With more than 2.5 million downloads to choose from on Google Play, the official Android app store, it may come as no surprise that developers are doing what it takes to stay ahead of the competition. But as anyone who browses the store knows, the result is not a particularly pleasurable experience with all-caps, emoji and superlatives scattered everywhere.
It seems that Google has finally had enough and is stepping in to make the Play Store a quieter place to browse. The company has posted new guidelines on the Android Developers blog with plans to enforce the new policy “later this year.”
The blog post uses the example of a fictional travel planning app called Crane and provides several examples of what is and is not allowed to move forward. For reference, this is Google̵
So what kind of stuff are developers currently getting rid of? A big no-no are apps that try to suggest popularity or a recommendation from Google within the lists, either in the title, company name or app icon. Something like this:
Another popular attention-grabbing stunt is that developers try to include promotional information in the lists. It is not allowed to add price information, mention the lack of ads or highlight a sale, as it appears from this fake list, which is mysteriously both free and for sale at the same time, but you get the idea.
Then there are apps that use the list and icon to encourage downloads or, worse, trick users into thinking they are updating an app they already own. It is nicely demonstrated here, where Crane has both an “update now” text and a small message icon.
Finally, Google Play bans the use of emoji, special characters that are “irrelevant to the app”, and uppercase letters (with special dispensation if the brand name is large.) This means the end of lists like this:
On top of these rules, Google says that app titles will be limited to 30 characters, probably to prevent keyword stuffing and to make lists generally more readable.
Regardless of this, the blog post also reveals that Google is updating its guidelines regarding preview assets. Graphics, videos, and descriptions must “accurately represent” apps and games, while providing adequate information to users without using words such as “free” or “best.”
Contrary to the title and icon rules, Google does not propose that non-compliant apps be blocked from the store, but states that “assets that do not meet our guidelines are not eligible for advertising and recommendations”, which should be enough of a threat to ensure compliance from ambitious developers. This change will take effect in the second half of 2021.