littlebigtomatoes

Design.Create.Smile.

The 5th Recommendation to Get Better at Designing Windows Phone Apps

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It seems I am unable to count to 5. In my last blog 5 ways to get better at designing apps for Windows Phone I promised 5 ways and I delivered only four. This is the follow up, where I try to give one last piece of advice.

Write apps for yourself

You need to scratch your own itch. You need to solve your own existing problem, so find something you truly miss from your phone and then solve it! This way you will have an app that make your life better. Also, you will use this app every single day, so bugs and problems with your app surface much quicker and it will be easier to fix them as you are the one, who designed and coded it. But be very careful….

Do not write apps that no one will use…

I am guilty as charged. I had this idea of sending emails to myself and wrote the app. It took me three months of hard work and when I finally released it, there were only a few downloads. This is not the end of the world, because I use the app myself several times a day and learned lot of stuff, while designing and coding it! But when I started to promote my app, no-one seemed to understand what problem of theirs that my app will help to solve.

I found a solution to a problem, that seemingly no other person on earth had. Frustrating, but the key lesson I learned is this - similar to designing your app - you should start promoting your app, before you start coding it! Go out and explain the idea behind your app and the problem it tries to solve. Find out that others are having this problem too and pitch your app to them. Embrace the feedback and in the end you will have a much better app. Learn from my mistake and do not create your app in vacuum…

5 Ways to Get Better at Designing Apps for Windows Phone

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I am constantly trying to improve the quality of apps that I am publishing on the market for Windows Phone and Windows 8 or to other platforms in the future. In the last couple of days I try to think ways how I can get better at designing and creating apps. My primary device at the moment is a Lumia 800 and my primary desktop OS is Windows 8. These are not the dominant platforms yet, but I am hoping they get more popular over time.

Buy an iPod Touch

If you try to sense what is the golden standard of apps on today’s prime platforms in terms of speed, design or popularity you really need something that you can try these apps on. Cheapest and best is to buy a used iPod Touch. This way you will feel what are the popular todo apps doing in the productivity category, if you are planning to write one for Windows Phone. Once you have the device, try as many apps as you can. Feel the speed and the attention to details that went into the app. Feel the love that went into the app. This is the quality you should aim for with your apps too!

For extra kudos buy a cheap android phone or tablet or both if you have the money. This is money well spent as you can start writing apps for those devices as well.

Say no to the cookie cutter approach

You have an app idea that will rock the world and make you rich. You need to move fast. Launch Visual Studio and quickly create a new project using the pivot app template. Code like crazy. Test, Test, Test and upload to the market place.

Just slow down for a second. This is how you create an app that does nothing to differentiate itself from the tens of thousands of other apps that are already on the marketplace. There must be a better way to differentiate it. Think about using different colors than the system accent color.

I know that the metro design guidelines are saying that we need to honor the user’s choice of accent color and theme, but honestly as a user I need to puke when I see one more cookie cutter pivot style app that looks like all the other apps on my phone. I need opinionated apps! I need apps that stands out and they have personality!

Animation, Animation, Animation

Same here with the default controls. Pivot was great two years ago and remains very useful today, but now it feels a little tired to me. If you have an idea just to spice up a little the pivot the it is great. If you can come up with new interactions even better.

The other one is the animation between page transitions or other interactions in the apps. Expression Blend is such a wonderful tool and animation is so easy there. I need more of that.

Best Windows Phone App award

This one is for Microsoft. They have a cash. They have a yearly developer conference. For the love of god, take a page from Apple book and copy their app awards at WWDC. Each year on your developer conference you need to do app awards too. Give out prizes. Recognize the best designed apps for Windows Phone and Windows 8. Recognize the developers and help community. Give them prominent place on the event site, maybe mentioned them in the keynote on day one! Announce these apps to your developers, so they know what the direction is going forward and what is the quality bar for apps. Raise the bar for everyone! It would do more good than coming up weird technology demos showcasing features of unreleased technology.

Ok, this post turned out to be more of a rant, where my Windows Phone user side addressing the Windows Phone developer side in me, but I think they are points and I am going to follow them!

