Sunday, 5 January 2014

What about Windows 8(.1)?

In the beginning there was the Windows Phone

Well, actually, I'm just talking about my beginning.  The beginning of my mobile app development experience.  Since December of 2011 I have created 47 mobile apps for Windows Phone 7, 7.5 and 8.  I've had a bit of fun.  Had some success.  Won a few prizes.  Writing Windows Phone software has become relatively easy.  You might even say it's sort of second nature to me now.  The most challenging part of the process is "The Idea". 

And then there was Windows 8

Early in 2013 Microsoft Canada had a reward promotion for developers where they rewarded us mobile developers for writing Windows Phone Apps, they also rewarded us for Windows 8 apps but with me, it's better the devil you know and I pounded out WP apps.  However in the spring the upped the ante for Windows 8 by adding in extra bonus points (meaning better rewards).  I figured why not and tried my hand at Windows 8 (W8) apps.  You know... W8 is NOT WP.  So to get the points, I tried just duplicating some of my WP apps into W8.  I got the points, the apps got published (about 10 of them) and I'm not happy or particularly proud of the results.  The apps worked.  They had to in order to pass certification but they were mostly pretty ugly.  Windows 8 apps can be so beautiful and I hadn't quite got that yet.  I did know what beautiful was, I just couldn't do it.  I used as an example an app called.  An example of what I knew to be a simple and beautiful interface was an app called "Cocktail Flow, http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/app/88e08b7c-10d0-45b8-9280-946bd889e243"

Takeaway:  When considering writing a Windows 8 app you must think different if you are usually a Windows Phone app creator.

And then the Light

At the time though I thought the W8 apps were ok.  Coming from a traditional programming background I thought the apps were functional, they didn't crash and they did what I thought they should do.  There's more? 

Then I attended a Windows Phone design clinic called "Beyond Tiles" hosted by Arturo Toledo of Toledo Design (http://www.toledo2.com/).  Ironically, it was at a camp focusing on Windows Phone App design that I connected the dots and saw the light regarding my Windows 8 apps (and I was shamed).  Arturo opened up my eyes to the fact that Apps (both W8 and WP8) are not just about functionality but also about the experience and the experience includes not only whether the app works or not but how it looks and feels. I once participated in corporate building exercises and the facilitator liked to post on the white board as we entered "Feelings are Fact".  Who knew that I could apply that some ten years later to app design?  I had already started looking at redesigning many of my WP apps but now I started thinking seriously about all my W8 apps.  I'm going to spend some time (when I have some) looking at upping the quality of my W8 apps but want new apps to have that good design foundation from the beginning.

Simple stuff like where should (or should there be?) app bar buttons go.  How should the screen be laid out?  How to use charms seamlessly within the app.  How to use animations to create an intuitive flow to the app.  How to make use of the space (and not just burst a WP experience into more real estate).

2014 - The Year of Windows 8

I'm going to write a bunch of Windows 8 apps this year.  2014, for me, will be about pumping up my portfolio for that platform.  Games, productivity, some general all around time wasters... I 'm going to try them all.  I'm going build from a design perspective.  I'm not going to try and be all things to  all people.  I'm going to know what my app is trying to do and I'm going to focus on doing it right.

And I'm going to create a beautiful experience... Well, going to try anyway.