How Important is Having a Video for Your iPhone or iPad App?

Like any part of the development process, there’s a cost involved with making a video for your app. Depending on your skill set, available equipment and/or budget, this cost may be high.

What’s more, the benefit isn’t obvious; isn’t guaranteed. Many developers are in the tough position of trying to succeed in the Store. Is the app good enough? Or is it the problem with app discovery? Will a video help?…

So it’s an open ended question. To help with the decision of whether the investment is worth it, for you and your app, this article will:

  • start with the premise that a video is beneficial
  • present some data
  • finish with a few opinions

On the data side of things, I’ll take a look at a cross section of apps from the App Store. Five apps that have been featured in some way and also have a video. How many times have their videos been watched? When? And what do the developers think about making a video.

I’ll also share the responses from some key, app review sites: what is their view on the use of an app video…

The premise: an app video is beneficial

If you can make a good video for your app, or have one made, the choice of “should you have one” seems like a no brainer.

A video can help to show potential users how an app actually works. Workflow, gestures, ease of use, transitions, sounds – it’s much easier to convey this with video than it is screen shots and words.

A video is also useful for communicating what your app is about and how good it is, to the likes of review sites, bloggers, and the press.

What’s more, if people like your app, video is a medium that’s easily shared on the Internet, and importantly, easily digested. Clicking “play” is less work for potential users than following a link to the App Store, skimming over the description (at best), looking at screen shots and then browsing the reviews.

Why wouldn’t you have a video?

And so, we’re back to the cost; you don’t just get a video for free. Some developers will have the skills and equipment to make a polished video, others will wonder if they could pull something off that didn’t look homemade? Then there’s the issue of borrowing, renting or buying equipment. Or go one step further and simply pay someone else to do the whole thing.

Whether the investment is predominantly time-based or money-based, is it worth it?

Some data from other apps, developers and review sites

Clear, the video

Category: Productivity, App Store What’s Hot (USA Store), 28th Nov 2012.

Rob, from Realmac Software

How important do you think your videos are to the success of your apps?
Having a video is an excellent opportunity to get the story across. Potential users can see the app in motion and it helps make the app come to life rather than just reading about it.

Do you use the videos when reaching out/communicating with people to let them know about new apps/new versions?
We generally make a promotional video only when we release a new app. For Clear for Mac we launched the video a week before the app was released on the App Store. As a result the Media were able to get a feel for the way it looks, behaves etc and have something fun to send people to. It was a key element of the launch.

Do you get feedback based on the videos? E.g. “the Courier video really showed me how the software works, before I bought it”.
Not especially, the feedback is generally based on the subject and the perceived reaction to whether it’s going to be a great app or not. You could say that is feedback – if people ‘get’ what the app does then we have done our job on the video.

The point you made about virality is really important and also a you said, people will watch a short video, but not read an article. As for cost, before Clear all our video’s were done in house:

You can see a very different style of production I’m sure!

iFunFace, the video

Category: Entertainment, New & Noteworthy (UK Store), 28th Nov 2012.

J-F Mitchell, developer of iFunFace

How important do you think your video was in the success of the app? First, it’s always cool to help a fellow indy developer. This was our first video, up to now it has not been very helpful in terms of promoting the app to end-users. It is hard to promote the video without any real budget… The way it really helped is when communicating with industry people and press. They can watch your video and see whether they see a fit, or not, without having to install/redeem your app.

Cost? We made the video ourselves so it only cost time (we are a team of 2 part time developers). At the end I am happy that we’ve done it, but I don’t think it’s really helping our sales. I think a video is very good if you already have a large user base or, if your developing a game, it’s a must.

Recall, the video

Category: Productivity, New & Noteworthy (USA Store), 28th Nov 2012.

Harold Emsheimer, Co-founder, UI Designer at Overcommitted, LLC

How important do you think the video has been in the launch and success of the app? Bottom line, we believe the video was very instrumental in helping potential users understand how they’d use Recall in real life. We prelaunched Recall, so the video was huge in helping people see how the app would work and it’s promise to help people remember recommendations.

Did you use the video when communicating to the press? Every time we reached out to anyone we linked up the video.

Feedback? Yes, we’ve had a lot of positive feedback from users based on the video.

Jamn, the video

Category: Music, New & Noteworthy (UK store), 28th Nov 2012.

The Jamn Support Team

How important do you think the video has been in the launch and success of the app? We are refining video content to build awareness of the circular music theory of Jamn as well as cool things that can be done with the app to reach the user’s musical goals. It very important to pass on a simple and clean message, the old adage that a picture tells a thousand words is still totally relevant.

