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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 detail 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 stand 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 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 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 the community. Give them a 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 with 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!