It’s been a thrilling three months for Windows 8 developers up and down the country, as they’ve gone head-to-head in a prestigious app-building competition run by Microsoft in association with Future Publishing – the home of such well-known digital media brands as Tech Radar, .net magazine and Creative Bloq.
The contest, which offered a range of amazing prizes worth a total of £40,000, reached its heady climax on the evening of 7th February. Entrants travelled to London with friends and family for a glittering awards ceremony, where prizes were given out for the top 10 shortlisted apps and the overall Grand Prize winner.
The awards night, which took place at London’s Modern Jago, showcased the high standard of apps currently being developed for Windows 8. Developers are keen to build apps for the platform, as they can now take advantage of unique features such as Live Tiles, Contracts and SkyDrive to design experiences that engage with millions of consumers in exciting new ways. And the apps on show, including everything from social media clients to music apps, creative games and beyond - demonstrated the huge range of possibilities Windows 8 offers.
The judging panel featured representatives from Future’s leading design and technology titles, including the Digital Design Group's editor-in-chief Dan Oliver, Creative Bloq's Craig Stewart, .net magazine editor Oliver Lindberg, and Computer Arts editor Nick Carson. Rounding out the panel was deputy editor of Tech Radar Dan Grabham, who has been using and writing about Windows 8 since the early developer preview build.
All were extremely impressed with the high quality of entries to the competition, with an imaginative mix of those that had kept to the style guide for Windows 8-style apps and those who had taken Windows apps to a new level.
But there could only be ten shortlisted winners and one overall winner. These were introduced by Tim O’Brien, who leads the platform strategy group in Developer & Platform Evangelism at Microsoft, and has been at the forefront of the company’s cloud efforts since 2005. The winners were handed their gongs by Declan Gough, publisher of Future's Digital Design Group, and the night was rounded off with a thank-you speech by Anna Kinney, director of Microsoft’s Live@edu program.
You can find out who the victors were and learn about their winning apps here.
10 reasons you should develop an app for Windows 8
Jonathan Seal and Matt Salmon of Mando Group reveal 10 reasons you should start developing for Windows 8 today!
Given the strong existing market for apps across Android and iOS, developers could be forgiven for thinking “why bother?” with Microsoft’s latest offering – or at least adopting a “wait and see” approach following the release of Windows 8 only last month.
And let’s face it, even without ambiguity on sales for devices or Windows 8 installs, the Windows Store is not exactly the bustling marketplace Microsoft would like to see. Microsoft is avoiding stats –partly for legitimate reasons – but even the most ardent supporter would acknowledge that the much-hyped 100,000 apps in the store by January 2013 is reliant on engaging with developers on an unprecedented scale.
Regardless of whether the Windows team are covered in egg or champagne at the end of Windows 8’s first quarter, the only thing that matters longer-term is how much of an impact it makes in those critical tablet and mobile markets, so you’d have to be pretty confident to suggest jumping into Windows 8 app development now, right? Yes. Here are ten reasons it makes sense …
The potential user base
On the desktop it might not seem like the behemoth that is Windows 7, and comparing numbers with iOS for phones and tablets makes uncomfortable reading too, but don’t be fooled into thinking Windows 8 won’t give you the audience your app deserves.
The somewhat sluggish start to the release is to be expected from consumers. Remember that Windows 8 is a far broader platform than iOS and Android, and will accompany a far wider range of target devices. A less tightly-controlled product range is bound to lead to some hesitation and the sense that a different/better Windows 8 device may arrive imminently. That inertia will fade as the gravitational pull of 1bn existing Windows users starts to feed into upgrades and new product cycles, and the marketing machine of Microsoft push into their more traditional home-office and office user base.
In this frontier world, smaller developers also have more potential to make an impact than is now the case on established platforms. Lower app numbers can work in your favour as we see a repeat of Android and iOS consumption behaviour, with new platform users willing to give apps a chance before more conservative habits kick-in.
A realistic platform for business users
Ever tried to do more than just view Office documentation or calendar entries on your beautiful Apple tablet? It may be a joy leafing through magazines and media surfing, but some of us have work to do! There’s only so many times you can play the “Email to self, edit in Pages, email to self” ping pong game before the whole thing seems very cumbersome.
Windows 8 has business productivity built into its bones, a fact that will inevitably drive adoption by IT managers previously resistant to the clamouring for tablets. This creates scope for apps geared around the Office suite of course, but just as critically the adoption of Win 8 tablet computing across the mainstream business community significantly builds up the overall market for apps of all kinds. And these business users are unlikely to leave their shiny Win 8 tablets at the office in the evenings, right?
It provides new creative opportunities for app designers
We asked Anthony Dry, Lead Designer at Mando Group, for his take on what the new UI provides for creatives.
“The biggest opportunities with Windows 8 are a result of the radical departure from the typical skeuomorphism we see on phone and tablets. In reading content you still have a sense that you are picking up a leather-bound book from a bookshelf and turning pages, but Microsoft’s ‘content over chrome’ approach has broken that link and created something extremely minimalist which is also extremely beautiful. The live tiles and full screen view of your app both deserve a mention, as they allow me to provide great information and functionality for users without having to take up space with unnecessary design clutter, all within a consistent UI experience.
“Another key part of the landscape is the infinite canvas, forcing you to design in a very responsive and scalable way for use across the range of devices all using the same app. In designing financial apps it creates great opportunities to enhance data, and it will be interesting to see how games designers bring the canvas into their thinking to create a truly platform specific concept game.”
You may already have the development skills you need
If you have a background in Windows application development, or you’re a web developer using the Microsoft technology stack, then moving into Windows 8 territory will offer many familiar and reassuring landmarks. The developer tools are rolled into the same Visual Studio suite already offered, and the choice of development approaches evolve and iterate upon existing languages and syntax.
Developers of Windows rich client applications will already have skills in XAML, the markup language used to define the structure, layout and visual theme of application components. A variant of this language, combined with Visual Basic.NET, C# or C++ for logical application control, is the belt-and-braces approach for native Windows 8 app development.