Did you use the video when reaching out/communicating with people to let them know about app? Press, review sites, music-specific websites etc. Yes we did, we had the video ready before release of Jamn. It went out to some media publications and guitar websites to embed. From the end user’s perspective this happened to coincide with app launch, but of course the background of the business is always a very different scenario.

Have you had feedback from users based on the video? Some feedback based on video, yes… Though most of our feedback has come directly from Appstore reviewers, direct in-app feedback and our website. 80% give it 5 star with top reviews. There have been a few people that have given it a low-rating, which tells us they don’t quite understand the hidden power of the app and the circular method of music. Hence we need to continue to provide content via video to build that understanding and help musicians to become better musicians…

Micro Miners, the video

Category: Games, New & Noteworthy (UK store), 28th Nov 2012.

Jean-Philippe Sarda, developer of Micro Miners

How important do you think your video has been to the success of Micro Miners? It seems almost essential for games to have a video, do you think this is the case? My trailer shows mainly gameplay, trying to be short and not boring. Its purpose was to convince reviewers to check the app. So I mainly sent it to big specialized sites.

Jamie Young, Editor in Chief,

From a review-site’s point of view, how useful are app videos?

  • do they help you decide if you want to go further with an app, before you download, use promo codes etc?
  • do you like to have a video to post along with an app review or app feature?
  • do you think readers appreciate the videos?

App videos are good for two reasons, both of which you’ve touched on.

1) Yes, they help us decide whether or not to post on, or review the app at all. A lot of the time, it is the main deciding factor since we can see gameplay or a trailer to know exactly what it will be like.

2) For preview posts. Sometimes we will preview an app before it comes out, and to do so, we really want the most information we can. Info and screenshots are great, but having a video makes us more apt to post a preview on the app. Readers like to see videos, too, so we always like to include them when we can.

Arnold Kim, MacRumors

MacRumors is a huge site, covering way more that just app-discovery. But when it comes to reviewing or featuring apps, how useful are app videos? I think videos are important. For games they are essential, but I could argue their importance for regular apps too. [For being covered] A video isn’t necessary, but if it’s well done or shows off an app particularly well, it could make the difference in getting covered vs not.

Rob LeFebvre, Editor, 148apps

From a review-site’s point of view, how useful are app videos? I think videos are a really important part of our process. First of all, they help me decide which apps to pass along to our staff writers for a possible review.

Secondly, we post videos whenever we can for all our reviews. This helps our readers get a sense of the actual graphics and/or gameplay involved.

Joel Bankhead, AppStorm

From a review-site’s point of view, how useful are app videos? We don’t actually post videos alongside our reviews so I can’t really answer the second two questions. Regarding the first question [do they help you decide if you want to go further with an app, before you download, use promo codes etc?], from a personal perspective, if your app has a short (can’t emphasise this enough) video that quickly explains it then that’s only going to be a good thing.

Concluding thoughts and opinions

A video is certainly one of the marketing factors. Marketing/promoting an app, well, can often seem to be essential for success. A video that does a good job of showing your app is another vehicle for people to discover the app and decide if they want to use it.

Looking at the videos above, it’s clear that users do watch app-videos. It’s also evident that the majority of views, or the main spike in views, occur around launch. This reinforces that developers/publishers use videos during the launch phase, to build hype and raise awareness. It’s one of the tools used to make a push.

For games? It’s broadly accepted that a video is essential; showing gameplay is very important. When it comes to the video itself, the situation for games is a little different. The market for games is very large and there’s much diversity in the wants of “players”. Some want top-drawer production; others are interested in indy games.

For small, independent developers, a video can focus purely on gameplay without consideration for production quality, and still be successful. There’re a lot of gamers who only care only about gameplay. The Micro Miners video is a good example of this.

For non-games? A good video will help, but I’m calling it a nice to have. Assuming that an app is good, it can be promoted effectively without a video. There’s also a higher bar for production quality; a poor video can reflect badly on an over wise, good app.

For “more involved” apps – there’s more benefit in showing the actual use of the app, the details. But I still think the most important thing is driving people to the app, in the App Store, and that can be done without a video. Still a nice to have.

So, I think it comes down to the skills and/or budget of the developer.

I’m looking at the question from indie point of view. As an indie, hobbyist developer, I don’t feel like I have the budget or means to make a good video. My most abundant resource, time, can be spent producing other aspects of a launch that I can do, to a high(er) standard.

Our first concern should be producing a great app. Beyond that we know that it’s still necessary to promote the app. That promotion can come from inside the App Store and outside the App Store.

If you’re considering an app video as part of your solution to app discovery, consider your capabilities. Every developer, small and large, faces the challenge of deciding where to spend their time. What’s the best use of yours? Beta feedback, the web site, images and art-work, tutorials, pre-launch distribution, press communication, social media buzz, a video

There’s little doubt that a good video can help, but many apps have been very successful without one.