From Agenda Calendar to Today Weather and even more recently, CatoAudio for The Cato Institute, we’ve successfully named apps that have been featured by Apple and used by hundreds of thousands of app store users.
Naming an app—or a business—is not simple task. Here are some considerations to make when naming an app.
Set the Right Tone #
An app’s name, paired with the icon, is the first interaction a user has with your app. It is your app's first chance to make the right impression and evoke an image or emotion to encourage someone to become a user. To identify the type of imagery or emotional response you want to give users, you first need to identify the purpose of your app and its targeted audience. You'll want to conjure different feelings in users for a financial app than a social networking app for twenty-somethings.
Quest, for example, is a to-do list app that evokes the emotion of setting off on an epic journey. 7 Minute Workout Challenge, on the other hand, is a straight-forward name but with a nod to what its audience desires: brevity with “7 Minute” and a game-like motivation to exercise with “Challenge.”
This targeted emotion should continue throughout your app's user experience. It's carried from the title to the icon to the login to the screens and straight to the purpose of your app. Savvy Apps’ Agenda Calendar app evoked the idea of a traditional paper calendar in the title and carried that theme throughout the app with simple minimal design, keeping a consistent experience for the user. This is also apparent in Quest, the to-do app mentioned earlier. Really the user is just creating and completing tasks, but the name, as well as the classic sprite hero, enemies and sound effects carry the game-like ambience throughout the app.
Once you've nailed down the endgoal and audience for your app, you need to move on to identify images and emotions that will resonate with your target audience. Brainstorm. Let the ideas flow by researching descriptive words or imagery. Vet the list by picking the words that stand out and appeal on a shallow level, then dig deep.
Make sure you research the meanings of each word to ensure your potential names will resonate the emotion you want with your intended audience. Words often carry more than one meaning based on the reader's age, race, culture, and life experience. For example, the word “mate” has a number of connotations. It could mean a lifelong partner to one, a good pal or friend to another (depending on the hemisphere where you live), while the verb should only be reserved for the more scandalous of apps.
Avoid words that evoke negative emotions. Don’t follow the lead of Rotten WiFi, Anonymous, and these other examples of startup names gone wrong
Make it Recognizable #
Now that you’ve started considering names for your app based on user appeal and emotion, you need to focus your brainstorm to ways your app’s name can reveal the literal purpose of the app. Users need to understand the point of your app just by looking at its name and icon. If the name isn't clear, the icon should solidify the purpose of the app. While the point of Instagram may not be apparent from the name, the camera icon gives users a good clue that the app deals with photos. Pair the two and you can guess at the app's purpose thanks to the name's “gram” - “telegram” - “Instagram” social clues and the camera-like icon.
Savvy Apps’ Today Weather, for example, makes it apparent that the app is about weather without forsaking a memorable name like “Today.” Additionally, the “Today” name is focused on the key aspect of the app, the "Today" screen that gives you all the information you need to plan your day.
If you have an existing, well-performing brand, you may choose to use that brand recognition in naming your app. This is especially important for apps that will be predominantly used by existing customers. The brand name points to what the user already knows about the company while signaling to existing customers that this is the app they should use to benefit from the quality interactions they’ve already experienced with the company. It’s not required, however. Notice that Bank of America and Chase use their brand names in their app titles. PNC, on the other hand, opts for the more literal title “Virtual Wallet” for its app name.
Irrelevant app names face more than user dismissal. Of all the apps rejected by Apple over a weeklong period in June 2015, 3 percent didn't have names, descriptions, screenshots or previews that were relevant to the app's content and functionality. Google Play's Developer Program Policies also warns against packing your app name with irrelevant or spammy keywords
Learn From What's Already Out There #
This is especially important for those looking to enter a crowded app store category. Take a look at what similar apps are named and the emotions and images they evoke. What do you think works? What doesn't?
Replicate your competitors' success without duplicating the name. Adding punctuation (!!!!!) and changing the spelling of another app's name (surely we can fit one more “h” in PHHHOTO) isn't going to earn you brownie points with users. In fact, it may appear less refined and childlike compared to other apps and deter users from downloading.
Apple may outright reject your app if the name is too similar to other apps. About 3 percent of App Store rejections occurred for this reason over a weeklong period in June 2015. Google Play's Developer Program Policies also warns against naming your app something “confusingly similar” to other existing apps.
To keep your app name on the up and up, do a general search for your top name ideas to make sure they're not trademarked by anyone else or used by a less than reputable brand. Optimize for
App Stores, Search, and Social #
Beyond evoking an emotion, recognition, and mimicking success, you need to choose a name that has the chance to maximize your app store ranking potential and attract users through online and social media marketing.
Optimize your name for app store searches but don’t keyword stuff. Pick only the most applicable and high search traffic keywords to place in your title and description. Use them, but do so sparingly. This can help boost your ranking in app store search results, making it more visible to users. Repeating and pluralizing keywords won’t help your ranking. Look for keywords that perform well or are starting to perform well with little competition. Google Keyword Planner is a great free tool to start your keyword search.
Also make sure that your name (or an acceptable version like YourNameApp) is available as a domain name and as social media accounts. You'll need these to market and draw user interest in your app. Use sites like instantdomainsearch.com to quickly find domain options. Google Keyword Planner is a great free tool to use for keyword research
Concluding Note #
There’s a lot of thought that goes into picking the best name for your app. These strategies only just scratch the surface. The ideal name sets the right tone, clarifies the purpose, and makes it easy to rank and market your app. Use these tips to generate name ideas and narrow down your selection. When it’s time to make the final call, go with your gut. Which name appeals to you more? It’s your app, after all.
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