Below, hear from Russell Hunt, a student at Staffordshire University, on his experiences of developing for Windows Phone, and what he learnt at the Staffordshire Windows Phone Camp:
I’ve been aware of Windows Phone (and the Mango update) since they were released, but have not had the time to devote to learning how to develop mobile applications for them until recently. I’m a final year student at Staffordshire University studying Web Development, and started a business last year with a fellow student from the course. App Haus, our business in Stafford, produces websites and mobile apps primarily for iPhone and Android.
Over the past 18 months, we’ve had clients ask for apps for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry, but never Windows Phone – hence not devoting time to learning the SDK until now.
I was excited to hear that Microsoft would be coming to Staffordshire University to host a Phone Camp event, designed to instil our students with the knowledge and ethos of the Windows Phone platform, and the Metro design language behind it. Although I’d never looked into designing apps for WP before, I had used friends’ devices and come to admire the thought-out UI which places emphasis on surfacing information through great typography rather than searching for it among icons and gradients. We’d been academically introduced to Metro just last semester in a lecture on User Experience Design.
Students at the Phone Camp came from across the broad spectrum of web, multimedia and computing students at the university. The demand to attend was huge and doubling the original capacity still left a few students without a ticket. Some were there as part of their Mobile Multimedia and Gaming module to begin to implement the designs they’d already produced into a working app. My business partner, our employee, and I all attended with a view to evaluating whether we can offer clients Windows Phone apps in future.
I’d given myself a head start for the Phone Camp, having installed the tools and thought out my app a few days beforehand. I read the User Experience Design Guidelines, downloaded and investigated the Sample Projects, and found 31 Days of Windows Phone particularly helpful. Thanks to a selection of Windows Phones at our university, I had the opportunity to borrow a device to evaluate the look and feel of existing built-in and 3rd party apps.
The app I am developing, known currently as Local Chat, will show other users of the app who is nearby, and facilitate conversations between users. Before the Phone Camp, I was able to implement the main screen of the application, featuring a Pivot control between a Bing map, current conversations and settings. I learnt how to respect the user’s accent colour, and ensured this was used to highlight important information. I had a basic grasp of data binding and Converters too.
During the Phone Camp, I learnt some of the core functionality required in any app such as how to create more pages and link them together, how to attach event handlers to controls and how to customize the application icon displayed on the Start Screen.
Since Phone Camp, I’ve put my skills into action and have finished a large amount of the user interface. Currently, I’m writing the Node.js server that will power the application, then I’ll return to C# to hook up the application. Once it’s ready and polished, I’ll submit it to the Marketplace and consider adding new features I’ve thought of or that users suggest.
I’ve found the visual tools inside Visual Studio to be more than sufficient for me so far, but have seen other students really getting along with Expression Blend. Adobe Fireworks is my graphics editor of choice, having used it for years before Macromedia existed. My sketches for the app were a little less hi-tech, with pen and paper using Michael Bach’s template.
I’m not really a console gamer and definitely not a games developer, so while I can appreciate the look and feel of the Metro dashboard on a friend’s Xbox, I can’t see myself developing any games for it at present. I used my hybrid stylus-based Windows XP Tablet PC extensively in school, and enjoyed using the applications that were enhanced for tablets (OneNote, Crosswords, Hexic!). I use and develop for an Apple iPad and Android Galaxy Tab 10.1 at present, but certainly look forward to getting reacquainted with a Windows tablet.
With my final year at Staffordshire University coming to an end this spring, I look forward to returning full time to App Haus, developing mobile applications. Depending on how my experience with Windows Phone progresses, I hope to be able to either offer it as an additional platform in the business or perhaps to continue developing apps in my free time.
Keep your eyes on the Marketplace for my app, attend a Phone Camp at your university if you’ve not done so yet and comment below or get in touch if you've got any questions or comments.
ive got the nokia lumia 800, any ideas as to when or if microsoft intend on applying adobe flash player application to the phone, it is currently unavailable and is a bit of a pain seing as tho many things online require the flash player
Depending on Adobe's technology and Microsoft's acceptance, there may be scope in future for Flash developers to output their programs & games directly to Apps - as they can do on Android and iOS at present; but nothing's been announced for Windows Phone.
To cut a long story short, don't hold your breath for Flash.