The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona started this week, with three of our winning apps, car-pal+, Cash Hound and Social Mints, on display as a part of the Microsoft showcase. They are loaded on Windows Phones for conference-goers to play with. And, as of last week, car-pal+ is now available on the Windows Marketplace! This last article in the Fast Track to the Mobile App series covers the development process of car pal+ and Blackbelt.
For the design competition, Alan Asher and Chris Barlett of car-pal+ wanted to create an app that would be useful to a large audience and could be developed over a short timeline. The audience they decided to build for were car owners, with specific app functionality for fuel and maintenance tracking. Since neither were familiar with the Windows Phone platform, they spent time playing with the phone in stores, watching YouTube videos on phone how-to's, and getting a feel for the Metro user interface style before they began designing. They first diagrammed their high-level workflow on paper, and then wireframed their app screens.
After playing around with the Windows Phone Software Development Kit, the two decided to work on the application without the help of a Microsoft developer. Though neither had developing experience, they found the existing documentation on AppHub and MSDN pages incredibly helpful, and decided to pursue a learning opportunity. With full-time jobs, the two met via Skype nightly to work on the app. With an eye towards having it in the Marketplace by the end of February, they decided to roll out their app in phases, adding fuel price and enhanced maintenance features with time. They expect to release an update for car-pal+ within the month.
Mark Salerno of Blackbelt is currently working with a Microsoft developer to complete his app. The level-up business productivity app takes the form of a game and requires two operating screens: one for a supervisor and another for the player. Like a referee or 'sensei,' the supervisor can set objectives, create incentives, and monitor the productivity of their 'players.' The player's portal is where they can view their 'mission' and meet goals to advance through (in the spirit of martial arts) different 'belt' colors.
Since developing an app was completely new to Mark, he sought out a developer who would educate him on the process and bring Mark's design to life. He sent out a list of questions regarding experience, specifically in building level-up games, and articulated the need for two portals. He learned from the developer he selected that app development can be short depending on the app's functionality and the developer's experience, taking anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. The two communicated via email about the designed screens and functionality, clarifying any points unclear to the developer from reviewing the winning entry.
In building the app from a design winner into an app for purchase on the Marketplace, Mark had to consider who would be paying for the app when it became available. Since it was a performance-tracking app that would be used by both management and their employees, one ideal situation could be that the company or supervisory layer purchased the app. It might come bundled with a set number of redemption codes, and those could be passed on to their employees. As Blackbelt is still early into their development process, they'll solidify how to package the app further down the road. We'll be looking forward to Blackbelt's entry into the Marketplace soon.
And there you have it! With three winners in the Marketplace, three on show at MWC, and another two beginning development (Blackbelt) or in meetings for strategic partnerships (Bridge, Ying Wei Toh and Dennis Park's conference call app), the design winners have followed different paths in app development. Though their experiences differed, they all began with beautifully-designed apps that had clear functionality and goals in mind. Should you be inspired with an idea, after hearing our winners' stories you're now armed with enough information on app development to turn that inspiration into a reality.