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Thursday, April 03, 2014

The sad realisation about Windows 8.1 Update 1

No it's, not the name.

So, the newly announced, latest update to Windows 8 adds better support for people using it on a device without touch.

Guess what? that's most machines running Windows.

Is it any wonder that, broadly speaking, people who don't have touch input on their Windows 8 machines don't use store/metro/modern apps?

You could argue that this is the age old story of Microsoft taking 3 versions to get something good but it just makes me sad.

I'm sad because I know how much trouble many developers had trying to even begin comprehending how to create a good touch interface when they'd spent their whole lives working with just mouse and keyboard. (And if I'm honest I've seen very few apps that work well with both mouse and keyboard.) For lack of any other guidance they typically followed what Microsoft were saying to create an interface that could be used by both mouse and touch input, but ultimately that didn't turn out to be the best advice and the underlying platform was inadequate for providing a good experience.

Ok, things are getting better but the rate of improvement seems much slower than the rate of change.

The thing I like about technology and the reason I work with it is because of the potential it has to improve lives. When that technology is mobile that potential gets expanded further still. Internet connected devices the world over are making tasks easier, improving health and even saving lives.

With so many smart people working in technology why do we still have so many low quality apps? Why are so many apps just recreations of things that already exist? Where's the innovation? Where are the people creating exciting new apps that push the boundaries? Or why are the majority of developers happy to just keep doing the same things over again? Why are developers happy to create sub-standard experiences just because of the limitations of the platform?

Let's push things forward.

Rant over.



Are you a Windows Phone developer? If so, you could be getting rewards for the apps you build and the success they achieve by joining Nokia's DVLUP program.

4 screens and the cloud, and things

This is what I took away from the Build day one keynote. Microsoft are really starting to acknowledge that the future of computing is truly ubiquitous. Lots of different devices used in lots of different ways and all connected to the Internet.

Broadly, devices fit into two categories, those with screens and those without.

Those without being those that are part of the, still not widely appreciated or fully understood, Internet Of Things.

Those devices with screens comprise: phones; tablets; PCs; and TVs.
Of course "phablets" blur he lines between phone and tablet. Plus some laptops blur the line between tablet and PC. Generally though, these terms cover the vast majority of current computing devices and the terms are broadly understood well enough to be universally usable.

Are you a Windows Phone developer? If so, you could be getting rewards for the apps you build and the success they achieve by joining Nokia's DVLUP program.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Analysing app store descriptions

I've been crawling through the store again.

This time I've been looking at the descriptions. More analysis will probably follow but in the mean time here are the m,ost popular words in app descriptions for both free and paid apps.

Here's what get's included in the descriptions of the top 50 free apps in all categories in the GB store.


And here's the same for the paid apps.


A few things there that surprised me but I'll leave you to draw your won conclusions for now.

Both created with Wordle. In case you didn't know.



Are you a Windows Phone developer? If so, you could be getting rewards for the apps you build and the success they achieve by joining Nokia's DVLUP program.

Why Windows 8[.1] tries to be everything to everyone

You may be aware of some people saying that Windows 8 was a mistake and Microsoft shouldn't have tried to combine a touch based interface and the more traditional desktop experience in one.

Here's my theory.
I think this was done to change people's ideas about what Windows is and where it can be used.

I think there was a danger that Joe Public (not someone with technical knowledge, like I imagine you have) would associate Windows with just the traditional desktop experience and assume it's not relevant as they start to buy other computers for home and personal use that aren't traditional PCs or laptops. (Think tablets, phablets, and phones but also smart TVs and connected devices plus whatever the future brings.)
By making it very obvious that it's the same OS on all devices running Windows 8. This reinforces the idea that Windows CAN run on multiple devices. It would be very dangerous for Microsoft if the public started thinking that Windows was JUST for PCs and when it comes to tablets (or anything else) you should look elsewhere (to Android or iOS).

Of course it's more complicated than that and involves many, many factors but I think this is an important consideration that others haven't been talking about. Yes - I do sometimes see my role here to be to remind developers that there are more than technical reasons behind technical decisions.



Are you a Windows Phone developer? If so, you could be getting rewards for the apps you build and the success they achieve by joining Nokia's DVLUP program.

Monday, March 24, 2014

9 images that shouldn't appear as part of your screenshots

Recognise these pictures?


They're the sample pictures that come with Windows Phone 8. They're also the images that come with the emulator.
You've no doubt seen them loads of times, probably when working with images on the emulator.
Using them while testing is perfectly fine.
However, there is no excuse or reason for ever using these images within your app when you're taking screenshots for use in the store.

Yes, if you're taking screenshots via the emulator using the images that are on the emulator is easier than adding your own, but the store is about selling. Doing what's easiest for you is hardly ever the best approach to take in the long run. It also doesn't do a good job of selling your app.*

Also, using these images in a context that is completely irrelevant (for instance, I've seen an app that relates to faces including the above footballer picture, and an app that should have had an image relating to a couple but instead showed a pair of legs next to a swimming pool.)

Using these images in your screenshot sends out the following messages:

  • You're lazy - if you cut corners here, where else have you cut corners? In testing? Is the app full of bugs? 
  • You don't care about how your app is perceived in the store - Oh, you don't care about how it looks in the store. What else don't you care about? Providing support?
  • You're not interested in making your app understandable by viewing the screenshots in the store - How about making it easy to understand when trying to use it for the first time? Or subsequent times?


*But, what if you claim to just be a developer, not a salesperson? Well, you're actually performing many roles when you build and release an app. You can't hide behind the excuse of "just being a developer" if you want to be successful. You have to do many tasks and perform many roles when releasing software. Writing code is often the simplest of them.




Are you a Windows Phone developer? If so, you could be getting rewards for the apps you build and the success they achieve by joining Nokia's DVLUP program.