HTML5 is a full-fledged application platform in Windows 8
Best-of-breed development tools. For free.
Microsoft receives a lot of heat in the press about the quality of their software (Windows Vista, anyone?).As a Goliath in the software space they tend to polarise opinion, but one of the truly outstanding products Microsoft offer is their developer workbench, Visual Studio. If you’re a developer on the Microsoft platform the chances are you already have everything you need, but even for a hobbyist the barrier to entry couldn’t be lower thanks to the free “Express” flavours such as Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows 8.
Once you have the tools installed, getting a “hello world” app up and running takes minutes. From there the learning curve is a gentle incline thanks to Visual Design surfaces, intuitive debugging features and an inbuilt device simulator to check how your app responds on different hardware. When you’re ready to dive deeper and build your first app, you couldn’t be better supported, with extensive API documentation, sample apps and guides on Microsoft’s DevCenter, not to mention recorded sessions from Microsoft’s Dev Camps events available via Channel 9. Even for the die-hard Android or iOS developer, there’s a lot here to tempt.
Cool platform features
Nobody is going to be interested in creating a new app for a mobile or tablet device unless they have access to all the ‘old hat’ features offered by competitors, plus some innovative differentiators. In Windows 8, the ‘expected’ features, from geolocation to splash screens, are delightfully easy to implement using code samples available in the DevCenter.
Here’s our pick of 3 top differentiating features in Windows 8:
a. Notifications for any occasion. Live tiles provide the user with at-a-glance updates directly from their start screen. Toast notifications, which pop out much in the same way as their namesake, are slightly more demanding of the user’s attention. You can even show small notifications on the ‘locked’ screen when the device is not being used. All are highly configurable.
b. Background task framework. Allows your app to do work even when the app isn’t running, such as sending a notification, or fetching data from the web.
c. Contracts. These are the Windows 8 platform’s way of saying “if you do this, your app will get all that infrastructure and functionality for free”. Your app can be searchable, shareable and use a common user settings framework by implementing the appropriate contracts.
Connected standby allows apps to keep their data fresh
It’s clear that Microsoft have put some serious ground-up thought into the user experience of Windows 8. One of the biggest gripes Windows users have had is the extended startup time when their PC is being switched on, so it’s a delight to see a Microsoft OS which snaps into life within seconds of being woken. But what’s going on under the hood when the device is in standby mode is also significant from an application perspective, as the default ‘off’ mode is a state known as ‘connected standby’.
In connected standby mode, the objective is for the device to use almost as little power as if it were switched off, meaning that there is no need for sleep or suspend options. However, apps can still receive data and respond to events, such as keeping Live Tiles updated with fresh content or receiving emails, albeitwith a throttled power allowance dictated by the hardware. A great summary of how this works and supported application scenarios can be read on the ‘building Windows 8’ blog.
Straightforward publishing of your app to the Windows Store
So you’ve installed the tools, got a developer licence, chosen your development language, read the documentation and put together your first Windows 8 application. Time to unleash it upon the world!
Your application must pass the certification requirements published by Microsoft before it can be included in the Store, but the terms of these requirements are explained in plain English and there is a Certification Kit available which means that you can validate many of the requirements yourself before submission. Visual Studio provides the means to package your application and upload it to the store via the Store menu, and once submitted you will receive feedback on each stage of the certification process, including any reasons for rejection. As an application provider logging on to the Store, you have access to a dashboard which shows downloads, revenue and ways to improve your app, plus comparisons with other similar apps. If you tweak your app as a result of this feedback, you’re free to submit updates to your app as long as you describe the updates and do not reduce functionality.
And finally…It pays more (in theory)
For most developers, the dream of striking gold with a commercial app remains just that. However, if you do create something staggeringly popular, your returns from the Windows store will be proportionally higher than those of a few other app stores we could mention. When your app’s lifetime revenue hits the equivalent of $25,000 you move from the industry standard 70% up to 80%.
And to help oil those commercial wheels, standard Windows store functionality allows you to create a single app that also acts as a time or feature limited trial, enabling users to transition to the fully paid app without losing data or settings and saving you time and effort managing multiple versions of the code base. As expected, they also offer in-app purchasing, advertising, and third-party transactions to support monetisation for your apps. What are you waiting for?
10 great resources for developing Windows 8 apps!
Windows 8 is here, and it has the potential to be huge! The majority of new Windows tablets and PCs will be bundled with Microsoft’s latest operating system in 2013, and if you want to steal a march on the competition then you should be thinking about developing apps for Windows 8 right now.
Microsoft has taken the bold approach to ditch UI elements that have featured in its OS for decades - the Start button, Task Bar, all gone - and Windows 8 apps (or Windows Store apps, as we’re encouraged to call them) will now have a consistent, elegant, minimalistic design and UI, thanks to new a new visual language developed in Redmond.
But where do you start if you want to create an app? In this post we bring you ten ways to prepare for creating your first Windows Store app. From technical preparation to design guidelines, you’ll find everything you need right here. So what’s stopping you? Dive in!
Get hold of Windows 8
Before you do anything, you need to get hooked up with Windows 8. You won’t be able to test or develop any Windows Store apps without it, and there are two main ways to get it as a developer.
If you are already an MSDN member then you can get your hands on a version of Windows 8 under the ‘Download software’ link. There are a host of versions to choose from, and there are no restrictions for MSDN members.
If you’re not an MSDN member, and it’s hardly something you’re likely to pay for if you’re merely experimenting, then you can still get a 90-day evaluation copy of Windows 8 for free here. It’s worth noting, though, that if you do opt to install this version, you can’t then upgrade.
You’ll have to reinstall a previous version, and upgrade from there. With this in mind it’s worth running the trial in a virtual environment. And if you’re on a Mac, simply set up a Windows partition using Boot Camp, Apple’s free utility for running Windows.
