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3-second scannable app previews to boost downloads in 2019. App Store edition

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3-second scannable app previews to boost downloads in 2019. App Store edition

Sometimes the way to success lays in obvious things we don’t expect it to be there. Such as app previews like videos and screenshots. In essence, they are often out of focus, whether is deploying a new mobile app, or optimizing an existing one. Which is fair enough with respect to developers usually prioritizing well-functioning features.

The fact is that app previews may have the same weight for users decision making as the app feature has. Proper screenshots and videos are able to create a feeling of happiness using your app even before touching it.

But within the countless of the app offers it has never been that hard to attract and maintain the focus of a buyer’s eye. Think of 1.8 million apps on the App Store and 2.1 million apps on Google Play (Source: Statista).

New apps releases pace accelerates drastically. In fact, daily Android releases have grown from 4255 in Q1’ 17 to 6140 in Q1’ 18. As for iOS apps, the Q1’ 18 shows an average 1434 app releases per day

Along with that, a consumer decision-making speed doesn’t fall behind. According to AppAgent, visitors spend an average of 7 seconds on store listing. Moreover, Storemaven says that the product page should explain what the app does in less than 3 seconds.

So that means, people are not actually reading. They are scanning the information to quickly skim the context from a few striking words and images. Thereby, the buying decision process shortens and even simplifies.

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Some of the leading practitioners are already catching-up this nimble kind of consumer behaviour. For instance, their best screenshots are actually turn-out to be 3 seconds scannable. We even personally tested them.

In this article, you will find technical requirements, tips and tricks that we outlined analyzing the best practices on the App Store.

Quick navigation:

1. App Store Previews Requirements
2. App Icon
3. Screenshot Previews. Attention from the starting page
4. App Video Previews to enhance attention
5. App preview thumbnail(e.g.poster frame)

App Store previews requirements

Before jumping into design nuances let’s discover some basic requirements and format specifications. App Store product page allows a certain quantity of landscape and/or portrait screenshots and video preview uploads:

  • App Screenshots –  up to 10 pieces
  • App Video Previews – up to 3 pieces

Important Note. If you hold a bundle, let’s say of 4 apps and, for instance, each has a number of 5 screenshots, then only 2 screenshots will be displayed for each app on a bundle product page.


App Store screenshots previews specs table:

Web 1366 – 10

Important note. The given tables show only portrait type of screenshots and previews specs for iPhones and iPads only.

App Store video previews specs table:

Web 1366 – 9

Now when we are clear with the basic requirements, let’s deal with nuances.

App icon

Unlike screenshots and previews, an app icon is the only element that fully appears on all pages mentioning your app: search result, product page, featuring etc. 

Let’s imagine that your application was lucky enough to be featured on the App Store top picks page. This is one of the very few cases when only the icon, the application category and a download button will be displayed. 

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And on the list with competitors, it will appear like this:

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It is noteworthy that in this version of appearing the download rating is not visible, which excludes decision-making based on highest rating aspect. Here, users are more likely to perform an instant download action without going to the product page, as trust is already secured by Apple Picks. Therefore, a decisive moment for the ‘Get’ button conversion will be a competitive icon design. 

How to determine which design is competitive for your case? If the application brand is not yet recognized among a wide audience, then it’s time to roll-up the sleeves and take a look at the test metrics and conversions of competitors in your category. 

For instance, from the given example of conversion tests, it can be seen that clicks increased even after a small change such as icon background from a solid colour to the gradient. 

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Splitmetrics case-study shows higher click and engagement rate of gradient icon comparing with the initial solid colour icon
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Set of icons that have been tested for optimization

From another study by Splitmetrics it is seen which version of the icon redesign brought the given application the largest number of a ‘Get’ button clicks.

Screenshot 4
Conversion rates of different app icons for Darby application by Splitmetrics

The comparison of the icon views in the list among competitors: 

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Сonsider to implement and test some of the following tips for your app icon:  

  • Big elements and/or components 
  • Associative illustrations
  • Include a name of the app or feature (see Calm, Uber, Booking, Ikea apps)
  • Contrast colours, gradients

A final good example would be Uber which after years of testings goes radically opposite to previous icon versions. Given the entry into new markets, the new simplified readable version assumes accessibility for a wider audience.

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Important note. If you possess several apps completing a bundle, the icon will be generated from icons of the first 4 apps of the bundle. 

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You are also allowed to create your own icon for a bundle.

Screenshot Previews. Attention from the starting page

Most commonly, the very first touch with the app starts on a search page. The only first three screenshots (from the max set of 10) appears there. The vertical ones would look quite small, so as its components do (text, illustrations, etc.). 

Therefore, to stand out with all the essence of the app at this point is critical, considering previously mentioned 3-second factor. 

