Meeting the Apple Design Guidelines
Last year, Apple disrupted the online gambling industry by updating its App Store Review guidelines and enforcing existing design standards (4.2 and 4.7) that extend to most sports betting and gaming apps. Apple wants the apps available in its App Store to offer the best user experience and design features true to the platform. In addition, the tech giant wants real-money gambling apps to include content, such as casino games, directly within the app rather than directing customers to external browsers.
Many of these gambling products are container apps (a website wrapped in an app), which means that operators need to rethink the user experience and the level of native functionality for their apps to remain in the App Store. Apple could reject any new submissions or app updates that don’t meet these criteria.
The initial deadline 3 September 2019 was extended to 3 March 2020 which gives operators a more realistic timeframe to update their apps.
Our dedicated team of app UX design specialists put together this review to look at iOS apps of 10 leading UK sports betting operators to find out how their products stand against Apple’s requirements. This report aims to showcase how operators could improve their apps to align with the new app design requirements and offer a better experience to their customers.
Could Apple’s Changes drive Innovation in Online Gambling Apps?
It could be argued that the industry has been lagging in bringing out truly innovative and modern products. Products have been copied to replicate the success of others. Container apps are much cheaper to build than native apps and they’re also much easier to manage. Often, websites are simply adapted to mobile formats without much consideration to the UX.
One of the reasons for this is the complexity of sportsbooks and casinos. These products have a lot of services and content that have been historically displayed upfront on the website. Operators also want to cross-sell their services, so a sportsbook will often contain links to casino or games sections.
Operators have been reluctant to change the usability of their apps in case new functionality or a different experience to their website could put off their customers. However, this has led to very complex and cluttered products that no longer fit modern design standards. While there could be more flexibility for reimagining gaming products for web, it’s much harder for mobile. However, perhaps the drive from Apple could bring some changes to designing online gambling apps and we could start seeing products with cleaner UI and more focused content.
Your app should include features, content, and UI that elevate it beyond a repackaged website. If your app is not particularly useful, unique, or “app-like,” it doesn’t belong on the App Store (Apple, App Reivew).
Apple’s feedback on container apps has focused on the need to offer a great user experience and be app-like as much as possible. Apple doesn’t want its apps to behave like websites and they need to offer a native experience, as well as having games in the binary. This advice concerns all industries and not just online gambling alone.
However, it’s worth noting that Apple doesn’t say that all apps need to be 100% native. They simply want all apps to behave and feel more “app-like”. Container apps with additional native features could easily meet these guidelines with a few design tweaks.
Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines is the best place to refer to for best practice in app design and development. Apple’s own OS is also another great source for inspiration (Photos, Settings, Music, Contacts, etc.).
Despite this, online gambling operators also need to keep in mind the requirements set out by regulators, which might not match Apple’s standards. For example, the footer in a gambling app needs to have certain logos and URLs to Responsible Gambling services, but it makes screens very busy and web-like, which doesn’t fit with Apple’s guidelines. Operators need to rethink this area to find a balance that is in keeping with Apple’s guidelines, but more importantly, that is also compliant.
This review was carried out in October 2019, using an iPhone X.
We used Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines as a basis for our scoring, as this is what Apple reviewers will refer to during the App Store submission process. The review is broken down into the following areas:
- App format
- Form controls
- UI styling
- Biometric authentication
- Loading states and refreshing
- App icon
- App Store screenshots
- Dark mode
- iPad view
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