Bill Reiss is a Windows Platform Development MVP and a Senior Consultant for AgileThought

At the Sarasota .Net Developer’s Group in July I gave a presentation about how to improve the number of downloads and reviews for Windows Phone apps. I am by no means an expert on the topic but I’ve learned a lot along the way and everyone who has seen this session the handful of times I’ve presented it have had very positive feedback for me about it.

I will be converting as much as I can of the presentation over time into blog posts, but I was fortunate enough to have Russ Fustino, lead evangelist for ComponentOne, record the Sarasota session and with the help of his team at ComponentOne, the video is now available on YouTube.

If you like the video, and appreciate the content, please say thanks by taking a moment to download and review some of my apps, I’d really appreciate it. Thanks!

Links to my apps:

Reading Lens Free
Reading Lens
Wipeout

Enjoy!

There have been a couple of recent developments that have really reduced the cost of getting started with Windows Phone development. First of all, it only costs $19 a year now to get developer access to the Windows Phone Store.

http://www.winbeta.org/news/microsoft-extends-windows-phone-dev-center-19-fee-so-you-can-get-your-app-published

This was originally a short term promotion for the summer but has been extended indefinitely. Also if you’re a BizSpark, DreamSpark, or other MSDN Subscriber, you get a free developer token for the Windows Phone Store.

Add to this the fact that the Windows Phone SDK is free and comes with a free copy of Visual Studio Express, and you have everything you need to publish to the store for $19 or even free.

Ok, I know, some of you are saying “but I don’t have a Windows Phone so I can’t test my app”. Fair enough. First of all, the Windows Phone emulator is very good. Unless you use some specific hardware on the device, you can do everything you need in the emulator. Of course it’s always better to test on a device if you have access to one, so how about being able to test on the most popular Windows Phone on the market? The Lumia 520 is an amazing little phone and it’s not surprising that it’s skyrocketed to the top of the charts. It’s also amazingly affordable. You can pick one up for $100 on Amazon without a contract.

Use it as a prepaid phone with AT&T or just use it on WiFi. Put a SD card in it and have a sweet little media device. So for under $120 you can have absolutely everything you need to get going.

Of course once you publish your first app, if you’re in the USA or Canada, contact me or your regional Nokia Developer Ambassador (if it’s not me, I can point you in the right direction) to get a free Lumia 800 and enter all sorts of other promotions, and let us know if you need any other help.

We had a great response for the latest giveaway and look for more in the near future! If you didn’t win this time there will be more, don’t worry.

The winners are:

  • Shayne Boyer – JBL PowerUp Speakers
  • Denny Gay – Lumia 620
  • Rob Irving – Wireless Charging Plate
  • Bobby Harrell – Nokia Purity in-ear headphones

Thanks again to everyone in my region. If you want to hear about the next promotion first, you can subscribe to my Windows Phone discussion list here:

http://southeast.devnokia.com

I look forward to hearing from you!

I want to help you have some summer fun, so let’s have a quick contest.

I’m doing a simple drawing and giving away some cool Nokia prizes! You can win a Lumia 620, JBL Wireless Speakers, Wireless Charging Plate, or Nokia Purity Headphones.

All you need to do is the following:

1. Live in Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, or Alabama (see NOTE below if you live in USA or Canada but not in my region)

2. Have a published Windows Phone app

3. Send an email to ext-bill.reiss@nokia.com with Your Name, a link to one of your Windows Phone apps, and your City and State. Please include your DVLUP userid if you have one.

That’s it.

NOTE: You need to be in Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, or Alabama to qualify. If you are somewhere else in the USA or Canada, your Nokia Developer Ambassador is running a similar contest right now, possibly with different giveaways but they’re all great. To enter in your region go here http://richarddunbar.blogspot.com/2013/07/developer-registration-drive.html

Act fast because I’m going to do the drawing on July 31…  Don’t miss your chance!!!

Also, keep watching my blog www.billreiss.com and follow me on twitter @billreiss for more promotions in the future!

Thanks!

Just a reminder that you have 1 week left to enter the drawing for some sweet Nokia phones including a Lumia 920 and 620. I’ve made it about as easy as I can for Windows Phone developers to qualify.