Microsoft Visual Studio Express 2012
It’s the IDE of choice for any discerning Windows Store app developer, and this free tool for building apps - based on .Net and the Windows APIs - brings you everything you need in one app.
To develop and test Windows Store apps, you need a developer license, which is free. Following installation, when Visual Studio prompts you, simply follow the prompt to get your license. And don’t forget that Microsoft also provides some great remote testing tools for Visual Studio 2012 here.
Blend for Visual Studio 2012
As part of Microsoft Visual Studio Express 2012 you also get Blend for Visual Studio 2012, a modified version of Microsoft’s app design tool, which now supports visual authoring for HTML and CSS.
Blend for Visual Studio 2012 now has greater support for Windows 8 app features such as bars, Grid view, and view states. In a bid to provide a seamless app development environment for those of you looking to build Windows 8 apps Microsoft has now included native C++ support to this version of Blend, and both Express 2012 and Blend for Visual Studio 2012 share a code base for easy transition between the two apps.
Make great Windows Store Apps
If you’re going to read one article as an introduction to how to make great apps for Windows 8, then this is probably it.
As an overview, it’s a good introduction to the new Microsoft design aesthetic; reiterating the importance of the new touch system, and presenting the new standards for controls and interactions that will - for the first time - provide Microsoft with a consistent user experience across the apps on its OS.
As part of this introduction, you also get a video from Bonny Lau, Senior Program Manager of Windows User Experience. Titled ‘8 traits of great Windows Store apps’, the video does a great job of visually introducing the elements of a Windows 8 app, and also introduces the Contracts system - the way apps can interact with one another. Microsoft calls Contacts the ‘glue that binds’ its apps together, and it opens up exciting opportunities for the way apps will work together in the Windows 8 ecosystem. You can read more about Contracts here.
Planning great apps
The British Army knows a little bit about planning, and there’s an old adage in the military called the 7 Ps, which goes along the lines of Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. There’s a version without the profanity, but it helps reinforce the huge importance of planning in any project.
To help you get this part of the process right, Microsoft has produced a seven step guide, which looks as areas such as features to include, how to monetize your app, tips on a great UI, validating your app and more! The guide is littered with practical tips, and links out to great tutorials such as this one, on animating your UI.
Writing apps (in C#/C++/VB)
If your primary experience is in coding with C#, C++, or Visual Basic then the chances are - unless you’re some kind of masochistic freak - that you’ll want to create your first Windows 8 app using your current skills.
A number of posts help you out with some of the major pain points hat you’ll finds when coding your app, such as the big differences between Windows 8 and other XAML-based platforms (Windows Presentation Foundation, Microsoft Silverlight or Silverlight for Windows Phone).
You’ll also find tips on taking advantage of asynchronous coding, which greatly improves performance and continues to be simplified in the Windows Runtime.You can find all the articles here.
We all love HTML5, right? And Microsoft has been one of the biggest champions of the interactivity that it can bring to your web experience. And now, using those dev skills and more, you can move beyond web apps to create your first Windows 8 app (and take advantage of all the OS benefits that a proprietary app has over a simple web experience).
Designing UX for Windows 8
It’s fair to say that, over the years, interface design and UX isn’t an area that Microsoft has led. Apps and iterations of the OS have looked good, but in its recent design language, known as Modern UI, Microsoft is putting design front-and-centre.
First seen in Windows Phone, and now being rolled out to the Xbox and Windows 8, Modern UI is a bold and brave move beyond the skeuomorphic trends favoured by Apple. It’s clean, typographically elegant, and provides designers with - for the first time in a Windows context - a clear set of design and UX principles.
Microsoft has provided a host of great guides, from top level considerations such as navigation design and how to present page filtering, to primers on how to best brand you app. The Windows 8 touch language, as one of the standout features of Windows 8 apps, gets particular attention, and is probably the most important single topic for devs and designers to acquaint themselves with.
This group of articles is a comprehensive resource, full of great tips and advice, which bring app builders up to speed with the design principles and lingua franca of Windows 8 apps.
Help for iOS app developers
There’s no point avoiding the subject: to get developers on side, Microsoft is doing everything it can to illustrate how easy it is to make the switch from developing iOS apps to the Windows 8 equivalents, and this includes porting over existing products.
To begin with, if you come from an iOS background Microsoft has gone to great lengths to produce documentation to help you along the way. There are basic guides, an Objective-C versus C# overview, and an API mapping index, which enables you to easily cross-reference common iOS APIs with their Windows 8 equivalents.
You can even find a tutorial on translating an iPad app to a Windows Store app, which isn’t about converting your code, but is more about applying Microsoft’s principles to what you’ve no doubt already spent a lot of time crafting. It’s a well written guide, presented by ex-Saatchi & Saatchi Art Director Bart Claeys, who is currently Lead User Experience Designer at Ratio Interactive.
Support for Windows 8 app development
Even if you’re not a member of MSDN, there are a number of great support networks out there, should you choose to develop a Windows 8 app.
First up, you should check out if there’s a Windows 8 Developer Camp happening near you. With camps taking place around the world over the next few months, the chances are that you’ll find one that’s suitable, and the best thing is that they’re completely free. For camps in the UK visit here or for further afield visit here. There are also Windows Store App Labs (London listing) in London and other cities, where you can drop in and play with the latest devices, as well as speaking to experts who can help out with any technical questions you might have.
If you prefer to do your research online, Microsoft has that covered, too. You can access forums here, and there’s a ‘Windows Store for developers’ blog that’s also starting to post content on a more regular basis. So, whether you’re looking for face-to-face guidance, or research at your own pace online, there’s something for everyone.
Tim Myers of Mando Group reveals how to go about creating your first app
The Windows Store is Open! A whole new marketplace is ready and waiting for developers like you to populate it with great apps. With Windows 8, Microsoft has introduced a fundamentally new way of distributing apps to Windows devices, and with the new RT edition it is placing the Windows platform on low-powered, long battery-life devices which move away from the traditional laptop arena and place Windows at the heart of the tablet market.
