Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Honeymoon is over!

The Honeymoon is over for Windows Phone developers!! Windows Phone has now started to be seen as a serious platform by consumers. More and more people have started to compare Windows Phone to other mobile platforms. So, it is time for us developers to get serious too. 

When the WP evagelists yell at us everytime to concentrate on DESIGN, DESIGN and DESIGN, they mean it. Mom and Pop apps don't get downloaded anymore. We need some good looking, vert inviting apps, which has a very rich User Experience. 

Most of my apps have an ok UX, but not to the level I expect it to be. Before delving into developing new apps,  I have decided to get them a face-lift. First in my list was HowManyThings. The re-designed app is in the marketplace now. You can download this "here".

Apart from a great user interface, what else do we need to have in an app that will enhance the user experience?

When a WP user searches for an app, it is the reviews that they trust. More often than you think they do. Reviews are also an easiest way to get feedback from your consumers. They tell what is working and what they are frustrated with. So, it is very important for a developer to succeed to have more reviews. Most of the users forget to place a review - they have other important things to do, right? So, we should prompt/request them to review our app. In a nice way. For that I use Igor Ralic's ReviewBugger package. You can get that from Nuget. Link is It is well documented and very easy to implement.

My setup is, a request is displayed asking the user whether he/she would like to review the app, once the user has visited the app 10 times. 

If the user launches your app, for the first time, you would want to welcome them, thanking them for using the app, and briefly tell them what major features are there in the app. A simple message box with on "OK" button. This gets useful to the users when they are launching the app first time after an update has been applied. You could explain the new features added and what bugs you fixed. It shows that you are caring for the users, than just dumping out updates after updates (which is good in a way:)).

About page
I have seen many apps without an About page. This section does tell the user all about you and the app. I use a package called Peter Kuhn's YLAD (Your Last About Dialog). It is also available in Nuget:  (What will we do without Nuget, rt?) 

I usually include the following in my About section:
--> About the app - I explain what the app is all about, briefly.
--> About Me - I give out my contact details - websites/blogs/email id. This will be helpful for the users to get in touch with me.
--> Release Notes - I mention all the versions and all the major changes and features added in each versions.
--> Credits - I give credits to the co-developers and designers that helped me in developing the app. Or for that matter, anyone who have helped.
--> Help - Any help notes. Instructions for the users, particularly if you have any advanced features.

Live Tiles
Depending on the nature of the app, if you feel this is an extra feature and is not to be part of the minimum viable product, then you could add this as a in-app purchase.
You need not add Live tiles just for the sake of it.

Do you have anything else that you do in your apps? 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Redesigning HowManyThings

Its been quite some time that I have been into Windows Phone Development. 10 of my apps are in Windows Store. Most of them are being downloaded consistently, but not in the frequency I would like to see. Sorry, I am too shameful to let out the number - one thing I can say - they are not in the billions :)

After this lazy tenure, I decided on taking up re-painting certain apps that users are using now... one of my favs is HowManyThings - an inventory taking app for family and small shops... just taking stock of things lying around your house... You never know when this app will come handy...

I had some bugs in the app, that I fixed recently.

But, I had to get this guy a face-lift. I am not a designer, but I do know when I see a bad UI design :) HowManyThings had a bad UI. It was not inviting enough. It lacked that simplicity factor.

So, I delved into redesigning the same.

First, Icons. I made some on my own, which I trashed immediately. I approached my friend Priya Iyer, who did an amazing job in getting a wonderful icon to me. Hope you all like it. Thanks Priya. More requests on the way :)