— Submit a new Windows Phone app or update between May 1 and June 15

— Get points for one DVLUP challenge during the same date range

— Send me an email at ext-bill.reiss (at) nokia.com or tweet me at @billreiss with your name, city, state, link to app, and dvlup username

— If you have 500 DVLUP points or more at the time of the drawing on June 16 you get an extra entry.

— Residents of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama only. Nokia Ambassadors in other parts of USA and Canada are holding their own promotions now. Contact me if you need an introduction.

See this previous post for more details: http://www.billreiss.com/big-southeast-nokia-ambassador-giveaway/ 

Good luck and get coding!

In Florida for the past couple of years we have had a discussion list for Windows Phone development. We found it to be a great resource for Windows Phone developers who had technical questions as well as getting the word out about events, promotions, and new products.

I’m happy to announce that I have created a new discussion list for the entire Southeast. I’m not going to deny anyone access if they request access unless they cause trouble, but we will be focused on events and promotions in the Southeast region, namely Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Topics not related to developers in the area will be highly discouraged. To sign up follow these steps:

Hope to see you there! And please introduce yourself when you get on the list.

Are you in Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida?

If so I am your new Nokia Developer Ambassador! I am very excited to work with this already strong community and I want to do what it takes to make us the absolute best for Windows Phone app development.

Let’s get to know each other by doing a big giveaway. Here’s what’s up for grabs:

  • One Nokia Lumia 920 plus wireless charging station
  • One Nokia Lumia 620
  • One Nokia Lumia 900
  • One Nokia Lumia 800

The Lumia 920 I’m giving away is a developer unit (not for resale!) I won in the Next App Star contest and I’m personally adding it to the pool of prizes to sweeten the pot.

WP_20130509_004

So what do you need to do to qualify? It’s pretty easy. All you need to do is successfully complete a DVLUP.com challenge that requires a XAP submission (so no survey challenges) and then tell me about it. The XAP submission must be on or after May 1, 2013. Qualifying submissions include new app submissions or updates. One submission per user account please. Deadline is Midnight June 15, 2013 Eastern Time. Winners will be announced on June 16, 2013.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Send me the link to an eligible app
  • Send me the link to your DVLUP profile. If you have at least 500XP on DVLUP, you earn another entry

Restrictions:

  • You must be located in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Alabama
  • You must submit a XAP to the Windows Phone store and have it approved between May 1 and June 15, 2013.
  • The app for the XAP submitted must qualify for at least one DVLUP challenge.
  • One entry per DVLUP account.
  • This promotion is being held by me, without any express written or implied consent or participation from any third party.
  • By submitting your apps to me, you agree to hold me not responsible for any promotion, remuneration or other, expectations whether implied or inferred. 
  • I am doing this to help developers, not looking for any problems.
  • The lucky winner will be randomly chosen by me.

How to enter:

Send me an email to billreiss[AT]outlook[DOT]com with the subject line “Southeast WPDev Rocks!”  or tweet me at @billreiss (please follow me on twitter while you’re there!) 

In the body of the email, include:

  • Your Windows Phone developer/publisher name. This is the “publisher” that shows up in the marketplace when you release an app
  • Your DVLUP username
  • The app you are entering. Please, send a clear, coherent email with your app entry specified and described. Please include the name of the challenge the app qualifies for. 
  • Any news on apps you’re working on.

If you contact me via a tweet I’ll take as much as I can get. I’ll reach out to you if I need more info.

Good luck and get coding!

I’m thrilled to announce that I have been selected to be the Nokia Developer Ambassador for the Southeast region. This includes Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Alabama. If you are a Windows Phone developer in my region or if you are not currently a Windows Phone developer but have an interest in getting started, I want to get to know you and discuss how I can help you write more and higher quality Windows Phone apps and help you promote them. Please connect with me. Especially if you’re a user group leader in my region I want to know how I can help. The best ways right now to keep up to date with me are through this blog or through Twitter where my handle is @billreiss. I’m also billreiss on LinkedIn, Facebook, Skype, and App.net. Keep an eye on my posts because I’m going to announce a promotion soon where you can get some really nice swag (probably including a Lumia 920 that I’ll be donating myself to make things more interesting).

