Tone stands out as the displayed smartphone is rotated a little bit. But color scheme is observed both on the screenshot and in the app. SnipSnap keeps to green color on the screenshots.

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DiscoFingers is available in several countries so the screenshots use several languages.

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Important notes

  • keep to one style.
  • look through color palettes in order to find the right ones.
  • the less, the better. Remember, you want to show users information of how your app looks in action.
  • create various screenshots depending on nationality, culture and language of your users.

 

 

Show action

One more approach becomes more and more popular — showing an app in action.

Paper service has surprised the whole world with new interface elements: if you tilt a smartphone, you’ll see a full picture. The app also uses a card concept when you can transfer the themes you like to your newsfeed. Peek Calendar shows how can you look through your daily tasks opening a corresponding cell or a whole week view, if you close it. Cycloramic demonstrated how can you rotate iPhone horizontally in order to make a panoramic photo with the help of the app.

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Important notes

  • be simpler so that a user can understand your message.
  • use your designer skills to show the full beauty of what your app can do.

 

 

The list of tools for making screenshots

Now, as we discussed all the advice on creating ideal screenshots, it’s time to move forward. The following services will help you to make screenshots:

  • Visme — the best choice for people with limited skills and high ambitions. It allows to create screenshots with adding of any details. You can use it for free for 3 projects, later on it will cost $6 per month.
  • Screenshot App — it’s possibly the quickest way to create a screenshot which will look great. Choose a format, add a screenshot and some text. That’s it! You can download it for free.
  • Placeit is useful if you want to show how your app looks like in real life. You can download pictures of low definition for free. Placeit offers to download each screenshot for $8 or get a monthly subscription.

 

 

Test-drive

In order to check whether you guessed right with the screenshots, it’s necessary to check their efficiency. Go to developer panel in iTunes, Google Play or Windows Phone Market from time to time and study user behavior thoroughly.

You can also carry out a poll among your users. You can create nice surveys with the help of Typeform. Don’t forget to give some reward to a user for participation.

 

Conclusion

As we have already said, there are 2 key elements that affect installs — screenshots and rating. In this article we’ve covered all the importance of screenshots.

Here are the most important tips you need to remember:

  • use all the available slots for screenshots and the most important one should be the first.
  • keep to one style and make it the way so a user could understand from the very first second what’s your app about.

Surely success of your app depends not only on it looks but it should also have good functionality and solve a definite task or help in something. But as a person’s attention is attracted to everything beautiful and appealing, hard work on screenshots will be rewarded.

Alexander Sergeev
About the Author

Alexander Sergeev is the Founder of 32dayz (task and time tracking) who loves to build startups and swim.