App Previews: 6 Tips to Create Great Videos for iOS 8

Sylvain Gauchetby

8 min read

With iOS 8, video is coming to the App Store. And it’s a great opportunity for you to leverage a new marketing asset and get more engaged customers.

The App Preview videos that you will be able to submit (just like you do for your screenshots) some time this fall have a very specific format.

But the fact that there are constraints and limitations to what you can do doesn’t mean you can’t create a kick-ass, well-crafted video to truly show what’s unique and magic about your app.

IOS8, AppTweak, ASO, App Store Optimization, App Marketing, Optimize your app, apptaminApp Previews will be one of the most visible assets on the App Store details page

So here are 6 tips to help you create great App Previews. Because what’s the point of using a powerful tool if you don’t do it right?

1. Know the format

Like I said, there are constraints you need to work within if you want your App Preview(s) to be approved by Apple’s reviewing staff.

Although the official App Previews guidelines are still pretty short (I expect they’ll detail it later), a great deal of information was revealed in the WWDC14 session on “Creating Great App Previews” (a must-watch for any iOS developer).

Here are the main takeaways regarding the App Preview format:

  • Device specific – one for the iPhone version and one for the iPad version
  • Different resolutions for each device:
    • 640×1136 (or 1136×640 for landscape mode); 900×1200 for the iPad (or 1200×900 for landscape mode)
    • 1080×1920 (or 1920×1080 for landscape mode) acceptable
  • Maximum length of 30 seconds
  • Composed mainly of device-captured footage – no live video, no fingers, no devices shown
  • One language localization – let’s say it’s in English, then it will appear in English for everyone in the world
  • Disclose in-app purchases – make it clear if you display gameplay/features that require in-app purchases
  • Shouldn’t look like an ad – it needs to give a true experience of your app
  • Adding text and voice over is OK – as long as the text can not be confused with the actual UI and that the quality of the voice over is good (and not too sales-y)
  • Background music plays a huge role in setting the mood – make sure you have the rights to the music you use.

I told you: quite specific.

2. Play it Safe- respect the guidelines

You might be thinking: “well, the guidelines for screenshots are pretty strict as well but nobody respects them”.

And you’re kinda right. Here is what the marketing guidelines currently say on screenshots:

“Screenshots should display only the actual screen content from your app that a user will see when the app is running. Do not incorporate Apple product images into your screenshots on the App Store.”

Yet, it’s almost a best practice to ignore that and show devices/texts to better portray the app.

Hyperlapse from Instagram, approved on August 26

But here’s the thing: there’s no way to know how much flexibility Apple will give developers on the App Preview videos.

So it’s most likely better to play it safe and produce a video that follows their guidelines and advices. That way, you dramatically increase its chances of approval and you can be amongst the first apps with App Previews.

Because there will be a “novelty effect”: users are going to be curious and watch the videos, which should increase conversions for the developers that did a good job with theirs. And chances are, Apple will try and put forward (read: feature) apps that have well-crafted videos they can endorse.

Once everyone has more insights, you can always start pushing a bit further.

3. Watch examples for inspiration

“How do I know what Apple is expecting?” you may ask…

Well, you can start by watching the examples they showed at the WWDC14 session. Because those are apps with App Previews they are definitely endorsing.

I’m even going to make it easy for you. Here are the timings in the session where you can watch App Preview examples:

  • Around 3:15 – Monument Valley  (iPhone)
  • Around 14:15 – Toca Boca (iPad)
  • Around 18:50 – UpTo (iPhone)
  • Around 26:05 – Leo’s Fortune (iPhone – landscape)
  • Around 49:10 – Sky Guide (iPhone – landscape)

Chances are you’ll also start seeing more and more examples on the web. Here are 3 App Previews we’ve produced recently at Apptamin (more here – and many more to come):

Note: even though we’ve got positive feedback from Apple on those App Previews, until Apple’s staff actually approves them we can’t certify that everything (effects, nub/circles, etc.) we used is OK.

4. Plan and Prepare your video

Just like for any video you produce, you need to plan for it before doing anything.

This means you need to:

  1. Know what is your audience and goal – Your video needs to focus on “what’s magic about your app” (Apple’s words), so you need to figure that out.
  2. Write a script – You can start with just a few bullet points (you probably have some already in your app description and your screenshots) and then detail it (you can go as far as drawing a storyboard if you want). If you can do some storytelling here, even better!
  3. Show the right data – make sure you show relevant and authorized data when doing your screen captures: the best gameplay, or data that a frequent user would have.

That’s also when you need to define the background music for your App Preview, and if you want a voice over (use a professional voice over talent if you do).

5. Produce!

Once you have defined the outline of your video scenario and the exact screens and interactions you’ll show in your App Preview, it’s time to get started.

There always has been different ways to do your video screen captures: simulator, mirroring (including with Reflector), HDMI captures, etc.

And Apple just introduced a new one, making it easy for developers that have the right equipment.

IOS8, AppTweak, ASO, App Store Optimization, App Marketing, Optimize your app, apptamin

You can use OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 to capture the footage.

It doesn’t seem like you have to use this way of capturing the devices footage: what counts is that you capture the right part. But since you’re prepared for all that, it shouldn’t be a problem!

Depending on your video production skills, you can then use iMovie, Final Cut or Adobe After Effects. Or whatever you feel comfortable with.

6. Optimize and experiment

If you follow the advices in this post, it means a good amount of thoughts went into creating your App Preview. And hopefully, you’re proud of the result.

But just like for your app, it doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. And it should be improved, to better showcase your app and be more engaging to your audience.

The App Previews for your app, like the other elements on your app details page, are now part of App Store Optimization.

You need to keep them up-to-date. If your app UI changes, or if you add new features you want to show off, you need to update your App Preview(s) accordingly

You want to experiment and see what’s working best. Below are different things you could try out. Tip: don’t change everything at once on your app details page, or you won’t be able to draw conclusions.

  • Testing different poster frames: this is the frame from your video (no custom thumbnail possible) that will display with a play button when users are on your app details page. The more relevant, the better!

IOS8, AppTweak, ASO, App Store Optimization, App Marketing, Optimize your app, apptamin

The poster frame you choose will be critical to users playing or not your App Preview

  • Showing a different feature first – by showing a different benefit first, you might increase engagement. As explained, you want to start with what’s magic and unique about your app.
  • Adding/Changing the voice over
  • Changing the background music
  • Tweaking the texts you display (just like you do for your screenshots)

Those advices should put you in the right direction when producing the App Preview(s) for your app(s). And remember: Apple likes usually encourages taking advantage of new features, so the sooner you start the more chances you have of leveraging this new video format.

Have you already produced an App Preview for your app? What are your main challenges regarding those videos? Share your examples and let us know if you have any questions!

Sylvain (co-founder of Apptamin)

Sylvain Gauchet
Sylvain Gauchet is the co-founder of Apptamin. Apptamin produces app videos and game trailers for developers, startups and companies. Apptamin also has a blog with content on how to promote and market your app.