Developing for Windows 8 really is easy, as this article will demonstrate. There are a few pre-requisites but the support available from the huge Microsoft ecosystem is fantastic, and there really are no barriers to you getting some fantastic apps out there and selling on the Windows Store. So how do we get started?
There are a few pre-requisites to get started, but the first thing you’ll need to be aware of is that in order to build apps for Windows 8 you’ll need to be running Windows 8. If you’re an MSDN subscriber you can get a copy from Subscriber Downloads, but if not Microsoft have priced the upgrade really aggressively; £25 if you download directly from Microsoft, or £50 if you want a DVD sent to you. You can even get a trial version from the Microsoft Evaluation Centre. The upgrade is good for anyone running Windows XP and later, and with such an attractive pricing strategy there is going to be a huge number of people rushing to get upgraded – which means a huge target audience for your application.
The latest version of Microsoft’s seemingly ubiquitous development environment, Visual Studio 2012 has recently been released, and it’s VS2012 which you’re going to need in order to develop and build for Windows 8. For some time Microsoft have provided a free Express version of Visual studio, and the good news is that they’re still offering this. And it does not matter if you don’t have a tablet, Visual Studio includes device simulators which allow you to test as if you were using real hardware.
In order to write your app and ultimately to publish it on the store, a developer licence is required, so now’s the time to get signed up. If you’re an MSDN subscriber you might be able to get a code from your subscription benefits that give you a year’s access to the store for free, but if not it costs £32 for a year.
So how do we get started writing our Windows Store App? Well, it’s simply a case of creating a new project from within Visual Studio, and selecting a Windows Store App in your language of choice.
You get a few choices for the layout of your app: Blank, Grid and Split. A blank project is simply an empty shell in which you can start developing your Windows 8 app; but the Grid and Split templates offer something a little more.
A Grid application allows you to provide an app which lets users navigate categories to discover content that’s relevant. Some great uses of the Grid app template are photo apps, shopping apps, and dashboard apps.
The Split application template shows two columns of data, one which contains an overview or summary, and one which contains a detailed item view. An application based upon the Split template makes a great way to show a news feed, for example.
When you create your first project in Visual Studio, you’ll get a warning message that you need to renew your developer licence. Anyone who developed iOS apps with XCode 3 may get a shudder here as you re-live the pain of installing developer certificates – but fear not, Microsoft have streamlined the process; and Visual Studio simply gets a new licence for you whenever you need one (you can also use PowerShell to manage these licences). If apps you’ve developed stop working, your developer certificate may have expired. Fire up Visual Studio and it should update your licences. If you have a developer licence you are able to run Windows Store Apps which haven’t been tested and certified by the Windows Store, and as a precaution you should therefore be careful as to where you get your apps from!
When you come to publish your app to the store, there are a few more steps that you need to undertake, and we’ve put an article together with all the help you need.
Microsoft Design Language
Microsoft have chosen a completely new design language to use for Windows Store Applications. It’s focussed on improving usability for both touch devices and traditional mouse-driven environments. Microsoft’s ethos for these applications has always been ‘Content Over Chrome’, and implementation of an important set of traits which provide a persuasive user experience without sacrificing either style or coherency.
You can read about the design language in this article, but there are some important concepts your app should implement to get this right:
Have a flexible layout
Design your app to layout on differing size devices, from a small tablet to a large desktop, in both portrait and landscape mode. Make your app flow and scale.
Scale for pixel density
Windows 8 will scale your app to work with the pixel density of the user’s device, so make sure that your images will look great.
Cope with snapped and full views
Users multi-task. Make your app work with them whilst they are doing this for a compelling experience.
Windows 8 provides search and sharing through contracts, let users search their data and share this in a consistent manner.
You can get inspiration for the look and feel of your application from a series of videos Microsoft has placed on the MSDN site which showcase, amongst other things, example news, sports, and entertainment apps
Contracts and Extensions
Windows 8 provides a lot of features to the developer which allow you to reduce the time taken to make your app, by utilising these standard resources we can save development time and effort.
A contract is an interface between one or more Windows 8 apps, allowing them to share an interaction. Windows 8 has a share contract which allows users to send data from one application to another, a great example being sharing a link from a web browser to a Twitter client. Neither app knows anything about the other, but by implementing the share contract my application can interact with any other which offers share, as Windows 8 manages the workflow between the applications.
An extension is also an agreement, this time between Windows 8 and an application. An extension allows your application to provide a customisation of a Windows feature; whether this be for use in your application, or for provision to other applications to use. For example, we could produce a social network app which registers itself to provide contact data. Whenever anyone uses a Windows 8 contact picker to select a person, for example when sending an email, they will be able to select a contact from my social networking application.
Moving from iOS and Android
From a development language perspective, Android developers will feel at home writing C#; both C# and Java have shared a similar design paradigm, they’re both strongly typed, garbage-collected OO languages. iOS developers though will notice the biggest changes (no more reference counting!), and to help you migrate Microsoft has put together a great resource for iOS Devs about the changes you’ll need to think about to move to Win8 App Development. There’s a great guide about the language differences here.
Microsoft have also published a set of resources for iOS developers and designers which take you through the whole lifecycle; design resources, and installing Windows 8 on your Mac, and a tool that helps you map APIs from iOS to those available in Windows 8. There’s also a great article called Design Case Study: iPad to Windows Store App which shows the journey required to reimagine apps for Windows Store.
Where do I get support?
One of the great things about developing for Windows 8 are the developer support communities which Microsoft promote. The MSDN site is the place to visit in the first instance; here you’ll find an excellent resource called ‘Learn to Build Widows Store Apps’. If you have a question about app development, the MSDN forums are frequented by community members, MVPs and Microsoft support staff; and if you see a question in there you know the answer to please answer it and support your community! And if you’re really stuck, you can raise a support ticket with Microsoft and a development specialist will help you resolve your issue. These tickets are chargeable, but if you have an MSDN subscription you will get some support incidents free.
