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Three Questions on the Android App Market User Experience

Earlier this week I gave a short talk for Yetizen on how VCs think about the games market. One of the more interesting things that happened at the meetup was that one of the folks from Google gave a few quick tips on how to be more effective on the Google Android Market. That chat, combined with the announcement that Apple was buying Chomp, I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between the iOS and Google Android Market experiences and three main questions jumped out to me:

1. Why does the Google Android Market cover all categories versus just applications?

Our company, Bionic Panda Games, has been building for the Google Android Market for over a year. In that time, the Google Android Market has undergone a number of UI / UX iterations. The current iteration is interesting and perplexing to me – take a look at the following two screenshots comparing the Apple App Store UI versus what you see on Android:

Google Android Market

Apple iTunes Market

When you compare these two UI experiences, one thing really jumps out at me. The Google Android Market is extremely cluttered in terms of UI and presentation. Whereas the Apple App Store is focused just on apps, leaving music, video, and books to other apps and experiences, the Google Android Market jams all of those verticals into one consumer experience. The one nice thing about the Apple experience is that when you want to find apps for your phone, you’re immediately into the apps experience – other important and interesting content verticals are given their own separate applications.

2. When will Google push Google+ or some other social signals into the Google Android Market?

Google’s management has been very clear that social, and particularly Google+, is going to be woven into every element of the company’s product and services. We’ve seen it in Google Games, Search, Voice, and a handful of other properties. One can only assume that Google+ will eventually end up in Google Android Market. It’s not hard to imagine how this would work. You can imagine getting recommendations based on applications that your Google+ network is using, the ability to use your Google+ social network as a social layer for games and apps built on Android, and the ability to share your app preferences and usage back with your network. It’s hard for me to imagine that Google wouldn’t at least run this experiment and run it soon.

The interesting thing about this approach is that Google+ is only one of several potential social streams Google could integrate. They could integrate Twitter, Facebook, your phone contacts, or just about any other social network. Google+, like Twitter, is an asymmetric follow model. I wonder whether those kinds of networks can give as much meaningful signal as symmetric follow models like Facebook. That will be interesting to see.

3. What is the right paradigm for application search results?

I don’t really know if this is a UE problem, but I continue to wonder if any app store has gotten the model for application search results right. I think all of us in the industry are still trying to learn what user intent means in the world of application search. For example, if I type in the word “poker” I probably want to see poker applications. But what about more generic application terms or keywords. Should a good application search engine return terms based on keyword term frequency in the application description? Application name? Some smart filter on what an application is actually “about” and does? In many ways, it feels like web search in the early days – there are a lot of brute-force tactics and simple things being used to determine search results relevance. But it still doesn’t feel like search works as well as it could.

As always, you can leave comments below or follow me on Twitter @chudson.

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