Target your own “target market”

There are some great Ad controls around (AdDuplex springs to mind) that can maximise your coverage across all App types across the store.  But what if you have targeted a specific target market with a whole suite of your own Apps?  How can you maximise Ad coverage of these Apps to your target market?  One way is to create a simple Ad control like the one shown here.  NB I place mine immediately below the standard Ad Control so that it only appears when a Microsoft – sourced Ad is unavailable (note that there are more sophisticated ways of doing this but I have found that this simple method serves my purpose)

I created a simple user control with the following XAML layout:

image

Then I created some 600×300 images that represent the Ads I want to serve and added them to the images folder of my project:

 

 

(expect the above designs to change as I play!)

 

The Code Behind of the UserControl uses the Random function to select a different image every time it is loaded:

image

My thinking here was to create a quick (and some would say dirty) user control in order to test out the basic concept. 

(Should it prove to show promise I may well spend more time on the control, – perhaps making it cloud based and ad admin configurable.)

 

NB You can see the above control in action in “Vantage Point” downloadable here:

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/app/vantage-point/ac78eddb-c8ba-41b2-a7e8-843147ccc0b1

IMAX 3D “Edge of Tomorrow”

One of the benefits of not working (or“resting” as I like to call it),  is the opportunity to spend some time with the kids while they are on their half term holidays.  Of course they are both working hard at the moment, Emily for her GCSE’s  and Daisy for her end of year exams… but ….

So we were very excited to have been invited by Stuff magazine to attend the premiere of ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ at the BFI IMAX  (For my part, anyone who knows me will appreciate that I am excited by all things stereoscopic/ 3d and this will be the first opportunity I have had to see a film at “the largest 3D IMAX in Europe”!)

I am doubly excited to be going with my eldest daughter, Emily, who is a massive fan of Emily Blunt who is planning to attend  the premiere. with her co-star.

So Is there a down side to this trip? Well, we are getting the 1:30am coach from Gloucester to get in to London at 5am …  (Red Carpet at 7am, Premiere at 9am – all over in time for brunch!)

As the opening scenes of the film take place in Trafalgar Square and Waterloo Bridge I thought we should walk from Victoria, past Buckingham palace, down the Mall, across Trafalgar Square and over the Hungerford bridge – offering us a great view of Waterloo bridge, before heading over to the BFI a short walk past the site of my first ever workplace (in Chicheley Street – ironically now a bar!).  Of course I have pointed out this particular site many times before so have an idea what I can expect – but I guess that is all part of the fun!

The Film

I might as well start by telling you to go and see this film on the largest 3D screen you can find.  It’s just simply an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours!  Better than Godzilla (which I enjoyed) and probably my favourite film of the year so far (and I wouldn’t be surprised if it stayed that way).  Don’t expect surprises (there are some), don’t expect romance (there is some), don’t expect a comedy (but expect to laugh a bit). Do expect action (lots of it), do expect suspense (buckets) and perhaps most of all, expect to be thrilled!

The Experience

I have never attended a film premiere but when I mentioned to the girls that I had tickets to the new Emily Blunt film they nearly wet themselves, and so the date was on!.    We arrived early and were escorted to our spots on the red carpet and shortly after a limousine pulled up in front of us and out stepped Tom Cruise.  I have to say I came away loving Tom (not in the biblical sense you understand).  He spent hours outside with the crowd and while all other stars were gracious with the fans, signing autographs and smiling for the cameras, they couldn’t match his commitment.  A quick breakfast inside and we took our seats, a quick introduction from Tom and the crew and the film kicked off!

What a great experience!  Thank you Stuff magazine and Warner for looking after us!

Little Things / Detail / Design / Musings

So as well as some cool new features I tool a little time to think about smaller details that, ordinarily as a developer rather than designer, I routinely let by.

Default Search Box Styling

I guess I was kind of aware that the colours that manifested themselves in various states of the SearchBox were out of kilter with the general ‘sepia’ theme of the overall App.

A couple of overrides in the Application file and sorted:

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Should I have those colours defined as constants somewhere? You betcha! Have I? (no).  Are there some other overrides that should be in there? (probably)

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That’’s Better, but do I need that black border? Hmmm ….

Buttons on Top Level Page

A quick edit to make the text background stack panel height 30px instead of 60px:

Before:

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After:

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Now should that text background be a transparent dark brown rather than black?