Microsoft also has an active events program, hosting free-of-charge developer events to share knowledge about app development. The Windows 8 DevCamps are held regularly and give a great intense introduction to the Windows 8 environment. Each DevCamp covers different topics, so keep an eye out for one near you, and join the Microsoft team as they give you the insights you need. You can find out more about the DevCamps, their content and where they are being held at in London here or more further afield here.
There are also Windows Store App Labs (London listing) in London and other cities, where you can drop in and play with the latest devices, as well as speaking to experts who can help out with any technical questions you might have.
The UK team also run weekly online clinics with technical experts to answer Windows 8 app questions. For more information visit www.windows-store.co.uk/training
How do I develop for the Surface – what is Windows RT?
The Windows Surface is Microsoft’s take on the tablet hardware market. It comes in two flavours - the RT, which is available now; and the Pro which will be launched early in 2013. The RT uses low-power processors based upon the ARM core (just like the iPad, and a whole plethora of Android tablets), whereas the Pro will use a processor based upon the x86/x64 architecture – just like your laptop or desktop today. The upshot of this is that if you need to run any Windows desktop apps, you’ll need a Pro device, however all Windows store apps are built around architecture independent features which Windows8 provides.
What this means for developers is that Windows 8 takes care of the different processor architectures for you. Whether you wish your application to run on a Surface RT, a laptop, desktop or a Surface Pro, you only have to build and submit a single application to the store, without worrying about the target platform.
From this article you’ve seen that building a Windows Store App doesn’t have to be daunting in the slightest, and from the time you install the development tools you can have an application with some real functionality running within a matter of minutes. If you use the wide array of resources available to you, and remember to follow the navigation and UX guidelines, you’ll be more likely to have happy users of an app which is compelling in both looks and function.
Submitting your app to the Windows Store
Gary Pretty of Mando Group takes you through the submission process for your app, ensuring a painless process
Getting an app into the Store and seeing it available for download by millions of users is a great buzz for any developer. However, in order to make your app available in most stores you first need to go through a certification process, and Windows 8 is no different. If you have not been through this process before then it can be hard to know where to start. Fear not! The process really is quite straightforward and, having been through it myself recently, in this article I am going to explain exactly how it works, along with some helpful hints and tips that should make the whole process that little bit easier. But before we jump in, there's one very important point: include a Privacy statement! It's the number one reasons apps aren't getting through approval, and so make sure you don't forget. Right, let's get started!
In order to submit an application to the Windows Store, you first need to be a registered developer. You can sign up for the Windows Store at http://dev.windows.com, and this is also where you can find loads of resources to help you with your app development as well. As of time of writing the cost of registration is £32, but if you have an MSDN account or are part of some of Microsoft’s various schemes for students, you can get an annual subscription for free.
The Submission Process – Step by step
Once you are registered and you have signed into the development portal, you will be presented with your dashboard. From here you can submit new apps to the Windows Store, as well as manage apps that you have previously published, including viewing reports about usage and the numbers of downloads.
To start the submission process for a new app, click “Submit an app” on the left hand side of your dashboard. At this point you will be presented with a screen showing the 8 steps you need to complete in order to successfully submit your app for certification.
Let’s look at each one of these steps in detail, along with some hints and tips for each;
App Name – Time to complete: 2 minutes
The first item to complete when submitting a new app is to choose a suitable unique name.
In fact, the best advice I can give you here is to complete this step before you start developing your app at all! App names within the Windows Store need to be unique, so as soon as you know what the name of your app is going to be, it is in your interests to complete this step as it will reserve your name for you provided you complete the submission process within 12 months.
As well as choosing a unique name, there are a few other things that you should be considering;
If you are releasing your app in multiple languages then you should reserve an app name for each as appropriate.
Be careful not to infringe on any existing trademarks as this can risk your app being pulled from the Windows Store once you have published it.
Don’t make it too long. You need to remember that the name that you choose will appear in several places, including the tile pinned to the users’ home screen once your app has been installed. Any names that are too long will be cut off and this doesn’t look very professional.
Selling Details – Time to complete: 5 minutes
The second stage in the submission process allows you to choose how your app is sold.
Firstly you must set your app’s Price Tier, which is arguably one of the most important decisions you will make when submitting your app. When choosing a price, you will set it in your native currency and this will then be adjusted appropriately for other markets in which your app is available. The lowest price band, as you might expect, is ‘Free’, which currently accounts for most of the apps within the store. If you wish to charge for your app, then the lowest price you can currently set is £0.99, with the upper limit being set at £724.99! When setting a price for your app, be sure to think carefully about what a reasonable price would be for it and what you think your users are likely to pay for it, as setting the wrong price here could lead to nobody purchasing your app at all.
Next, you need to decide whether you are going to offer a trial of your app for users to road test. Without any changes to your code here you can offer time limited trials for anything between 1 and 30 days, meaning users will be able to install it for free, but that the app will no longer function once the trial has ended unless they purchase it. There is also an option to set a non-expiring trial using the available Trial APIs within the Windows 8 SDK to limit functionality in some way whilst the app is in trial mode.
Then you need to select which markets your app will be available to. Here you can see how much your app will be sold for in the currency of that particular market and it is as simple as ticking each market you wish to target. It is worth noting that in some markets users will only be able to see free apps. More information can be found here.
You can also choose to either have your app published to the store as soon as it passes certification or alternatively to release your app after a certain date.
Finally you need to decide which Categories, and in some cases Sub-Categories, your app will appear within. Make sure you think carefully about which category you might expect to browse to if you were a user who might be looking for something your app provides. You can find a full list of available categories and sub-categories available to you here.
Advanced Features – Time to complete: 5 minutes
In this section you can configure some of the more advanced features of your app, if you wish to take advantage of them.
Firstly, if your app uses Push Notifications or Live Connect services for carrying out tasks such as updating live tiles, accessing SkyDrive or providing a single sign-on experience, then you must provide configure information at this stage in order to be able to test your app’s functionality before submitting it to the store.
