Windows 8 Development Tips #6: Be great at something

Building an application that people want to keep using and sharing with their friends is hard work.  You will spend hours trying to get everything just right and many code reviews later you'll have things ready to ship.  However, whether your app is truly successful or not starts way before the first line of code is ever written.  If your application is not really great at solving the problem it sets out solve it will not find much success in the market.  This tip is all about planning to build the right app for the right problem and truly be great at something.

(Previous tips can be found here.)

Be great at something

The "best at" statement

Every application starts with an idea.  Great applications start with a plan.  Your app should start with what is known as a "best at" statement.  This is a concept I learned from the Windows 8 UX Fundamentals Training Workshop 2012 that was held by Microsoft earlier this year.  The "best at" statement is one sentence that has the following form: "My application is the best in its category at _________."  It is your job to be as specific as possible in filling in the blank in this statement.  Pick a specific category in the Windows Store where your application will live and then describe the problem your application solves using this sentence.  You will want to capture specifically what truly differentiates your application from other applications in the category.  An example of a bad "best at" statement would be something like: "My app is the best in the fitness category at helping runners."  Helping runners do what?  A better "best at" statement would be: "My app is the best in the fitness category at helping runners visualize their running data."  This was the "best at" statement for Running Total and it guided the design and development process.

So, I've got this statement thingy… now what?

Once you've crafted a specific and truly differentiated "best at" statement, you can use it as a tool to guide the rest of your design process.  As you consider all of the features you might add to your application, you should always filter them based on whether or not they fit the "best at" statement.  For instance, if Running Total is supposed to be the best in its category at helping runners visualize their running data, does it make sense for it to also show runners information about upcoming races?  Probably not.  An entire application could be developed that would be better suited for providing that information to runners.  Maybe you can build that app too, but you shouldn't add those features to your current app unless they fall under the guidance of the "best at" statement.

Summary

Applications for Windows 8 need to be focused and direct and help users get a specific job done in an efficient manner.  This is easiest when the applications have been designed to support solving a particular problem.  The best way to guide your design and development towards this type of approach is to capture that goal in a targeted statement.  You can then base your entire process on this goal.  The end result is a much better app!

If you are interested in learning more about the "best at" statement and how to use it in your application design, check out the previously mentioned Microsoft workshop or read chapter 3 in my book, Designing for Windows 8 which covers the process from end to end in detail.  This concept is all related to application design which was covered previously in Tip #2: Get to know Microsoft design style.

Contact

If you have any questions or comments, please comment below or find me on Twitter @brentschooley. You can also email me at bschooley@infragistics.com.


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