Matt Fara is more than just a fan of all things Microsoft; as a developer of Windows apps for the past five years, he walks the talk. Fara is a Toronto-based enterprise developer by day who recently launched Motive, a social app that empowers users to set goals, track their habits, and develop and manage a plan to succeed. His enterprise apps include a dispatching solution that leverages Windows 8 and Microsoft Azure, and a CRM solution that he intends to release as a universal app later this year. For now, Fara is eager to take advantage of the innovations in Windows 8.1 to enhance the interactivity of Motive; he looks forward to further engaging his users, supporting them more fully as they pursue their goals. I caught up with him to learn about Motive and about his plans to use the new features in Windows 8.1.
What is Motive all about and why did you decide to build it on Windows Phone?
Motive is a goal-oriented social app. I wanted to help people set and reach their goals, so I borrowed ideas from self-help literature, seminars, and my own experiences, and I built an app. But the app is only the beginning; it facilitates a community in which people support each other as they work towards their goals.
For five years, I’ve developed exclusively for Windows. I’ve always been interested in apps, but the Apple and Google developer environments did not excite me. Windows Phone 8 did. I could use the .NET skills I already had, along with best-in-class tools and a superior programming language. So building my app on Windows was a natural choice.
Windows Phone 8 is fresh and unique. Once you experience Live Tiles, there is no going back. Apps feel immersive and they perform smoothly on any hardware thanks to an efficient design.
I’ve been anticipating a single OS for a while, and with Windows 8.1, Microsoft realizes this vision. I can write code in an ecosystem, knowing that I will be able to share it across platforms and easily reuse it. That opens up a lot of possibilities.
What Windows 8.1 features do you intend to leverage to make your game even more successful?
I know I can take Motive to the next level. The Motive philosophy is that you can realize your dreams—with the help of a supportive community that will hold you accountable. You can share your progress towards your goals, and other users can offer encouragement and increase your motivation. A point-based system turns success into a game, with leaderboards and a social emphasis so you can watch users blaze the trail to their own destinations, view and support their progress, and see what kinds of habits are helping them succeed.
There are many Windows 8.1 features that will help me scale my app’s social aspects and incorporate new opportunities for interactivity. Specifically, I am excited about the Action Center. Now my users can access their alerts with one quick tap. They can customize how alerts appear according to their preferences, so it’s a welcome innovation that helps me connect with my users in the ways they want to connect—without any special code. It’s all built into 8.1.
I have already spoken about the efficiency the universal app platform provides me as a developer; all my future apps will be universal apps. The Cortana API is also intriguing, and I intend to add a Cortana interface that will remind users of tasks and keep them on track. This will take the universality of Cortana to new levels. I will also leverage the People hub extensibility to enhance my app’s social experience.
I already use Azure Mobile Services in all of my apps, and it is an essential part of a connected app. Azure has saved me countless hours from creating my own backend service, and it is much more resilient than anything I could have made. Azure has made the impossible possible. I signed up for BizSpark, and I got free Azure credits, meaning I could build my dream without burning a hole in my pocket. This was a substantial help to me as an independent developer, and Azure remains a big part of my long-term business strategy.
What is your advice to developers?
The app market is a modern-day gold rush. Windows 8.1 presents a huge opportunity for developers both in terms of innovation and market potential. Being first to market is a powerful position to be in. If you have an idea, put it into action. Emphasize design, quality, and user experience—and be meticulous.
And, of course, follow your dreams; envision your future and then make it happen. Your only barrier is you not believing in yourself. You don’t have to have a unique idea, just have an idea of what YOU want to do. Create something that aligns with your interests and values, and you will never work a day in your life. Do not be afraid to copy and paste! Do not re-invent the wheel. Leverage the power of the cloud! Do not feel like you have to understand every line of code in your project. If it ain’t broke, compile it.