Applying for the Designed for Families Program on Google Play

I just hope it's worth the time and effort!

Applying for the Designed for Families Program on Google Play
image by Mike

As I want to create a non-violent, semi-educational game I thought it would be a good idea if Pics n Mix was in the Designed for Families Program on Google Play. Apps designed specifically for children must participate in the Designed for Families Program (which Pics n Mix is not) but if an app targets both children and older audiences it may still participate in the Designed for Families Program.

There is a long list of Families Policy requirements that the app must meet. Once I felt that Pics n Mix met all the requirements, I submitted it for review, and four days later I received a feedback email from Google Play.

Conditionally Passed

I was very excited and even tweeted about this major step forward. As per the email I immediately added their email to my testing group and published the next release of Pics n Mix.

Unfortunately, two days later I got the same email response, saying the app is accepted conditionally into the Designed for Families Program but that I needed to add their email to the testing group and submit the app for another review. I tried a few more updates but after receiving the same response I decided to publish the app to the Open Testing track where anyone can test it.

The update I published on this track included an important bug fix. Sometimes a player could complete a puzzle, but the game engine did not register that it had been completed. I couldn’t pin down the problem as it happened so rarely. Anyway, I had found and fixed the problem and it was part of this release which the Google Team would be able to review.

Disaster! This version was rejected and not published, meaning that people testing the app for me would still only be able to test the previous version which included the bug.

Rejected

I reviewed my app, looking to see where it may offer “Ads that are not clearly distinguishable from your app content”. The only thing I could think of was that an interstitial ad played before the player started the fourth puzzle, so I removed this and resubmitted the app. This was also rejected but with a longer list of possible violations.

Rejected Again

As each submission and review cycle was taking between two and five days I didn’t want to try and find the problem via trial and error, so I contacted their policy support team as per the email. This is done via a web form which says you cannot ask for advice – you just state where you disagree with their decision. At this point I was beginning to think that I should ditch the idea of applying for Pics n Mix to be in the Designed for Families Program so I could get on and publish it to production.

However, I did receive a very helpful explanation of what the problem was and what I needed to change. The problem was that “we do not allow ads or offers for in-app purchases that are not clearly distinguishable from your app content.” I had thought that the icons on the Powerup Buttons made it clear which ones involved a reward ad but clearly not.

Rejected Buttons

I followed their suggestions, and updated them to look like this:

Acceptable Buttons

I resubmitted the updated app only to receive the dreaded “Conditionally Passed” email saying please add their email to the testing group and submit the app for another review! I next contacted the Google Play Developer Support team saying that the email was already part of the test group and that it was released on the Open track anyway.

They responded within 24 hours and after various exchanges they advised that I publish the new release on all testing tracks: Internal, Closed, and Open. This I did, and two days later I received an email from the Google Play Team saying that the latest version was live and available to all testers. But no mention of whether the app had been accepted in the Designed for Families Program.

So, another email to the Support Team and it turns out that, “If you didn’t receive any rejection email, then your app is already accepted to the Designed for Families Program.” What an anti-climax, and a bit odd given the formal and formatted email saying it had conditionally passed. More disappointing is that the Google Play listing doesn’t mention that is a Designed for Families app. I guess I need to add that myself to the app’s description. So overall, a slow and frustrating experience which I hope will prove to be worth it

Lessons Learnt

Download Pics n Mix from Google Play