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What Twitter and Facebook Learned about Developing Windows Phone 7 Apps

After I got over my disappointment at being one of the few people at PDC who won’t be getting a new Windows Phone 7 today (members of the press weren’t included in the giveaway), I dried my tears and dropped in on a session presented by members of the Twitter and Facebook teams about what they learned from developing apps for the new platform in a short timeframe. The room was packed, and the tips came fast and furious from Jaime Rodriguez, who led a lean team of people to develop an app for Twitter in about two months.

1.       Play with the phone! Understanding how the phone works is key to creating an app that optimizes the native experience. Rodriguez warned that if you don’t spend some time just goofing around with a Windows Phone, you’ll just try to replicate an iPhone or Droid experience. And what would be the point of that?

2.       Understand the core tenets of the Windows Phone Metro user interface:  1) predominance of negative space, 2) strong typography, 3) motion.

3.       If you’re in a hurry, don’t try to customize the themes. Even simple changes can create problems. Rodriguez walked through an example in which his team tried to change the background color of the app, which caused problems with the way the system tray was presented.

4.       Show the next page as quickly as possible. Rodriguez pointed out that Silverlight will do a good job of getting a page in front of the user, but not if you get in its way. Set your code to run after the animations are complete to get a fluid transition. And don’t use slow animations—keep them brief.

5.       Make sure you understand Windows Phone 7 tombstoning—the way the phone multitasks. Aside from showing the next page quickly, Rodriguez said that tombstoning was the most important concept of developing for Windows Phone 7. “Do it right, or you’ll make people wait,” he said.

You can see more tips from the Twitter and Facebook teams at the virtual PDC 2010 site. You won’t get a Windows Phone 7 there. But I don’t have one either.


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