With Windows 8 comes great opportunities for developers.
With the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft brought us not only a new operating system, but also a new ideology in how people interact with their devices. It’s a subtle change, but it will be important for many mobile app developers creating Windows 8 apps.
Windows 8 is well-known for the touch-friendly tiles interface, which replaces the Start menu with tiles representing selected programs. Tiles are more than just logos or buttons; they can actively display new information, such as news updates, refreshed images, or animations.
Windows 8 also introduces the concept of lock screen apps, which are apps that run when the device is locked, and can update the lock screen with their information. By default, the lock screen shows the time and date and a background image, but you could add the current weather, or the Messaging app so you can see notifications of new messages. These aren’t displayed as alerts in a pop-up box, but instead show their information integrated in the lock screen itself. As a result, you can glance at your locked computer to see the details of your next meeting, or any incoming messages you should know about.
At first this seems like a minor enhancement, but it actually changes how people interact with their software, because they don’t need to go into a specific app or programme to use its data any more; they can just glance at the device.
This creates some great opportunities for developers. If your app can provide updates to users in a tile on their Start screen, you have a chance to entice users back into the app to use it, both by making the tile look fresh and eye catching, and also by showing the specific value of the new information available in the application now. This is particularly valuable if you get enough traction with a user to be able to personalise what you display in the tile to their interests and social groups.
There is an art to doing this well, though. I have seen some tiles that are animated but don’t convey any additional information, giving them the feel of an online banner advert, blinking in an attention-grabbing and distracting way. As people use more apps with animated tiles, that could become irritating. The key, as always, is to make sure that you put the user first and deliver genuine value with your updates. Ultimately, users can choose which apps they allow to have tiles on their Start screen, and which of those apps can have live tiles that update.
Some app developers might be concerned about the loss of control implied in the way that their app information is more deeply embedded in the OS, but I don’t think this is a real concern. For years, marketers have been talking about content marketing, using their text and visual content online to draw people back into their websites. This is similar: you can use the information your app has, or has access to, to bring people into your app for more details or real interaction with it. The power of your app isn’t so much in hoarding information: it is in being the source and destination of it, and in letting it flow through Windows 8.
This blog post is written by Softtalkblog, and is sponsored by the Intel Developer Zone, which helps you to develop, market and sell software and apps for prominent platforms and emerging technologies powered by Intel Architecture.