Thursday, May 19, 2011

Re-designing Alphabets4Kids app

We have 2 apps in the marketplace, and the downloads are progressing. Good news.

But we think we could do a much better job in designing the  layout of the apps. We took Alphabets4Kids app as a guinea pig.

To make good movies, you need to watch good (and bad) movies. To write a good book, you need to read a lot. To create (I intentionally did not use the word "develop") a beautiful app, you need to look at other apps. So, I took time to read and wander around to see other apps. And that gave me a new perspective of designing apps. Windows Phone 7 gives a wonderful ecosystem which we could leverage and put in our creative brains together to come up with top-notch apps.

I went ahead and did (and re-did) a re-design of Alphabets4Kids. It is available in the marketplace now.





Below are some screenshots:









We think we could do a much better job on this.  We would be bringing new features for this app in near future.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Windows Phone 7 Development

I have already dived into the ocean of Windows Phone 7 development. Not alone, but with one of my friends Rajeev Venkitaraman. He is also a .NET enthusiast and technologist. We already developed two apps, for kids, Shapes4Kids and Alphabets4Kids.

To track our progress, and also to share our experiences, we have created a blog - http://hubapps.blogspot.com/. Please visit this site and plant your feedback.

Shapes4Kids - Helping kids learn various shapes

Alphabets4Kids was not our first app. There was another app we developed (Shapes4Kids), but failed the certification. We had sound added in that app, for each shape. My 7 year old daughter, Parvathy, helped us in recording the sounds. We have promised her a Happy Meal from McDonalds!:)

Our app failed the certification for two reasons:

1. Our app would stop any existing background audio.

2. We did not have any control over our on media, for example the volume.


While I started working on developing a Settings page, Rajeev Venkitaraman had completed the Alphabets app. So we got that app uploaded, without any audio. It passed the certification.

We have completed the work on the Shapes app and have submitted the same.

Here's how we solved the two issues.

1. Controlling the background audio.
There is no inherent methods in Silverlight to check whether a background audio is being played. So, we take help from XNA framework. For that we need to refer the following assembly:

Microsoft.Xna.Framework

The following property would help us identify whether a background audio is being played:

Media.MediaPlayer.GameHasControl

If it returns false, then it means the background music is being played. Do not forget to call FrameworkDispatcher.Update() before accessing the Xna property.

2.Controlling our own audio
We created a separate Settings page for controlling our audio. The IsolatedStorage ApplicationSettings came very handy in this case. We created a separate AppSettings class and accessed this as a resource in both the MainPage.xaml (in which we rendered the Shapes) and Settings xaml page.



The testing is in progress.
(Cross fingers!) :)

UPDATE
The Shapes4Kids app has passed the certification and is available for download.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Alphabets4Kids - Our first app

Our very first app Alphabets4Kids is ready for download in the marketplace, for Windows Phone 7 users. This is a very basic app, targeted towards kids aged 3-5, who are learning alphabets. We would be adding audio, to make it more interesting in further releases.

Please feel free to drop a line regarding this app.