The best design meets our needs before we can even articulate them. With the App to the Future design challenge, Windows Phone and Core77 intend to foster the circumstances for intelligent, practical and beautiful design. The ingredients to get designers started are all here on the contest site: a smartly conceived UI, clear and helpful developer tips, and an evolved Windows Phone 8.
We held our first call for Windows Phone app designs last year and had incredibly conceived winning entries. This year, contestants will be designing for the next generation device. Windows Phone 8's changes include a new OS, faster processing, additional user features and general bug-stomping after careful review of Windows 7.5 feedback. The results have delighted developers and users alike. Many updates built upon well-received, existing elements like Live Tiles and grew them—literally. Live Tiles can now be resized with the added option to personalize content hierarchy based on user preference.
The 120k+ apps in the Windows Phone Store (formerly Marketplace) are a strong beginning for a phone that initially received the mixed praise of being a superior choice to Android but a latecomer to the game. Microsoft is aware that its well-built platform requires the buy-in from app developers and community in order to flourish. Developers new to Windows Phone could be understandably reluctant to invest their resources in building for a smaller market, but Microsoft has greatly expanded global access to the Windows Phone Store in just a year and continues to promote Windows Phone apps through various channels and provide regional Windows Phone Champs tasked to help developers locally. And this chicken/egg cycle yielded its own positive side effect: a remarkably clear design, development and submission process to the Windows Phone Store. After creating the platform and outlining hardware standards, Microsoft understood that removing barriers to creation and encouraging innovation are key in both catching up with iOS and Android app offerings and building their own app process.
Windows Phone's particular design principles mean that apps run nearly identically across different hardware. That reassurance of similarity is one less headache for users and developers alike. For example, Kid's Corner—a terrific feature that gathers all the games, apps, music and videos for your child into one place while securing the rest of the phone from prying fingers—will be precisely the same experience on Nokia, Samsung and HTC models.
Adding to the list of features developers can play with and users can enjoy, the technical overhaul includes support for HD screens and multicore processors. Business users can happily edit a Word document or create an Excel spreadsheet. And linked email means you can view all messages from different accounts in one inbox (something iOS users are accustomed to), then save your documents, photos and chats to Microsoft's cloud, SkyDrive.
For this challenge in particular, we suggest going through the Boot Camps on Windows Phone Design Language. After considering the app you'd like to design and mocking it up, have a Windows Phone interface designer take a look by signing up for a Lighting Design Review. Afterwards, you'll be able to integrate their feedback and further refine your app. Then, there's the business of actually getting 'er done. If you're not a seasoned developer, you still might want to give app dev a try via the Windows Phone Dev Center (their 2-day Jump Start has been widely lauded as great watch-and-do training). We had three winning teams last year develop their own apps (with one team being total—but gifted—noobs at developing) and submit them to the store. And developers that are looking for new design ideas to implement and grow (or simply would like a chance to win a Windows Phone 8) can offer their dev muscles.
So, onwards, potential Windows Phone 8 designers and developers! You probably have an incredible idea brewing in your noggin. The resources to make that concept a reality are at your fingertips...and now you've got a little fire under your tush with this contest. Good luck and happy designing your App to the Future!
[Editor's Note: For some great tips on designing for Windows Phone, check out 8 insights from Senior Interactive Designer Lincoln Anderson, who hosts the lightning design reviews!]