This article is a step-by-step guide explaining how to make an app for Android and list that app on Google Play Store. If you are planning on submitting your app on Apple Store as well, please pay attention to How to List an App on Apple Store?.
This guide starts with the checklist of what you should have ready before starting up the process of your app publishing. Then we go through the application submission process bit by bit: from creating an account on Google Play to setting a price and a distribution plan for your application.
- Have your app ready. You can roll out your app to production and testing tracks. The production track is the final release that makes it available to all users on Google Play. The testing track makes your app available for open testing – a great opportunity to weed out the bugs and crashes hiding in your code and get feedback. If you have a paid app, then you will need to create Google Wallet Merchant Center account.
- Think of a unique Bundle ID for your app. The bundle ID represents your app and should, therefore, make sense, so most developers use the reverse domain name notation, for example, com.wiredelta. Your Bundle ID can not be changed after the first app build is uploaded.
- Prepare your signed app release. Your application has to be digitally signed with a certificate before it is installed or updated on any device.
Android uses this self-signed certificate to identify the app author (you), who holds the certificate's private key. This digital “key” provides a unique, encrypted, and reasonably unhackable signature.
The certificate together with the key proves that your app belongs to you via a key store. The key store is a simple file with a really large block of encrypted data. There are two types of key stores that you should be aware of: debug and release. Keystore files are also protected by a pair of passwords: one for the key store file itself and another for each key store/alias pair within the file.
You can sign an app in debug or release mode. You sign your app in debug mode during development and in release mode when you are ready to distribute your app. The Android SDK generates a certificate to sign apps in debug mode. To sign apps in release mode, you need to generate your own certificate.
- Check the size of your app. If it is bigger than 100 MB, you will need APK expansion files to break it up into parts so you can upload it to Google Store.
An Android Package Kit (APK) is the package file format used by the Android operating system for the distribution and installation of mobile apps. The app developers use Gradle to build APKs in the Android Studio. For most apps, this is plenty of space for all the app's code and assets. However, some apps need more space for high-fidelity graphics, media files, or other large assets.
Google Play allows you to attach two large expansion files that supplement your APK - the main and patch extension files. While you can use the two expansion files any way you wish, we recommend to have the primary assets in the main expansion file and use the patch expansion file for smaller updates to the main file with each major release or as necessary.
- You should be signed up to Google Play Console. To become a Play Publisher complete the 4 simple steps:
- You have to be at least 18 years old
- Accept the Developer Distribution Agreement regarding the distribution of your app on Google Play
- Pay a $25 one-time registration fee. There are no extra expenses if you decide to upload an application update in the future
- Complete your account details. Remember that your “Developer name” is displayed to customers on Google Play
As soon as you crossed everything off from the checklist, you can start the application submission process at the Google Play store.
The application submission
1) Get your app information ready
Login in to your Play Publisher account and familiarize yourself with the left-hand menu.
1.1) Fill in the All Applications tab
In the left-hand menu select All Applications and click on Create Application to start creating your app. Then choose a language and title (name of the application) and click Create
1.2) Filling in the Store Listing tab
The next step is to fill in all the most important information about your application. Click on Store Listing and get acquainted with its sections: Product Details, Categorization & Contact Details.
- Title has a limit of 50 characters and should be intuitive and easy to spell. It is crucial to differentiate your app from the competition. Here are some tips to name your app
- Short description is critical for persuading users to install your app on their phones. It is a summary of your app the users will see on the app’s listing. Thus, make sure to include the most relevant and concise information in the first three lines
- Full description highlights your app’s benefits and key functionalities. The full description allows you to elaborate on more details about your app. It has a limit of 4000 characters though, so make sure to be informative and include your keywords. When opening the app’s store listing, users can read the first sentence of your description without tapping on “read more”
The next step is adding screenshots. In the left-hand menu select Store Listing and click Browse Files and the + button. The minimum requirement is 2 JPEG or 24-bit PNG screenshots, but we recommend aiming for 7-8 screenshots with the most interesting ones at the beginning. Whether it is height or width, the maximum dimension (3840px) of your screenshot can’t be more than twice as long as the minimum dimension (320px).
Be sure to add the screenshots in the correct sizes not only for Phone but also for Tablet, Android TV or Wear OS.
If you want your app to appear in the “Designed for Tablet” section on Play Store, you have to upload the app screenshots suitable for a 7-inch and 10-inch tablet. Do not forget to save your draft!