Well what is a Nokia Developer Ambassador? I think Rich Dunbar, my friend and Lead Ambassador, describes it best in a recent interview on DVLUP.com here: http://blog.dvlup.com/2013/04/10/meet-nokia-ambassador-rich-dunbar-an-advocate-for-windows-phone-developers/ 

Rich was the first Ambassador and he was so effective in this role that Nokia decided to expand the program and give Rich some much needed help. I join a very talented and small group of Ambassadors and I’m honored to join the team. My interactions so far with them have been impressive and overwhelmingly positive. Basically if you’re familiar with the Microsoft Developer Evangelist program, we’re like the Nokia version of that. One major difference is that most or all of us also have a full time job and our employers allow us to spend our off hours working on this. Our mission statement is to do whatever it takes in our regions to facilitate the creation of more and higher quality apps for Windows Phone. 

I’m sure many people in my region already know who I am but if you don’t, I’ve been writing software for over 30 years, beginning in seventh grade with some simple games for the family’s TI-99/4a computer with a tape drive, Extended Basic, and 32k of RAM. I continued writing games into the first couple of years of college, and actually sold some of them. I went into Electrical Engineering because my college at the time didn’t offer Computer Engineering, but I lost interest and had too much fun in the Sig Ep fraternity house and had to relocate to Florida where my parents lived and bring my grades up. I then attended University of South Florida for Computer Science. At USF I got into MUDs, or Multiple User Dungeons (or Domains depending on who you talk to), a text based ancestor of MMOs. I wanted to learn C better, and I always learn best by writing something, so I took an existing MUD client that I liked, called TINTIN, and extended it significantly to create TINTIN++. This became one of the most popular MUD clients ever and was detailed in a couple of books about MUDs at the time. There’s even a Wikipedia page.

Fast forward a few years and I’ve been a Microsoft MVP for the last 6 years, first in XNA, then Client Application Development, then I was named the first Silverlight MVP, which I still am today. I speak often about game development in .NET, XAML based app development, and other related topics. I’d like to thank Joe Healy, Microsoft Developer Evangelist for his support and encouragement over these years.

I got involved with Windows Phone before the first release as the lead developer on iHeartRadio for Windows Phone Version 1, and I have published Reading Lens, Wipeout, and Popper 2 among other successful apps and games as an independent developer.  I work in Tampa as a Senior Developer for AgileThought, the best company I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. They have been very supportive in my goals and have agreed to let me take on this exciting role in addition to my AgileThought work.   

If you’re interested in Windows Phone development, there are some things you can do right now to get going. First, sign up for DVLUP.com. DVLUP is a free program where you can gain prestige and earn rewards for developing Windows Phone apps. In many cases the rewards can be more lucrative that your normal income for Windows Phone apps. Next, connect with your local Nokia Developer Ambassador and Nokia Developer Champions. We’re here to help you, that’s our only purpose. Finally, start writing some apps, or if you already have some write some more or improve the ones already out there. I’m excited to help you create the next great app for Windows Phone!

One of the questions I’ve herd a lot lately is “How do I increase the number of reviews for my Windows Phone Apps?”. This is the first in a series of posts where I’ll describe some of the things I’ve done to have multiple apps in the Windows Phone Store with 4+ star average ratings. It’s surprisingly difficult to provide a review on Windows Phone so anything you can do to make it easier for your happy users to review your app is “A Good Thing ™”.

Obviously the first thing you need to do is create a quality app. Making it easier to review a crappy app is just going to get you more 1 star ratings which can do more damage than good. This part is up to you, but once you’ve done that much there are some easy steps you can take to significantly increase the amount of reviews you get.