Branching Out

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On iPad in particular, we have the mother of all opportunities here, because the Windows market is much, much larger than the Mac market is. And I think it is clear that it’s already cannibalizing some, and I think there’s a tremendous amount of more opportunity there and as you know I’ve said for two or three years now that I believe the tablet market will be larger than the PC market at some point and I still believe that. And you can see by the growth in tablets and the pressure on PCs that those lines are beginning to converge.

I am a programmer by design and I bet my professional career and thus my family well-being on the Windows platform roughly 10 years ago. At the time, it looked like a very safe and conservative bet. But times are changing indeed! In a year or two there will be two large competing cumpiting platform that at least as strong as Windows and they will be much larger combined.

I think it is time to branch off and start learning new stuff. I guess I just found my theme for 2013!

Is Android Catching Up to iOS?

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And believe me or not, but after having configured my Nexus 4 just the way I always wanted – providing me with the fastest access to my most frequently used apps along with the most important information on a single screen – whenever I grab my iPhone for testing purposes, iOS feels pretty old, outdated and less user friendly. For me, there currently is no way of going back. Once you get used to all of these capabilities, it’s hard to live without them.

I left the Android platform as a user about a year ago and I left with bad memories. This is an excellent write up about the current state of Android and made me want to go back and experience it once more. It also seems that the correct way to experience android via the reference devices made by Google.

And those screens are just gorgeous!

Reverse Todo Process

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In my previous article, I wrote about the my motivations using the Anti Todo list and how it took out tons of stress of my daily life. This way of doing things works well for me and here is how I implemented it.

Keyboard Shortcuts for Windows 8

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I released my first app for Windows 8! Now you can download Keyboard Shortcuts App from the Windows Store for Free.

As you might guessed, I am quite a bit of fan of productivity and doing things fast and swift on my computers. One of the main driver of productivity on a desktop computer are keyboard shortcuts. With Windows 8, it is even more so! I believe keyboard shortcuts on Windows 8 are essential to be productive.

Will Windows Phone 8 and Lumia Come Around Finally?

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Microsoft and Nokia’s marketing blitz is really paying off. Over Thanksgiving weekend, there were several instances where regular people off the street commented or approached me about the phone. The first time was at a diner in Union Square. The waitress recognized the phone and asked to take it to the back to show her co-worker who is obsessed with Windows 8.

Then, on Thanksgiving itself – as I was taking photos of my food (the Warren-Robertson household is not traditional, as we go out to eat on Thanksgiving) – other patrons in the restaurant recognized the Lumia and there were points and stares and murmurs about the device.

I never expected that. At all.

There is something in the air!

Todo or Not Todo

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If you are looking for the typical customer to whom all the app makers creating the infinite number of todo applications then look no further! Guilty as charged, I am one of those folks whom seems to be addicted to todo lists and todo app addicts.

I tried many of them and I am always seemed to be hooked on the greatest and latest todo app. One impresses me with the gorgeous design, the other with the revolutionary way of handling the items with clever gestures, the next with its speed of light synchronization between devices. In todo land, there is never a dull moment! I even have blocked out half an hour every two weeks just to see and try what’s new on the todo app market (just joking)!

Keyboard Shortcut Starter Kit for Windows 8

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As you might found out I am huge fan of Microsoft’s latest operating system Windows 8. I love the new Start Screen and how fast the metro style apps are. I am waiting for a touch based device that runs Windows 8, but until I have a touch device at hand and can try all the touch features, I am stuck with a standard pre-touch laptop.

Windows 8 is also very nice on a standard PC and what really makes it fly high are the keyboard shortcuts. I highly encourage you to try those and memorize them. Once they become muscle memory, they will make you super-fast and productive.

Windows App Store Leaves Mac App Store Behind

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The daily download volume among the top 300 most popular applications in the Windows Store is already three times higher than the volume among the top 300 most popular applications in the Apple Mac App Store. However, in terms of paid volume only, the Apple Mac App Store is still doing much (5 times) better.

After one month, Windows Store has 3 times more downloads in the top 300 apps than the app store shipping with the world’s most advanced desktop operating system. Not too bad, although the Mac App Store still generates 5 times more paid volume than Windows Store.

It’s a start!