After you uploaded the screenshots, complete the Product Details section:
- High-res icon: Click Add High-Res icon to add an app icon that appears on your users’ devices when downloaded. Adapted to be displayed across different device models, it must be at least 512 X 512
- Feature graphic: In the Google Play Store you will find the feature graphic displayed at the top of your Store Listing page. Even though adding a feature graphic is considered optional, you want Google to have it in case they decide to feature your app. Make sure your featured graphic is a plain, bright, accented image that advertises your app with limited writing
Featured apps are displayed on the main page to draw users' attention: the user might run into your app, while doing a brand search, browsing through the “Recommended” section or stumbling upon it in the Ads section on the Play Store.
- Promo graphic: If your app has already gained popularity and achieved high ratings on Google Play, adding promo graphic is a wise thing to do. If you are lucky, your trendy application might win a place for its promo graphics at the top. It is hard to predict when your app’s downloads are going to break out, so we highly recommend to upload promotional graphics
- Promotional video: Along with the feature and promo graphics you have a possibility to a link to a promotional video (this can be a YouTube link) that helps users understand your app better and can improve your app’s conversion rate. Producing a good promotional video can be costly, but it is an asset as powerful as your app icon beating the app screenshots in their importance
Categorization and Contact Details
Once you are done with the product details, it is time to go through the Categorization section.
- Application Type: it is either an app or a game
- Relevant Category: choose a relevant for your app category
Art & Design, Auto & Vehicles, Beauty, Books & Reference, Business, Comics, Communications, Dating, Education, Entertainment, Events, Finance, Food & Drink, Health & Fitness, House & Home, Libraries & Demo, Lifestyle, Maps & Navigation, Medical, Music & Audio, News & Magazines, Parenting, Personalization, Photography, Productivity, Shopping, Social, Sports, Tools, Travel & Local, Video Players & Editors, Weather
- Content rating: you will have to fill out the questionnaire later in its tab.
Remember to check, whether you filled in the personal details correctly. Do not forget to click on Save Draft!
Congratulations! You have a solid draft of your future application:
After clicking on your application, you will see the following screen:
At this step, you can test your application. You can only benefit from alpha and beta testing since it allows you to check the effectiveness of its marketing message, optimize the app’s performance, undergo quality control and get qualitative feedback from the users!
So we recommend you to test your app first (Google has collected the testing best practices here). After the tests are completed, you can use the same build to production – you do not need to upload your app again.
2) Upload the APK or app bundle files
It is time to get back to your checklist! Click on App Releases and prepare the unique bundle ID, signed app release, and expansion files for upload before the app release. Then select Manage Production (after you run the tests), click on Create Release and move on to Google Play App Signing.
On this page, you will have to choose between using Google Play app signing on your app and signing in locally (by clicking on Opt Out). Most choose the first option because Google keeps your signing key safe and guarantees that you will be able to receive any updates through the lifespan of your application. If you, however, decide to opt out, be ready to take a few things into consideration. Those considerations are not part of this article, but you are welcome to familiarize yourself with them here.
Now it is the time to upload your APK. Hit the Browse Files button and choose your app’s APK or App Bundle files. You will also need to name the release (it could be a version number). The tab What’s New In This Release allows you to add a brief description of the updates to an existing app. Remember to hit the Save button!
3) Set your app’s content rating
In the left-hand menu find the Content Rating tab, then enter and confirm your email address. Later on, categorize your application to receive an initial content rating from various rating authorities.
Content ratings help consumers understand what type of content they can expect to exist within your app and share their experiences on Google Play by rating it with a star rating and review.
When you have filled out the questionnaire, click on Save → Calculate rating → Apply Rating. If you have done everything as it should be, you should see the following image:
4) Set pricing and a distribution plan
In the left-hand menu choose the Pricing & Distribution tab, where you decide whether your app will be paid or free and which markets you want to launch the app in first. Be aware that you will not be able to change the price after you have saved your app as free. Switching from a paid to free app setting is however possible at any time.
Pay attention to COPPA, if your app is designed for children aged under 13. Your app needs to be compliant with privacy regulations, so read through this guide to ensure your app successful release. Otherwise, click NO under Primary Child Directed.
5) Publish your app
Finally, we are at the very last step! You are now ready to release your app, so return back to App Releases that you can find at the left-hand menu.
If you ran the app tests before, it is time to hit the Manage Production button. Then click the buttons in the following order: Edit Release → Review → Start Rollout to Production → Confirm.
Congratulations! Your hard work has paid off, and you have just submitted your app to the Google Play Store! Within a few hours, you can expect your app to be published on the Google Play store in the preselected countries.