There's a lot of 'stuff' that goes on around building mobile applications that doesn't involve building the application itself. One important stage is the release and promotion of your application. I've found by now I have a pretty well defined process that I follow for new projects and there's a lot of tools or services that I use consistently.
iStockPhoto is usually my go to place for stock photos. Although they can be a little pricey, professional grade photos go a long way to make your app look, well, professional. Here's an example of a photo I bought recently – it cost me around $20 but it makes the website so much more fun and engaging. I hate to bring out the cliche that a picture is worth a thousand words but this picture helps elicit emotions I want my users to feel – especially a sense of freedom and confidence while running.
Placeit is a very handy tool I came across recently. For a long time we've seen screenshots of mobile applications placed inside phone containers. It helps to see the screenshot in context and the phones look oh so sleek and pretty. I've always just done this manually but Placeit automatically inserts your image into stunningly high quality templates. The image at the top of this post was generated using this service. You'll even notice subtle details like the reflection of the surrounding on the screen once your screenshot has been inserted. They have a pretty complex payment and licensing structure with free, pay per download and subscriptions. Make sure to read through their 'Which license should I choose?' information when downloading.
Why not take those fancy graphics you've created and create an awesome cover photo for your Facebook page. How much value you get from a Facebook page may depend on your application, but it's a great way to engage with users and elicit feedback. If you can, it's a good idea to build up a following outside of your application – Facebook is a good way to do this but you could also use other means such as an email list. The Facebook Page for my recently released application RunTap is just starting out and it's a little lonely there right now, feel free to help out.
Sharethis is a simple plugin for websites. You've probably seen it around the place (including my website that I just linked to), it creates one of those bars on the side of the screen that, although a little intrusive, allow visitors to easily share the page they are on. I'll usually add one of these to my websites.
A website for promoting your application is a must. Visibility in app stores is just not good enough, and it's good to be able to display and promote content as you see fit rather than being constrained to the format of the app store listing (this is certainly still important though). Having a website for your application also allows you to do things like:
- Increase organic traffic with a blog
- Have a portal for communicating with your users
- Offer support & help to users
- Supply FAQ's
- …and so on
Virtual Private Servers allow you to control your own server to host your websites. Although this may involve learning how to administrate a server yourself (the basics are pretty straightforward) you'll get a much more powerful host compared to a shared hosting solution, and you can host as many websites as you want off of the one server – this will save you some serious cash in the long run. I've used Linode for hosting for years and am really happy with their service and support overall (Full disclosure: that's my referral link). You can pick up their smallest VPS (which I am currently using) for $20 a month.
Of course you'll probably want to purchase a domain name to go with your website. I usually use Gandi.net.
ThemeForest has saved me so much time over the years. I'm not a fan of spending too much time on creating website designs when there are people far more talented than I who have created beautiful templates already. For most of my projects I purchase either a static HTML template or WordPress theme from themeforest.net. There are of course other premium template sites out there but quality control at ThemeForest is great and I've never been disappointed so I've used them almost exclusively over the past couple of years. You can find the theme I bought for RunTap here.
Bootstrap is my second choice to a premade template if I'm feeling the desire to do a little tinkering myself, or if I need some sort of web interface for the mobile application. This is almost just as easy to set up, there's a ton of premade default template themes available here which are all sleek and professional. Usually with just a little customisation you can change these to suit the branding of your application. The bootstrap framework also comes with a ton of components you can make use of. When you're taking a break from building mobile apps, I'd highly recommend having a play around with bootstrap.
Let's not forget Analytics. It's vital you at least set up Google Analytics on your website to track visitors and also Google Webmaster Tools for valuable insight into your website traffic. If you're promoting your application through various channels, this will help to identify where your money and effort is best spent.
What tools have you been using, share them in the comments below!