You won’t get good ratings from everyone, and generally users are more likely to complain than compliment you. This is true for almost any type of business, bad news travels faster, and it definitely applies to apps. Fortunately not all is lost, if you make it easier for your happy users to rate and review your app, many of them are happy to do so.

image

There is an added benefit to having a lot of positive reviews. Nokia has a program for Windows Phone developers (in the USA, Canada, and UK only right now, sorry) called DVLUP where you can earn prestige and points that you can redeem for some really cool rewards. One of their highest point challenges right now is to have an app with a 4+ star average rating. Rewards start at 25 reviews and go all of the way up to 2000 reviews. These challenges can stack on top of each other so even though the first one is worth 500 points (about a $30 value) if you were to get to 2000 reviews that’s

500 + 1000 + 2000 + 3000 + 4000 + 5000 + 10000 = 25500 XP

which works out to be about $1700 in value. That’s enough for a Surface Pro, an Xbox with Kinect, AND a Lumia 820. Or get a bunch of American Airlines gift cards and take the family on vacation. Something to shoot for?

Source code for this sample: http://www.billreiss.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/ReviewMeApp.zip

One of the easiest things you can do is provide an About page with a “Review Me” button. You’d be surprised how many users will actually go to your About page. You can easily create your own but why bother when someone has already done the work for you? There are a few of these available for free, but my favorite is YLAD (Your Last About Dialog) by Peter Kuhn (aka Mister Goodcat). I love how it is highly configurable via an XML file and you basically just drop it in your project and away you go. There is no reason not to provide a high quality About page when you can do it in a matter of minutes with YLAD. (I see Peter has a similar project called YLOD for a Settings page which looks very helpful too).

You can download YLAD from CodePlex but it’s also available through NuGet making it even easier. In your Windows Phone project, select Manage NuGet Packages…

image 

Then in the NuGet dialog, search for YLAD and install.

image

Now to navigate to the about page, I’ll just add a button to the main page. You’ll have to do whatever makes the most sense for your app, for example put a menu item in the app bar. Here’s my button:

<Button Content="About This App" HorizontalAlignment="Left" VerticalAlignment="Top" Click="Button_Click"/>

And then in its Click event:

private void Button_Click(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
{
    NavigationService.Navigate(new Uri("/YourLastAboutDialog;component/AboutPage.xaml", UriKind.Relative));
}

That’s all there is to it. If I then run the app and click the button, I get the following:

about_dialog_1

Now obviously we’re not quite done but the “Review this App!” button is live. It won’t actually work until you publish unless you’ve already published the app and set the application ID appropriately, but you can tap it and see that it tries to navigate to the review page in the Windows Phone store.

So how do we fill in the rest of the information? When the NuGet package was installed, it also created a Content/About folder in your project. In there you can customize the style of your About page using the AboutStyles.xaml file, and you can customize the content using the Data.xml file. The Data.xml file is very well commented to tell you exactly what to do, but it’s pretty clear where we set Author and Publisher values:

image

After setting the Author and Publisher, it looks like this:

about_dialog_2

Pretty cool huh? One line of code and some XML tweaking and we have a professional looking about dialog. If you want to take it to the next level, there are some more advanced topics covered in the documentation on CodePlex such as using custom XAML in pivot items and advanced formatting. Thanks Mister Goodcat!

Source code: http://www.billreiss.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/ReviewMeApp.zip

I have no problem admitting when I’m wrong or stupid, and this may be one of those times where everyone else knew how this works except for me, but I’m posting about it in case anyone else out there had this issue. In Visual Studio 2010, you could click on the little peg next to the Style property in the Properties window for the selected TextBlock and get a list of available styles to choose from. I came to depend on this to choose the standard styles recommended for Windows Phone development.

When I first installed Visual Studio 2012 and the Windows Phone 8 SDK, I was surprised to see that none of the built in or locally defined styles show up for the Style property in the Properties window:

image 

I thought this was either a problem with my install, or something that would be fixed in a later release of Visual Studio 2012. Last week, Visual Studio 2012 Update 2 was officially released, and I looked again to see if the styles were showing up, and still no luck. This made me search the internet deeper and found out that the style picker still exists, it’s just moved, and it’s even better than the old one.

So how do you get to it? It’s actually easier. In the visual designer, just select the TextBlock you want to apply a style to, and right click. Then go to Edit Style and then Apply Resource. You should see something like the following:

image

Along with a nice visual preview of the style, you also can edit a copy of a style or create a new style. These tasks in the past were typically ones that you would have had to launch Blend in order to do easily, but now more of the Blend tasks have been brought into Visual Studio 2012. Hope this helps if you were as clueless as me in how to find how to set text styles.