We recently caught up with Ouriel Ohayon of Appsfire, to learn about what kind of design and planning went into making the best and most popular third-party app store on the web. We got some surprising and intriguing answers, so please, take a look.
UI Palette: How did you acquire your first users?
Ouriel Ohayon of Appsfire: We were the very first company to understand that discovery for mobile apps was a critical issue but before that we did not know how much. That was in 2009 when the App store had less than 20k apps…
Before Appsfire was a company we built a prototype because we felt the frustration of finding good apps. We didn’t do much to get our first users except approaching a few blogs and really caring for every single contact with our users. We grew to 50k users quickly and then we knew we could build a business out of it which we did in 2010.
UIP: How do you screen for app quality at the early stages, and did you have to turn many apps down?
Ouriel Ohayon: When we first started it was easier. All we had to do was to rely on our users to do it. But then as the app store grew it was not enough. We designed a set of automated tools (some would call that algorithms) to do that based on quality patterns we would track in and outside the app store. We do add some editorial juice but today most of the work is processed automatically. It does not mean that there is no human DNA behind how we filter good and bad apps. All the choices we made are driven by human consideration of what is a good app or not.
For example we have identified patterns of apps that were cheating in the app store and the play store and we rendered them so we could filter them quickly.
What is your philosophy when approaching mobile design?
Ouriel Ohayon:We have not always been successful. We made many mistakes at launch. But what we learned is that if we don t end up falling in love with our own work our users won’t too. We see too many apps in the app store that are well designed but you can feel that this is not just enough. We’re launching products we feel we would use on a daily basis. If this is not the case it means we have failed.
Our approach to mobile design is to create things we absolutely love ourselves first.
What are some universal qualities you’ve seen in successful apps?
Ouriel Ohayon: They are well designed, they are simple to adopt and they solve elegantly an important problem that users are or are not aware of.
But successful apps are not just well thought out product. They are designed with a business mind and well marketed. The App stores are increasingly competitive and not always the best products win.
You’ve written that you use Apple Maps a lot more than Google Maps, for mobile (iOS?), why is that?
Ouriel Ohayon: You are well informed 🙂 Apple has made tremendous progress with the accuracy of their map and because they are default to the OS when an address pop up somewhere I will stay on the map. I also love the voice of the navigation system: it is crisp and pleasant.
To be frank this is far from perfect. The search engine is far behind Google’s and the integration with my desktop experience is inexistent. They don t have real time data, like Waze (Google) and still have major issues, including some that are in Cupertino itself!
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UIP: Even just theoretically, could there be such thing as a perfectly-designed map / routing app?
Ouriel Ohayon: I don’t know. But I am absolutely convinced that Map apps could be a lot better. Here is an exemple: we all know the situation where you missed an exit and the route is being calculated again. They all fail at solving this situation instantly. It always take a few seconds which are confusing while driving.
Here is another example all maps ask your home address and place of work but I do have at least 5 or 6 spots I go often. I want a 1 click access to those, and even Waze require 3 to 4 clicks to get there…
And none is smart enough (obvious limitations) to sync with my car data/experience: what is the best route given how much gas i have left, point me to a gas station on the road if need be, adapt your voice if i listen to music or have a phone call etc etc…
Today GPS apps are layers on top of my car instead of being in sync with my car.
I could go on and on…
UIP: Do you think users give better scores to apps with better designs, or would you say app score based more on functionality?
Ouriel Ohayon: The App score we have invented is a quality score for apps and is a human pulse of what we consider the perceived quality of an app computed on a daily basis on every single app. We re the equivalent of rotten tomates for apps. We’re looking at critical reviews on the web, signals on twitter, facebook, patterns of reviews in the app store, cheating patterns and more…
UIP: What are your favorite apps?
UIP: Appsfire’s current scroll and slide interface is amazing, did you consider many other user interfaces when planning Appsfire, or did you know that this was how you wanted to present the information from the beginning?
It took us 18 months to get to the horizontal scroll interface…we got there nearly by accident. 3 years ago Apple blocked our app. We designed another app called Appstream which was approved and even featured by Apple. The app was a simple stream of Apps on a big iPad. We knew as that the formula was to provide a visual stream based experience to the of app discovery. And guess what we were right. The new app store was even based on that principle, even Google play…..Someone is look our way 🙂
UIP: How heavily do you design your app based on gut feel, user feedback, or A/B testing?
Ouriel Ohayon: Gut feel. completely. we have data, analytics, and all….but what we learned is that if you don t do something for you first no one will love it. And this is exactly what we did.
UIP: What’s your advice on workflow and creative collaboration?
Ouriel Ohayon: Push the limits and set very high expectations. Don’t ship crap. Users are not idiots and are used to high standards by now. Your team should be educated in being aware of it and execution with that in mind.
UIP: What do you look for in building your developer team for Appsfire?
Ouriel Ohayon: We have a philosophy at Appsfire to recruit first great personalities and then talents. We want to work with people that we have pleasure dealing with every day. We’re looking at low egos, great learning capacity, great ability to question everything and never settle. We’re look at people that execute fast
We’re only 20 employees. Some of our competitors are over 300 employees…
UIP: You’ve recently moved to Sunnyvale, how are you liking it, and how did you realize that this was right for you and for Appsfire?
Ouriel Ohayon: 80% of our business, user base, PR,….was in the USA before I moved here. It was just a matter of time before we open an office around.
UIP: Can you compare and contrast the tech community in Silicon Valley, France, and Israel?
Ouriel Ohayon: They are very similar but at very different scale. France is scale 3, Israel 8, Silicon Valley 9, 10 seems to be around Snapchat HQ right now.
Appsfire is a popular store for mobile apps, doing what Apple and Google are too big or slow to do, and providing an unparalleled user experience, tailored for consumers who simply want to easily find great apps, that they’ll use again and again. Thanks to Ouriel Ohayon for taking the time to do this interview with us, please check out Appsfire’s blog here, and follow him on Twitter here.