I spent more than 7 years crafting mobile apps for the Moroccan and MENA audiences. Most of them have good daily downloads and highly active users. In this article, I will distill 7 principles for increasing your chances of achieving the same results.

1 — Arabic 👑

If your app targets the MENA audience, you should absolutely opt for Arabic as the main language for both: the app and the store listing (Google Play Store and Apple App store), English or french come after.

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. Nelson Mandela

It’s true that English is gaining field when it comes to internet communication however when it comes to emotional decisions like downloading an app or buying a product… users, prefer to use platforms in their native languages¹.

60% of Arabic speakers prefer browsing internet content in Arabic. That figure surges to 97 per cent in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.¹

2 — Android first, then iOS

In 2019, that’s a fact, Android is the winner platform for mobile products in the MENA region, your app should definitely be present in the Google play store first unless your product market or business model is very specific.

This is the usage of Android per country:

Android: 🇪🇬 Egypt (80%), 🇲🇦 Morocco (90%), 🇩🇿 Algeria (95%), 🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia (75%), 🇹🇳 Tunisia (90%), 🇯🇴 Jordan (84%), 🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates (80%), 🇧🇭 Bahrain (80%), 🇮🇷 Iran (88%), 🇮🇶 Iraq (78%), 🇶🇦 Qatar (83%), 🇰🇼 Kuwait (73%)…

Source: http://gs.statcounter.com/os-market-share/mobile/africa

3 — Western UI/UX is not always the best

I believe that each region defines its own UI/UX principles based on the local culture and psychology that cannot be transferred while guaranteeing the same result. The MENA user is a new technologist, he/she wants to get straight to the point with less interaction and less UI sophistication (this is an experience based on A/B tests).

I would recommend an easy-going UI/UX, that displays all necessary data at once and that relies on onboarding each new feature (don’t over complicate things)

For more details on the subject, I highly recommend you to read this article by Anna Rubkiewicz

If your business 💰 model relies on advertisement, make sure to find a balance between content and ads.

Not every empty spot is for adds!

4 — Target old/weak devices too

Unlike, the American and European market where technology is easily acquirable, the MENA market is deprived of this privilege. the MENA minimum wage doesn’t allow to easily upgrade the computer or phone ($120 USD/month in Tunisia), so the user automatically tends to keep the same device for 2 or 3 years before thinking of changing it. Companies and developers should be aware of this fact by adapting the product to work seamlessly and smoothly on old and weak devices.

Most used phones in the MENA (source)

Samsung Galaxy J1, Samsung Galaxy Prime Plus, Condor Plume P6 Pro LTE iPhone 7, LP EVORA light, the similarity between these devices is low RAM (2GB), Weak processor and small storage space

Most used Android versions in the MENA

Lollipop (5.1), Marshmallow (6.0)

5 — Moderate your updates

Who would keep a 🐛 buggy app ? or even an app that keeps updating each day? Many companies push updates in a high frequency, sometimes more than once a day and others push 1 per years. Keep your app updates ratio between 2 and 4 weeks If it’s not a critical bug.

6 — Reasonable app size

Keep your app size reasonable, not all users have enough space to install a new app and if he does, he won’t hesitate to uninstall it at first need of data space.

Take an example of Lydec app, a simple android app where the user could pay electricity and water plus some optional features eg invoices and news, this app size exceeds 58 MB (> 100mb after installing it.) which could be compressed for less than 20mb by deleting redundant resources, optimizing heavy images, removing unused libraries and enabling proguard/R8

💡 I personally would recommend a maximum size of 12mb, if you’re developing for Android, please export your application as an aab; Android App Bundles

7 — Talk to your community

Releasing your mobile application isn’t the goal, don’t push and disappear, the user wants to express his feedback. Discuss, analyze, interact with the community and keep pivoting. This is the only secret to build a solid product and gain notoriety and of course a good play/app store rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you for reading : )

You can also reach out to me on twitter @Medyo80

1: https://arabiangazette.com/an-online-arabic-content-revolution-in-the-making/