It all started with a series of PowerPoint decks that covered the appropriate designs for common flavors of applications such as Photos, Food, Travel, etc. These decks told a pictorial story of a design firm putting together designs for these apps, why they made the choices they did, etc. During a weekly Windows 8 war room, the obvious need for more reference applications complete with code was discussed and it was decided that we should build reference applications based on the themes established by the design decks. For our first app, we decided to go after the app related to Food and Dining as food is easily approachable and subject matter that almost everyone loves.
The Food and Dining design deck was focused on a Food Truck Finder application. While we loved the idea (I actually built a food truck finder app at our Airlift), we really wanted to go after something that had a bit more depth. It was also very, very important for us to use real data, no Northwind database here. We looked at all the available and open APIs and narrowed down our choices to either recipes or restaurants. Recipes had really been covered over and over (Contoso Cookbook is a great example) so, we decided to do a restaurant finder centered on the user's current or chosen location.
With the new premise in hand, we started by deciding on which APIs we would like to use. We boiled it down to Yelp for Restaurant data and reviews, Factual for a more complete view of each restaurant, OpenMenu for menu data, Bing Maps for location data and Bing Search for images. Making this decision early allowed us to understand what data would be available to surface in the app. Knowing what data would be available to us allowed us to define a shape for the restaurant if you will and allowed us to start formulating early ideas for features.
With a rough idea of what features we would like to see in the app and a clear picture of what data would be surfaced, it was time to engage our design team. For design, we chose to engage an outside firm that had been trained in Windows 8 UI and had proven expertise in building apps. Our firm of choice, UICentric. With the design team engaged, we were able to start breathing some life into the idea and making key decisions on features based on the wires that they created.
The design team gave shape and structure to our ideas in the wires which allowed our ideas to be proven or disproven as well as give birth to new ideas. Our app was coming to life, being animated in vivid color. A few more passes at wires and we would be able to start building the app.
In my next post, I'll go through the early stages of the designing the app, how we got started, how we conveyed our idea and how we were able to start getting a picture of what our app would be.
Take a look at the source code now live on SourceForge!