Creating an app is not easy. You might have worked on it for weeks or even months to get a version that you (or your clients) are happy with. However, this is only half the work, and the rest is concerned with getting your app live and running on the App Store.
Once you submit your app for reviews, it takes about 24-48 hrs for you to get a response from the App Store’s review team. Apple is infamous for its closed ecosystem and tight control. Any deviations from their app guidelines will warrant immediate rejection. The whole process is even more rigorous for apps that accept user-generated content.
What if Apple rejects your app?
The first thing to do is go through the rejection email carefully. Usually, the App Store team gives a detailed description of what has gone wrong.
For example, Suppose you violated section 1.2 of App store guidelines which deal with User-Generated content. In that case, this is the typical response mail you will receive:
Your app enables user-generated content but does not have the required precautions in place.
Please revise your app to implement all of the following precautions:
- Require that users agree to terms (EULA). These terms must make it clear that there is no tolerance for objectionable content.
- Have a method for filtering objectionable content.
- Have a mechanism for users to flag objectionable content.
- Have the ability to block abusive users from the service.
- The developer must act on objectionable content reports within 24 hours by removing the content and ejecting the user who provided the offending content.
From this message, it is clear that your app was rejected for not providing enough features for users to control what they wish to see inside the app. Start building the solution from here.
Whatever be the reason for your rejection, the great thing about App Store is that it has a vast developer community, and most issues are well-documented. So even if you don’t get your answer from the email, there are multiple forums, guides, or agencies that can help.
Remember, the benefits of having a Mobile app for your business far outweigh any minor inconveniences you might have during its development. So stick to it.
Why are ‘special guidelines’ for user-generated content required?
Consider you are a team of 5 people managing a social media app with 10,000 active users. Each user, on average, shares one post a day in the form of either text, image, or video. That’s about 10,000 content pieces in 3 different formats that your team has to go through every day to find out if they are within the App Store guidelines!
Now think about the case where you have a flag/report button on each content. Regulating your app becomes much easier with users actively participating in removing anything that doesn’t fit their taste (and your policies in the process). You can even prioritize the user reports- content that receives the most flags in a specific timeframe requiring the greatest attention and vice versa.
This level of app self-cleansing is why the App Store ‘Special Guidelines’ exist. It prevents the proliferation of offensive content like pornography, objectification, threats, and bullying.
How do you prevent UGC Appstore rejection?
If this is your first time creating an app with User-Generated content, keeping in mind these 7 points will drastically reduce any chance of the App Store rejecting it:
1. Written policy against objectionable content in T&C
It is essential to inform your new users about the app’s policies regarding user-generated content well in advance. Adding a section about this in the terms and conditions is the best way to go about it. No new user should be allowed to sign up without accepting your app’s T&C.
Your App’s T&C should elaborate on the following two points in much detail:
- Respecting others rights: Dealing with privacy, IP, copyrights, spam, bullying, harassment, and defamation
- Safety: 3rd party apps, external linking, use of bots and crawlers, soliciting login information and similar infringements
2. Providing flag or report button for objectionable content
The App Store requires you to provide a mechanism where users can flag or report objectionable content. There will be a 24 hr window before which you need to review the content and take appropriate action.
If the content is deemed inappropriate, you must remove it and warn or suspend the violating user, depending on severity.
3. Provision to filter objectionable content
It is also good practice to allow users to hide content and users they don’t want to see. Providing a simple ‘hide this content’ or ‘Do not show me again’ button should do the trick. These allow users not to see certain content which might not otherwise warrant a report or a block. These also reduce considerable strain on you or your moderators by reducing the number of false reports.
Explore Al-based content filtering systems for prominent apps with a large user base. These includes:
- Using AI-bot to scan text-based content to find banned words
- Using speech recognition software to detect hate speech in podcasts or videos
- Photo filtering to find potentially objectionable images
4. Provision to block or report user
Similar to content, there must also be a provision for users to block or report other users. Moderators must then check the offending user’s profile for guideline violations and temporarily or permanently ban the user if required.
5. Add contact information
The Appstore’s UGC guidelines state that your app should have your official business contact information or support information so that people can easily reach you. A simple contact form will suffice for all intents and purposes, but you can go a step further by adding a help center on your app. This page will contain the most common issues and FAQs, apart from contact details.
6. NSFW content
‘Incidental mature’ content is permitted on the App Store as long as they come from a ‘web-based service’. This is why 9GAG is allowed to host a ‘NSFW’ section in their app. Such content should be hidden by default and only be allowed to turn on from the app’s website.
7. Other General guidelines you should know about
Apart from the above mentioned specific guidelines for apps with UGC content, there are also a few general guidelines that you must keep in mind before submitting your app for review:
- Proper age-rating
- No inappropriate content
- Shouldn’t imitate or copy another app
- Have transparency in user data usage
- It should be stable without bugs and crashes
- Remove any broken links or dummy content
- Compatibility across various devices and iOS versions
- Shouldn’t have any private API
- The app should not be slow
- Accurate and up-to-date meta information