In previous posts, we’ve talked about the unprecedented opportunity the Windows Store presents for developers, and all the ways customers can discover apps from within the Windows Store. We know that customers also look for apps via the web. In this post, Russell Wolf, a program manager on the Store Services team, describes three features that can help you as a developer to increase the likelihood that customers find your app from the web and buy it in the Store.

--Antoine


The Windows Store projects every app listing to the web. Linking to your app’s listing page from outside the Windows Store puts you in control of driving even more traffic to your app. It also provides a more complete set of information to users, allowing them to make an informed acquisition.

The Windows Store protocol

We have registered a Windows 8 protocol for the Windows Store that enables launching directly to an app’s listing page from outside of the Windows Store. This functionality is very useful if you know your user is on Windows 8, and you want to be sure that they arrive directly at the listing page for a specific app in the Store. For example, after checking a web browser user agent string for “Windows NT 6.2,” or when you are communicating with the user via a Metro style app, you’ll know your users are on Windows 8, so you can apply this protocol. Currently, up-to-date versions of Internet Explorer, Safari, and Firefox support Windows 8 protocols.

You can create your own Windows Store protocol link by appending the Package Family Name of your app to the URL below:

ms-windows-store:PDP?PFN=
You can retrieve the Package Family Name for your app either from Visual Studio, or by visiting your app’s web-based listing page and viewing the page source.

Code says var packageFamilyName =

Page source of a web-based app listing page

To get the Package Family Name from Visual Studio, you will first need to have aligned the local project with your Windows Store developer account, and reserved the app name in the Windows Store. When you open the “package.appxmanifest” file, it automatically launches the manifest designer built into Visual Studio. From there, click the “Packaging” tab and look at the entry in the “Package Family Name” field.

Screen shot of packaging tab

The manifest designer in Visual Studio 11 shows the Package Family Name on the Packaging tab

Web version of your app listing page

When your app is published into the Windows Store, a web version of your app listing page is automatically created for you in all markets and languages where your app is available. These web-based listings provide an opportunity for users on any platform to learn more about your app and are the best way to share your app through email or social networks when you don’t know what platform your audience is on. If a user visits a web-based listing page while on Windows 8 and on a browser that supports Windows 8 protocols, they will see the “View in Windows Store” button, allowing them to transition to the app listing page in the Windows Store. As more browsers add support for Windows 8 protocols, we will update the web-based listing pages to display the “View in Windows Store” button for them too.

Listing for the Labyrinth app

A web listing page

The web listing surfaces all the content you submitted for your app in the Windows Store Dashboard including info shown on the Overview and Details tabs of the Store-based listing, along with the price and user rating information. This makes the data available on the web to be indexed by search engines, and makes your app easier for users to discover.

You can find the link to your app’s web listing page by going to the Details page for your app in the Windows Store Dashboard, as shown here:

Highlighted is link to Labyrinth app in Store

Details page for an app in the Windows Store Dashboard

Internet Explorer app switch

To help drive your existing site audience to your app, Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8 has a new app switch button, which will let users know when an app is available for the site they are viewing. When users launch Internet Explorer from the Windows 8 Start screen to view a website that has an app in the Windows Store, they can tap or click the app switch button to go directly to the corresponding listing page in the Windows Store. (By the way, this only works when using the Metro-style browser that you launch from the Start screen, and is not available if you launch Internet Explorer from the Windows 8 desktop.)

App switch button is in the lower left, next to the address bar

The app switch button in Internet Explorer allowing
a user to get an app from the Window Store

If they already have the app, they will instead be given the option to launch directly into the app. When they do so, information about the webpage they are coming from is passed to the app, so the user lands in an appropriate location within the app.

This not only allows users who don’t yet have your app to open the Windows Store and acquire it, but it also provides a seamless transition to the app from content that is shared between the website and app experiences.

Best of all, it only takes these two lines of metadata added inside the <body><head> of your app listing page to make Internet Explorer 10 aware of your app.*

<meta name="msApplication-ID" content="Contoso.Labyrinth"/>

<meta name="msApplication-PackageFamilyName" content="Contoso.Labyrinth_h91ms92gdsmmt"/>

You can find the msApplication-ID in Visual Studio (it’s the ID in the Application tag when viewing the code of your “package.appxmanifest” file), and the msApplication-PackageFamilyName is the same Package Family Name that we retrieved above from either Visual Studio or from the source code of your web-based listing.

By default, IE passes the URL of the web page to the app but you can specify an optional third <meta> tag, msApplication-Arguments, to pass a context-relevant string instead. To get even more out of the experience, the IE Blog has provided some documentation and code samples for making the most of the app switch feature.

Expanding your reach further

Having an app in the Windows Store gives you a potential audience of hundreds of millions of customers. By taking advantage of these additional discoverability mechanisms, you can increase contextual discovery of your app from the browser and reach customers as they seek to satisfy their curiosity and interests.

--Russell Wolf

* CORRECTION published 3/13/2012. Apologies for the earlier error.