How to Make Apps for Windows 8: Preliminary Considerations
Windows 8 has been the subject of a phenomenal amount of negative feedback thanks to the ‘restrictive’ nature of its App store, which is seen by many as putting a set of artificial limitations on developers. However, these restrictions are little more than an expanded form of quality control, and may help newer developers by providing some much-needed structure to their production cycle.
Microsoft‘s standards mean that there are a number of things you must plan for before you actually get down to the business of designing and coding a Windows 8 app. We’ll take a look at the main preliminary steps here, as well as at some of the developer support features that have been programmed into the system in order to make your life slightly easier.
One of the more fiddly aspects of the Windows 8 development experience is the need to acquire and renew a development license. Windows Store development licences need to be renewed every 30 days (or 90 days if you’re working through a Store account), but are completely free. Unlike Apple‘s developer programs, the Windows developer license is universal, and can be used for development on any platform, whether it be mobile- or laptop-based. The renewal policy may seem like a pain initially, but you’ll quickly come to think of it as a performance incentive: the more efficiently you can develop your product, the less tiresome the process will be! Licenses can be acquired via Visual Studio, or, if you have a working Windows Account, through command prompt: Show-WindowsDeveloperLicenseRegistration. If you do get yourself a development license, be advised that this will also make your computer vulnerable, as the license allows non-certified apps to be run on your machine.
Microsoft appears to be doing its level best to make the development process for their App store as efficient and regimented as possible, and has laid out criteria to ensure their developers are kept in line. In particular, you should place a high degree of focus on how you plan to monetise your content (whether by selling the app itself, selling additional features, in-line advertising or even curating third-party transactions). The Store will subject your finished product to a series of quality benchmarks, so you should familiarise yourself with these checks and balances before you start the process and endeavor to build your app accordingly.
Although more free-spirited developers may be put off by Microsoft’s rather paternalistic approach towards development, less seasoned programmers will probably appreciate the wide variety of app templates on offer. It looks like Microsoft aims to host apps with a very particular profile, and they’re doing their hardest to try and create an environment in which they will be produced by developers by force of habit. As with the rest of the developer tools available for the Windows Store, these templates are available for free, allowing you complete access as long as you have a development license.
Beyond these considerations, you’ll be happy to learn that there has been at least some drive to attract new talent from a variety of different programming schools – this even extends to attempts to poach talent from iOS. Much effort has been put into making the development process for both platforms as streamlined and similar as possible. There have even been explicit overtures from Microsoft to persuade iOS developers to recreate similar apps for the Windows 8 platform (by marisol at testsforge). Guides for achieving this type of synchronicity are available directly from the Microsoft site itself. For all the noise that has been made about overly-restrictive rules, it does seem that developing on Windows 8 may actually be a much more amenable place to start for junior digital creatives.