Secondly, this screen also allows you to set your In-app offers, more commonly known as in-app purchases. If you are offering any such purchases within your app then you will already have a unique Product ID for each that you are using within your app’s program code. Simply enter the Product ID for each of your purchases, choose a suitable price (the price points for in-app purchases are the same as for apps themselves) and also choose a product lifetime (the length of time for which the feature the user is enabling will be available to them after purchase). The product lifetime default is ‘forever’, but you also have the option of setting various times between 1 and 365 days.
Age Rating and Rating Certificates – Time to complete: 5 minutes
Apps that are submitted to the Windows Store must have a suitable age rating and in this section you choose the one that is most suitable to your app. The available age ratings are 3+, 7+, 12+ and 16+, with the default being set at 12+. Each of the available ratings has a good description against it, which should make your choice straightforward; however, if you are unsure then the recommendation here is to stick with the default of 12+.
For most applications setting the Age Rating is the only thing we need to do in this section, however, in the case of games, you may need to provide some additional rating information depending on where you have said you are going to sell your app in the ‘Selling Details’ section. If you are selling a game in a region that requires a rating from a recognized ratings board, such as PEGI in the UK, then you must upload an appropriate Certificate file at this point to allow you to proceed with submission. A listing of all of the countries and their associated ratings boards can be seen on this page.
More information about providing an appropriate age rating and how to gain a suitable rating certificate when required can be found here.
Cryptography – Time to complete: 5 minutes
It is likely that in many cases your app will use some form of cryptography or encryption and in this step you need to declare what this is used for. Some of the common scenarios where this might be the case are;
Digital rights management
Using digital signatures
If your app either uses no cryptography / encryption, or uses it for one of the scenarios listed above then answering a couple of Yes/No questions and ticking a declaration is all you need to do here.
In some cases, where your usage does not fall within the list of common scenarios above, you are required to obtain an Export Commodity Classification Number (ECCN) and to enter this before continuing with submission. In order to find out more about obtaining an ECCN you can refer to the Bureau of Industry and Security website here.
Packages – Time to complete: 30 minutes
Once you have finished your app development and it is ready to be published, you can create an App package using Visual Studio via the ‘Store’ menu. If you are using Visual Studio Express and have a Windows Store project open then the Store menu will be available in the top menu bar. If you’re using other SKUs then the menu may appear as a sub-item of the project menu.
Once you’ve located the ‘Create App Package’ option within the store menu, you’ll be presented with a helpful wizard which will take you through various steps to create the appropriate packages.
Once your packages have been created by Visual Studio, you will also have the option to launch the Windows App Certification Kit. This kit provides you with another great way of giving you the best chance of getting your app certified by executing various tests against your application which are similar to those run during the actual certification process. It’s highly recommended that you use the tool before submitting your app – when I ran the tool against one of my first apps I found several issues that I was able to fix immediately instead of waiting for my app to fail certification. See here for more information about the Windows App Certification Kit and how to use it.
Once your app has passed the tests run by the Certification Kit you can use the Packages screen to upload your package to the Store.
Description – Time to complete: 30 minutes
The final step in the app submission process is considered by many to be the most important, as this is where you set your app description and provide the various screenshots and images that will be used to tell potential users about your app within the Store itself. Some of the most important pieces of information you will provide include;
Think carefully when writing your description. You need to make sure that it accurately describes your app and its features in a way that sounds appealing to the reader, whilst making sure that it is not too wordy. Help yourself out by reviewing other descriptions of similar apps already on the store. Small and simple apps may only require a short description (a minimum of around 200 words is recommended), whereas more complex applications may warrant longer descriptions (try not to go over 3000 words). If your app includes a trial then be sure to describe how it works and if functionality is limited in any way as part of it.
Here you list the top 5 features of the app you are publishing which will be listed in the store. Choose these features wisely as users who are browsing the store will likely read these before anything else!
You can add a number of keywords related to your app. These keywords are important as they make a difference when a user searches for your app within the Store. E.g. If you were publishing a scientific calculator app, then you might include the keyword “maths”, so that the app would appear in search results for that term.
The Store can display up to 6 screenshots of your app, with the minimum being 1. There are guidelines around what format the screenshots must be provided in, but the best way of ensuring you meet the guidelines is to let Visual Studio do the hard work for you. If you go to the Store menu, mentioned in Step 6, Packages, you will find a button labelled “Create Screenshots” which will launch the Simulator (Windows 8 device emulator), load your app within it and allow you to take screenshots directly from here.
It is recommended that you submit 4 promotional images for your application, which will allow editors of the Windows Store to feature your app within the Store itself.
Notes to Testers – Time to complete: 2 minutes
In order to complete the submission process, the final step allows you to leave any notes for the people who will actually be testing and certifying your application. Make sure you read the certification guidelines carefully and mention here anything you feel would be useful to the tester. For example, if you know that you have met a certain requirement but are concerned that this may not be immediately obvious to the tester, then this is where to include that information.
This article should have given you a good idea of what is required from the app submission process, and I would highly recommend you read the app certification requirements before you submit your app to give you the best chance of getting certified.
Once your app has been certified you will receive an email providing you with a link to the web pages that display your app within the web store, and shortly after your app will become visible within the Store app on Windows 8 itself. Should your app fail certification then you will be sent a list of failure points and you can resubmit once you’ve addressed them. When resubmitting an app after a certification failure or when submitting updates to an existing app, you do not have to go through the entire process again but instead can simply update any information that has changed such as your app packages.
You can also find loads more information about everything from developing your app to getting it certified and tips for marketing it over at www.windows-store.co.uk. There are also a number of Microsoft DevCamps happening where you can learn essential Windows 8 development skills.
Top Gear on Windows 8: sketch to Store in just 6 weeks
In just 6 weeks the Top Gear app team launched its Windows 8 app. Find out how.