Let’s see one of the ways how this could be possible comparing two food delivery services.

Ex.#1 This design case is commonly found in articles as an example of proper screenshots. Although, it is worth to keep in mind that this brand had a great outdoor, online and TV ad campaign. So we can assume the most downloads and brand recognition are coming not only from creative asset features itself. 

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Example #1

On a first screenshot, it is pretty hard to miss an illustration of a big juicy burger. But on every next screenshot, the text is small and hardly readable. This solution is not the best for the barely known apps or that haven’t been promoted widely on other sources. In other words, if you bet on organic search, you better elaborate the whole thing in details. 

Ex.#2. Another example is an even more common case study. The essence is transmitted in the combination of recognizable name ‘Uber’ and associative prefix ‘Eats’ mentioned on the app icon, as well as on screenshots. At some point, this could be the end of the story. But magic continues in screenshot texts notable from the search page. A short message in one-few words and readable font covering the outstanding value, for instance like “no order minimums”. 

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Example #2

Now let’s take a closer look at some few more trending variations to highlight tricks.

2 tile scan
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Breaking down the tricks:

  • Short text in bold (up to 3-5 words) on the top of the picture; Do not split the text onto two screenshots. It spoils the readability 
  • Panoramic gallery – connected design maintains integrity and affiliation 
  • The main components of the picture, like the mobile mockup, occupy unless 50% – 60% of a screenshot. In other words, keeping components that big, so they are readable on a search page
  • Watch the mockup that splits up into two screenshots won’t vertically diverge. Before publishing, always check the view of your design on My Apps media manager
  • Detailing is starting on the 3rd or further screenshots


The first 3 screenshots briefly describe the benefits of the app. Also, it is the best place to show achievements and rewards if you have. More detailed information is better to use on screenshots not visible on a search page. Or you can show more in an app video preview.

Think of the first three screenshots like a book cover. You won’t put the content on the title page, right?

App Video Previews to enhance attention

App preview is a short video showcasing the essence of the app. The preview can be from 15 to 30 seconds long. 

You can upload up from 1 to 3 app previews, mix with- or use instead of screenshots.


  • The app previews are visible on the search page and first one preview is automatically played
  • The preview sound is always muted by default. Consider superimposing a copy so the message would be clear without a sound
  • Consider superimposing a voiceover to enhance a sound effect
  • App previews are also allowed without using sounds

Let’s take a look at some examples of how two different apps used previews for their cases.

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On the Jamie Oliver app page, the first slide is a video preview. The next are static screenshots with mockups and short texts. The dominating culinary visual is what makes this asset super scannable. 

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Bumble app has two app previews, both focused on app features. Its scannable narrative helps to understand the app vocation in seconds.

App preview thumbnail (e.g. poster frame)

No matter how many app previews you add to the product page, only the first one preview plays automatically on a search page. And every next preview will appear as a frozen frame with a play button.

Moreover, video preview won’t start automatically if a user’s device is on energy-saving mode. Consider designing an informative and connected thumbnail. Also, organize the text in a way that the play button won’t block it out.


What else?


Localization means an adaptation of creative assets content in a culturally – sensitive manner according to a specific country  (visual, colours, fonts, language, keywords, people photos with different ethnicity, even jokes, etc.). 

In such a way, you are potentially visible to a wider audience, which uses their mother tongue while browsing a needed app.  

There is no need to translate assets to all possible languages. For instance, you may start from 2-3 languages of countries that show the most number of downloads. 

As an example, most downloads on App Store are made by China, Japan and the United States. While Google Play reports India, Brazil and the United States as the top 3. 

General picture of downloads is good to consider. But you may also try to find some reports on a specific type of app downloads by country and category.

Split tests

A zillion case studies could be found on the internet. But even the most successful ones are not always appropriate for your particular case. The chance to stay unnoticed is not ruled out for any app, even with most relevant marketing approaches. Thus, the A/B tests and analytics are an integral part to find out the most profitable image for your app.

In which cases to conduct A/B tests?

  • every time when you plan to update your current creative assets
  • when you have high traffic but low conversion rate

Reviews and Ratings

Statistically, it turns out that the role of creative assets is not that significant in comparison with solid ratings and reviews. 

Always ask your user to assess your app. And, always do that in an appropriate moment. For instance, the assessment request would be a bad idea if it pop-ups while the user just started using the app. Instead, try to catch a moment when a user got really excited and/or felt a real value. In the case of a Photo Editing app, it could be, for instance, right after user uploads an edited photo.


Even if research shows the low download impact of some ASO approach it doesn’t mean it should go to the bucket of minor importance (like Creative Assets vs. Reviews and Ratings).  

App store optimization is a continuous process always with room for success, failure, learning and improvement. And the shortest way to success after failure is to learn as fast as possible from them.