Windows Phone - Put people first!

The first thing that you will notice when you visit the Windows Phone home page is the logo. It says Windows Phone – Put people first. The goal is to make sure people using the phone are delighted by the experience, they get to do the tasks that are most important to them easily, quickly and effectively. I believe that Windows Phone team has done an amazing job at this.

However, the delightful experience will not be complete unless we app developers build applications keeping the following things in mind:

  • Easy and effective access of the functionalities most important to the user.
  • A lively, intuitive UI, which doesn’t need a ninja to operate.
  • Put people first – listen to the user’s concerns (battery life, themes, connecting to social networks, cellular data usage, etc.).

I’ll talk about a few ways we can address these points.

Note: I’m thinking of Silverlight apps on Windows Phone and not XNA games at this point.

Easy and effective access to important functionalities.

There are a few ways you can achieve this. I’m going to list a few here, and go into the details later.

First, give them an easy way to get to your app! Consider using:

  • Live Tiles for your apps
  • Secondary tiles – pin specific pages of your app to the start screen

Once in the app, think of what would be the top features in your app. What are the top 4 things that the user would do in your app?

Think of how you would present these top features to the user.

  • If these are functions that can be instantly performed (save, reset, etc.) consider using the application bar buttons (the ones with icons at the bottom of the screen).
  • If these are functions that need some more details or have further options, consider using the menu items in the application bar or navigate to another page which hosts the options. You may choose to initiate the navigation from either the app mar menu item or look at controls like the HubTile (from the Windows Phone Toolkit - August 2011).

We’ll get into the details of each of these as we go along.

A lively, intuitive UI

A lot of research has gone into the Metro UI design principles and we’ve seen how fresh the UI looks on Windows Phone. Why not use the same principles in our applications?

When you look at the applications that come out of the box with WP, you’ll see a trend, a pattern that these apps follow – this is nothing but the Metro UI principles in action (and that is an oversimplified definition, but I’ll talk about Metro UI some other day perhaps). The applications understand your preferences – they understand whether you prefer a dark theme or a light theme, they know which color you prefer your start screen to be, etc..

It is not difficult for us to build applications that understand these things, and we’ll get into the details of it in a later post.

Put people first – listen to the user’s concerns

What are some of the things that you would like to be better in an app that you already use? Think of similar features that could be better in your app.

There are APIs with Windows Phone SDK 7.1 (for Windows Phone 7.5 or “Mango”) provides capabilities to check user’s battery preferences, network connectivity preferences, etc.

There are APIs to share info from your app with the user’s social network of choice – see if that makes sense for you app and if the user would like that.

These are some very simple and straight forward things that we can do to make that difference in the user experience and delight the user.

I’ll get into the details of each of these in separate posts, so keep an eye out for ‘em!

Thanks for reading,