As one of the UK’s most iconic TV brands, Top Gear fans have high expectations when it comes to the show’s digital products. To ensure fans of the show got the very best experience on Micorosft’s new OS, BBC Worldwide approached digital agency Splendid to produce its first app for Windows 8.
In this post the team at Ubelly.com - Microsoft’s unofficial blog for developers - speaks to Paul Bishop, Managing Director at Splendid, about the first phase of developing Top Gear’s Windows 8 app: designing the UX. The post is packed with advice on speeding up development by utilising design patterns, incorporating Axure into a project, and much more!
Rebellion interview: Europe’s leading games developer talks Windows 8
The studio behind hit games such as Sniper Elite and Aliens vs. Predator is embracing Windows 8. Here’s why.
Games developer Rebellion has gone from strength to strength since it was founded by brothers Jason and Chris Kingsley in 1992. A series of hits games have been released by the developer in the last 20 years - including Alien Vs Predator on various formats from 1995-99, and Sniper Elite in 2005 - and the company even bought the legendary British comic book 2000 AD in 2000.
More recently, this year saw the release of Neverdead for Konami, and Sniper Elite V2, which Rebellion co-developed with 505 Games. And 2012 also saw Rebellion embrace Windows 8 as a new platform. With games being developed in C++, porting selected titles over to Windows 8 was a natural progression, and according to the Rebellion founders: “We intend to put as many of our games onto Windows 8 as we can, whether that’s previous projects or upcoming ones”.
In this interview Jason (CEO) and Chris (CTO) Kingsley talk through their illustrious background, explain the appeal of Windows 8, and reveal what’s next for this leading British game developer.
Discover why AJ Grand-Scrutton left a leading game developer to set up a new shop, and develop Janksy for Windows 8.
As an integral part of Bossa Studios AJ Grand-Scrutton was creating award-winning games, and gaining a serious reputation within the games industry. However, Grand-Scrutton recently left Bossa to set up the new Dlala Studio. It’s a move that shocked quite a few people in the gaming industry.
“This is actually something a lot of people close to me were wondering,” explains Grand-Scrutton. “We’d just won the BAFTA, in March (for Monstermind), at Bossa and then by May I was leaving and it was all quite confusing. I had always said I wanted to form my own studio by the time I was 35 and after the BAFTA – despite 35 being some way off – I realised that maybe it was the time to do it. I have no mortgage, no kids to support and it just felt like the right time so I said ‘F*ck It’ and just went for it.”
The new agency has already created Janksy, a space-based physics adventure that’s already rating highly on the Windows Store.
To find out more about this intriguing game click here.
Bringing Doodle God to Windows 8
If you think leading mobile devs are avoiding Windows 8, think again. JoyBits is taking advantage of this new market.
JoyBits is a hugely successful mobile game developer, and its most popular app Doodle God has been downloaded over 75,000,000 times across various platforms.
Windows 8 has the potential to exceed the reach of all the platforms Joybits currently develops for, and its goal is to to expand the Doodle franchise to as many viable platforms as possible - this includes Windows 8.
“We have enjoyed some early success on Windows Phone and we feel that with Windows 8 there will be a growing installed base of gamers,” according to JoyBits founders Anton Rybakov and Sergio Manucharian. “You can’t deny Microsoft’s ability to create marketplaces i.e. Xbox Live, so we feel it’s a good bet. Additionally the touch screen interface is impressive and works well with our game play.”
In this extensive feature the JoyBits founders reveal some of the secrets of their success, their process for developing Windows 8 apps, and explain what it was like using Visual Studio as an IDE.
In this exclusive video we go behind the scenes of the Awards Night to meet the competition victors and discuss their winning entries. Discover how and why they created their winning apps and why they chose to develop for the Windows 8 platform.
Winners (Updated winners list)
There was an eye-popping £40,000 worth of prizes on offer in the competition as a whole. During the first four weeks of the contest one lucky entrant per day was selected at random to win a 32GB Windows tablet. And all entrants during the first four weeks were entered into a special Winter Prize Draw for an awesome bundle of tech, including a Dell Workstation, a Wacom 24 HD Tablet and a 16GB Lytro Camera.
The Winter Prize Draw and the 28 Daily Prize Draw winners are listed below in full. But of course the main excitement in the competition revolved around the selection of the Top Ten Apps and the Grand Prize Winner. Both the fantastic prize bundles of tech on offer, and the fame and glory of creating an award-winning app, meant competition was fierce. So who won out? We reveal the ultimate victors here…
GRAND PRIZE WINNER
TOP TEN APP PRIZE WINNERS
Visual Snippet Library
My Study Life
WINTER PRIZE DRAW WINNER
DAILY PRIZE DRAW WINNERS
Hull Computer Science Blogs
Count The Sheep
BBC Football My Club
Anwar Ahmad Moon
Jungle - the fashion app
Live Premier League Football
Live Tile news
Daniel Da Rocha
Vikings! Tower Defense
Delicious Thai Red Curry
cookbook for kids
Country - Bangladesh
Learn Morse Code
Develop for both Windows Phone and Windows 8
Develop for both Windows Phone and Windows 8
In November, according to Tami Reller, the Chief Marketing and Financial Officer for Window, more than 40 million Windows 8 licenses were sold. This is just one month of figures, and is probably the biggest single incentive to start developing Windows 8 apps right now. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
With reports that Microsoft has sold around 11 million Windows Phone 8 devices, and given the strides Microsoft has taken to enable you to share code across Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8, it’s far easier to develop apps with huge reach; there’s even a handy resource to help you compare the two platforms, and ensure you take the right steps in developing for both: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/apps/jj681690(v=vs.105).aspx#BKMK_CommonnativeAPI. But in case you need any more convincing, we’ve collated a few handy facts about the benefits of developing apps for both Windows 8 and Phone 8.
