Reporting by Yin Ho
Two of our winners apps are now available in the Windows Marketplace! For apps to qualify for World Mobile Congress promotion, they had to be in the Marketplace by February 8th. With this installment, we'll go through Social Mints and Cash Hound's final polishing steps to have their apps ready and certified, as well as giving a brief update of Black Belt, car pal+, and Bridge who are on a parallel development path.
The perfect, robust app may seem unachievable when faced with the time constraints our winners had. Keeping versions and updates in mind is an important facet of a development schedule. The objective is to create an excellent v.1 that can scale and grow new functionality, if added. For Cash Hound, Geof Harries and Michael Johnson's app on cash flow management, they wrote all the features their app should have one day on a whiteboard. They then identified what was absolutely essential for a first version, and focussed on those features.
With that core functionality working, the next step is final user testing: handing the phone over to individuals to see if what the designers and developers have been aiming for is shining through. That user experience feedback gives designers a perspective on what works (e.g., if the planned route to get from point A to B is indeed the one a user takes) and what could use improvement. With that knowledge, designer/developers decide on what interface and functionality changes this version requires.
Hiccups may and probably will occur. Even with a number of popular apps in the Marketplace, Pratik Kothari had a caffeine-fueled week of finishing touches and moments of frustration with Social Mints, an app that tracks user-selected interests and topics across social media. Deployment of the cloud fetch mechanism in a production environment proved stickier than it did in a development environment. After addressing the issue, the process of troubleshooting bugs, tweaking and final polishes continued—from perfecting Metro design elements details to writing up a detailed app description for the Marketplace.
Microsoft takes approximately 3 to 5 days to review apps submitted to the Marketplace; after that, developers will hear of any issues that should be corrected. Instead of worrying about and having to build our own tools for handling software updates, deployment, monitoring, statistics and purchasing, not to mention dealing with platform compatibility issues, the Windows Phone Marketplace automatically takes care of those considerations. It's notably great—Cash Hound commented on the ease of entry with their first WindowsPhone product and Social Mints specified the helpfulness of Microsoft Pubcenter Ads to aid in broadcasting free apps.
With that, Cash Hound and Social Mints are now officially released, readily downloadable apps. From an award-winning design concept to reality, they're now in the world—and may be showcased by Microsoft at the Mobile World Congress. You can download and find more information about the apps here:
Our three winners who are working with Microsoft developers aren't far behind: Alan Asher and Chris Bartlett's car pal+ decided to focus on testing only the core features of their app on car care and maintenance to have a working version ready. Traffic alerts, gas station by price, and reminder/maintenance enhancements will be available in the second iteration. Black Belt, Mark Salerno's app that makes business productivity a game, has begun discussions with developers, narrowing his selection based on numerous criteria, including if they've worked on video games in the past. Ying Wei Toh and Dennis Park have invited a business and marketing expert to join their Bridge team to help share their conference app idea, analyze competitors, determine a target audience, then approach venture capitalists.
In our next installment, we'll hear more from our winners working with developers. We'll also learn if any of our winning apps will be showcased in Barcelona.
For more about developing apps for the Windows Phone Marketplace:
» A Look at Windows Phone 7.5
» Fast Track to the Mobile App Winners and Finalists
» App Hub, Your First Step for Developing for the Windows Phone Marketplace
» Developing Apps, Wireframes to Prototypes
» Developing Apps, Implementation and Testing