How to be Windows Phone’s Next App Star

Hi folks, I’m Emilio Salvador Prieto. I manage the Windows Phone Developer Experience team. We work alongside our technical teams to help you get what you need to be successful — things like developer features in the OS and Windows Phone Store, along with instructional materials and workshops that help you get the most out of our SDK. We also coordinate a global network of evangelists to work with you locally to create apps and establish partnerships that bring things like middleware solutions to streamline development. Finally, as you saw with our recent announcement, we run contests and events to show off your hard work and keep people thinking about what they’ll build next.

This week, Todd Brix announced the Windows Phone Next App Star contest, where developers will square off head-to-head and compete to be featured in a Windows Phone primetime TV ad in the U.S.*

How does the contest work?

If you’ve already published an app on the Windows Phone Store, just opt in to the contest on the Windows Phone Dev Center.

There are three phases to the contest (make sure to review all the contest rules as well):

Contest Period

Dates

Description

Submission

January 14 – March 5, 2013

Timeframe for you to register to enter the contest and submit your apps.

Rating

March 6 – March 12, 2013

All eligible apps reviewed against standard criteria. 64 apps will be selected to move to the public voting period including 32 paid and 32 free apps.

Public Voting

March 19 – April 8, 2013

Head-to-head app match-ups and consumer voting to select the grand prize winner.

My focus today will be on how to ready your apps for submission. And the best way to prepare is to understand the selection criteria that will be used to pick the 64 apps that will move on to the public voting period. App selection will be based on two equally weighted criteria:

  • 50% total app ratings scores from the period beginning on March 6, 2013, ending on March 12, 2013
  • 50% on application quality, as determined by Microsoft

What should I consider if I’m just getting started?

The first step, of course, is to ensure you have developer tools installed and join the Windows Phone developer program. The free developer tools contain everything you need to get started, including a full set of device emulators.

You’ll want to check out our documentation on Getting Started with Developing for Windows Phone. A great resource for those of you who are new to Windows Phone development is the Windows Phone Jump Start training at http://aka.ms/wp8js.

How can I best increase my odds of making the round of 64?

There are two equally weighed inputs that decide whether you are included in the Round of 64 — user ratings and quality. We’ll be publishing a lot of guidance in the coming weeks, but in the interim, here are some pointers to great information about the new Windows Phone 8 capabilities that we’ll be looking for in the scoring and that the public will evaluate your app on when we enter the rating and voting phases.

Maximizing your user rating. The ratings you receive from users in many ways are a direct reflection on how well you engage your users and deliver on your specific application scenario. So in part it is about design. It’s also about letting your users know about your features, and about how to provide you feedback.

For example, as a developer, you aren’t allowed to automatically pin your Live Tile, or set their Lock Screen to your use your application as a lock screen provider; you have to alert users in an intelligent way that these are available. It’s also definitely recommended that you provide users direct access to your feedback page, however it’s something you have to be judicious about; you cannot make application functionality conditional on the submission of a review. It’s also critically important that you respond to the needs of your users; we’ve noted that the highest rated apps are often those where the developer frequently responds to users’ requests and submits new updates on a frequent basis. 

Driving high quality. What constitutes a high quality app? In the coming weeks, we’ll be going more in-depth on the factors we consider important (to start, here’s a link to our design principles). Certainly, the baseline is great performance and stability, but high quality apps also leverage the connected nature of the device to deliver outstanding experiences that are easy to use and visually impactful. Finally, driving performance and stability means you need to test your app on different types of hardware to really understand what your users’ experiences are.

In the coming weeks we’ll explore these concepts more in depth.

We’re excited to kick off the Windows Phone Next App Star contest and show the world some amazing new apps. Go to the Windows Phone Dev Center and register today to opt in. Once you’ve registered, we’ll periodically follow up with you over the course of the contest with more tips and information on how to build world class Windows Phone apps.

The Windows Phone Developer Experience team is working hard to help developers be successful in the growing Windows Phone ecosystem. Tell us how we’re doing, or what else you need. On Twitter, we’re at @wpdev. To find a local contact start with Find My Champ. For a developer feature request, see us on UserVoice. And you’re welcome to contact me directly at emiliosp@microsoft.com

 

*Contest open only to students, hobbyists, or developers in the field of software technology 18+. Submission period ends 3/5/13 and public voting period ends 4/8/13. For details, see Official Rules.