Software developers, such as WimHannstra (www.sortedbits.com), are lauding the Windows Storestyle of Windows 8 and Phone 8 apps, and this style of ‘flat’ design is beginning to gain serious tractions in other areas, too, such as web design. But it’s not all about visual feel, as UX is an essential part of the design puzzle, and Microsoft has left no stone unturned in ensuring a good level of support. For example, there are a host of brilliant articles, visuals, and resources focussed primarily on getting your UX right, which can be found here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-gb/library/windows/apps/hh779072.aspx. But the really great thing isn’t just the progressive design, or the focus on UX, but it’s the fact that these principles are easily applied to apps developed across phone, tablet and desktop. For a developer there is no longer a chasm to cross between app versions, because techniques, design and UX required to create your app are transferable across all Windows 8 devices (including phones).
In our Features section you can find a selection of great in-depth features to help you get started, and discover the fantastic opportunities at your disposal, and using the articles we’ve mentioned above you can find out just how easy it is to start developing apps for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 at the same time.
Don’t miss out on the Xmas app windfall
Don’t miss out on the Xmas app windfall
The number of viable platforms for mobile development continues to increase, and each of these platforms offers a new base of users for you - the app developer - to promote your products to. There’s never been a better time to start developing apps, and Christmas is without doubt the bumper period for mobile apps. And there’s still time to take advantage!
In the UK alone, 81 million apps were downloaded in the last week of December for 2011 (Source: Flurry). New devices were purchased for Christmas, and many app producers offered special discounts over the festive period, which all contributed to these impressive stats. The global figure was equally impressive, with 1.2 billion apps downloaded in the same time period (509m coming from the US), with 242 million of those coming on Christmas day alone.
In short, it’s the perfect time to start developing for the Windows 8 platform - and get the chance to bag £40,000 worth of incredible prizes in our App Generator competition - so don’t miss out!
Windows 8 review – Techradar - Our definitive look at the final release of the new Windows
Windows 8 Review - Techradar
Windows 8 is here. With upgrades, new Windows 8 PCs and Windows RT devices now released, this is our definitive verdict on the full, finished Windows 8 operating system.
If you've been following Windows 8 through the development process, especially if you've tried the Release Preview, Windows 8 won't surprise you. The changes between the Release Preview and RTM aren't major, except possibly the removal of Aero Glass transparency from desktop windows and turning Do Not Track (DNT) on by default.
Jonathan Seal and Matt Salmon of Mando Group reveal 10 reasons you should start developing for Windows 8 today!
Given the strong existing market for apps across Android and iOS, developers could be forgiven for thinking “why bother?” with Microsoft’s latest offering – or at least adopting a “wait and see” approach following the release of Windows 8 only last month.
Week 1 of your 30-day journey is here, and it’s time to get busy!
In week one of your 30-day journey to a Windows Store app the theme is about embracing the Windows experience, and considering your app’s design. Windows 8 marks the next step in the evolution of Metro-style design through the bold use of colour, typography and user experience (this bold design helps bring focus to your apps). And all Windows 8 apps now have a sense of familiarity, too, thanks to the design language Microsoft has implemented.
In this introductory video, David Chou, an architect at Microsoft, showcases the new Microsoft approach of ‘content before chrome’, and illustrates the importance of removing and hiding redundant elements from the UI. In this video Chou presents examples of how you can de-clutter an app, and highlights features like the app bar and swiping in Windows 8 apps.
Windows 8 apps are touch first, and this video also showcases the animation library and touch gestures available to developers creating their first Windows 8 app. You’ll also learn about ‘contracts’, the glue that binds Windows 8 apps together. Using ‘contracts’ each app is a ‘source’, and data can be shared beyond and between each Windows 8 app, simply by making the destination a ‘target’. It’s a simple and elegant approach, and makes sharing easier than ever. Contracts offer some really exciting opportunities for devs!
Once acquainted with the basics of Windows 8 apps, it’s time to concentrate on your first week of app design. Below we’ve provided a daily breakdown of what you can be doing this week. Let’s get started!
Day 1 - Planning your Windows Store app
It’s the most important part of the app design process, and in this feature you can discover how to plan your Windows Store app. What will your app do well? What user activities will you support? Will you personalise your app? How will you monetise? These are just some of the areas covered in this first article.
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Day 2 - Design guidance for Windows Store apps
You’ve had your introduction to Windows Store apps, done some planning, and now it’s time to start considering the design elements of your app.
This collection of articles offers some brilliant advice on design in general, as well as introducing a number of pattern libraries for different areas of design, such as branding, advertising, touch, and UX.
Day 3 - Category guidance for Windows Store apps
It’s Day 3, and by this point you’re really starting to flesh out your app’s design and functionality. Microsoft has put a lot of effort into delivering consistent UX across Windows 8 apps, and to help developers and designers get things right there’s a set of UX reference criteria.
For example, an entertainment app will require further reading around ratings and reviews, and “now playing” experiences or navigation across episodes or media clips. You can find some inspiration here.
Day 4 - Windows design case studies
Not everyone is designing an app from scratch, and in this article you’ll find examples of web apps, iPad apps and Line of Business (LOB) enterprise apps that have all been ported over to Windows 8 apps.
Designing for Windows 8 uses many of the web technologies you may already be familiar with. You can download the kick start to your app interface here.
Day 5 - Getting ready for app development with tools and templates
Day 6 - I’ve got an app on another platform. What do I do?
You’ve familiarised yourself with Microsoft’s design and app guidelines, but what if you already have an app on another platform? Don’t sweat. Here’s you can you take advantage of the huge market Windows 8 represents.
Day 7 - Diving Deep into App Development with your selected language
You’ve seen inspirational examples, got your hands on design assets, code and all manner of design guidelines: you’re tooled up and ready to go! Now, depending on your dev skills, you can choose one of two routes.
Visit our freely available co-working space for digital artisans to play, create and collaborate.
Offices are okay; they’re where most of us spend quite a lot of our working lives. But creatively? They can sometimes be a little stale. To help shake up work routines, we’re making Modern Jago’s co-working space freely available to individuals and small teams. Read more about our free co-working space here.