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What Devs Should Know About App Preferences

What users want in your app? What makes a user download one app and pass on another? What keeps them coming back, and why did a rival app get more installs last month? All these and more questions are what devs face every day in their work trying to create products that serve users.

Here at Setapp, we are facing these exact questions (we offer users 210+ apps in a single subscription). This is why this year, for the first time ever, we conveyed a survey of user preferences in Mac apps. In this first-of-its-kind survey, we asked users about their preferences and app choices. I’d like to share these findings to help devs have a better understanding of user preferences and needs.

Key Findings and Trends

Let’s start with the number of apps an average user has installed. In our survey, respondents had, on average, 31 apps installed on their Mac. About a third of these apps get used daily. This is a very promising finding for developers as it means users are exploring quite a few apps and are ready to use a wide variety of tools to improve their day-to-day Mac experience. So if you are wondering if your app stands a chance with so many others already out there, it probably does.

Laser Focus on Productivity

Another important finding for us is that more than 54% of the users we surveyed closely or very closely identified with the statement that their Mac apps make them feel more productive. And no wonder, a lot of people are working from home these days, they crave structure and additional productivity boosters to help them feel good about this new way to work. On Setapp, productivity apps are very popular, e.g. Paletro, Collabio, Session, ClearVPN, Diagrams, CleanShot X, MindNote, Canary Mail, NotePlan, 2Do, Dropshare, Unclutter, Mate Translate, Pagico, Paste, Timing… All these apps help structure projects and optimize workflow.

So when you are thinking up your next app idea — or working on improving your existing app — focus on the pains of your potential users and solve them in the most efficient way. This is what can make your app an in-demand, indispensable tool that you want it to be.

Survey Bar Graph: "My Mac Makes Me Better"

Apple Silicon Compatibility

No surprise here — most users who already got their Apple Silicon Mac to want their apps to support the chip. Our findings show that 73% of Apple Silicon owners consider native support of M1 chips by apps they use or consider for use is very important. Don’t abandon your apps, keep them updated and optimized for the latest Apple software and hardware.

On top of that, the press love to cover this sort of update, so adding M1 chip support to your app has the potential to not only get your users excited but also score some coverage in Mac-themed media.

Survery Bar Graph: "Apple Silicon: The Market is Ready"

Essentials that Help Your App Stand Out

In this second part, I’d like to point out the three main characteristics that our survey showed had the potential to make an app more appealing to Mac users.

Designed for Mac

Our survey showed that Mac users prefer apps designed specifically for Macs. My advice would be to put real effort into the design and UX of your app, make sure accessibility is up to par.

At MacPaw (we make Setapp, CleanMyMac X, and a few other products you might have heard of), we make a point of updating our apps to match every major release by Apple, like a new macOS or any other significant changes. This helps our users know that they are in good hands and their apps are always in sync with their machine.

Don’t Skip Trial

In our findings, users indicated they actually appreciate having a trial to make a decision about any given app. So don’t skip on offering a trial version of your product — this allows users to try out the app and see how it fits with their routine without the stress of having to make a purchasing decision when they aren’t even sure the app will solve their problem.

Overall, app purpose (it does what it says), price, and free trial option were the top three factors respondents identified as decisive in their app purchasing decision-making.

Survey Bar Graph: "The App Purchase Decision"

Purchase Options

If you are not sure if your app should come as a subscription service or a one-time license, don’t worry, users don’t have a clear preference either. Many Mac users are open to both options, but note that those who prefer a one-time purchase are a larger group (36%), while 14% prefer subscriptions.

Survey Bar Graph: "Apps That Don't Break The Bank"

The Takeaway

To sum it all up, it looks like developing Mac apps is a fruitful effort for as long as users like their Macs. In our Mac apps survey, we found that users are ready to pay for apps that they feel make them more productive.

And since user preferences change in tune with tech market trends and innovations, devs need to keep a close eye on what users want in apps to be able to stand out in a competitive market and make their amazing Mac apps even better.

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