Showing someone the App on their Lenovo tablet and I spotted an issue with my home page layout and the search box:

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That’s’ Better:

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Truth is I don’t quite have the eye or the design chops…. but ….. I am getting better (and more diligent) and, in any event, am hopeful of a design makeover for this App from someone who does have the eye …. so watch this space!!

Vantage Point Apps

Just a quick post to clarify the various Vantage Point Apps that are available or currently under development:

1. Vantage Point for Windows 8.1 (available here)
2. Vantage Point for Windows Phone (release planned in March 2013
)
3. Vantage Point (Capture) for Windows Phone* (
under development)
4. History Explorer for Windows Phone (
uses some images from the Vantage Point database)

* In general I have found the Windows Phone form factor (such as my own  Lumia 920) is too small to make this app really useful  though I hope to be able to revisit this project at some point in the future.

Vantage Point (London) for Windows Phone

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The initial version of Vantage Point covers the London area.  The ‘phone form factor’ lends itself to a different default interface which automatically fades between the two images (this is also one of the options available in the main Vantage Point App once a location has been purchased).

ss2

Tower Bridge (shown mid fade between the construction and present day images)

NB This app will be available in March 2013 and should it prove popular will be expanded to include all the Vantage Point images that are available in the full Windows 8 version)

Vantage Point (Windows 8) Download Link

History Explorer for Windows Phone

History Explorer  shows the location of a collection of historical images of Gloucester and Cheltenham, many dating back over 100 years.

ss1

It takes it’s images from the same data pool as it’s popular bigger brother ‘Vantage Point’ for Windows 8 (and may well morph into something akin to it for Windows Phone if given enough time!)

Essentially the app was built as an exercise in using the new Microsoft/Nokia mapping technology that is in the latest platform update.  It also seemed appropriate given that most of the  older photographs date back around 100 years or so to commemorate the anniversary of the start of the Great War.

The App is free and can be downloaded here

Please post a favourable review if you enjoy it!

Live Tile Sport – Editors Choice Award

Very please to find that one of my apps achieved an editors choice award this month:

http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/app/live-tile-sport/c0fa3321-5ab4-417f-887d-8a59700487bb

Thank you!

 


Best Windows 8 Apps


Live Tile Sport

Get live news from your chosen sport in your Windows 8 UI!

Note this App covers a selection of popular British sports (so no Hockey, Baseball or American Football!) Features:

  • Multiple Sports Categories with associated Live Tiles
  • Choice of Live tile Layout and Content
  • Ability to remove Advertising / Purchase a full licence.
  • Control over text ayout and font sizes

Download

Live Tile Sport

Live Tile Sport

Details:

Category: Sports

Size: 0.3 MB

Age rating: 12+

Publisher: Web Surfaces

Supported processors: x86, x64, ARM

Website: Live Tile Sport website

Editor rating: 9.5 Stars (9.5 / 10)

Award:

 

ref: http://bestwindows8apps.net/live-tile-sport/

Fast App turnaround for Windows Store App!

Yesterday morning I submitted version 4 of ‘Vantage Point’ to Microsoft, last night it was in the store!!

Here are the milestones:

 

  1. Fri, 31 Jan 2014 08:00:45 – Submitted to store
  2. Fri, 31 Jan 2014 17:48:06  – App passes certification
  3. Fri, 31 Jan 2014 19:04:40 – App is in the store!

 

Congratulations to all concerned at Microsoft!

 

And yes, Vantage Point is a unique and interesting App available for free download here.

About the development of Vantage Point

As I write this I am poised to upload the fourth version of Vantage Point to the store.  This will be the first version that has started to include the feedback from the Microsoft design Lab and Intel Software Summit feedback from November 2013.  I though it might be interesting to talk about some of the reasons why the App came in to being, what has changed within the App so far, as well as plans for the future.

Changes to the UI

There have been a number of changes to vantage Point in its short lifetime.  Perhaps the most striking is the change in the top most page which came about after talking to some of Microsoft’s own designers last November.

The original top page was a simple grid of the highest level categories of images (Counties in the UK, States in the USA etc)

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Note also the (default) black background (that is me being lazy)

The main feedback I got from this related to the second Page:

It was pointed out that it wasn’t immediately obvious that there were potentially multiple ‘Towns’ per County and that a more ‘hub like’ approach that illustrated this might be a better solution.  This has resulted in the following new top level page for version 4:

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I have incorporated a ‘featured’ image that will change each time the page is visited (the Vantage Point image shown can be viewed by tapping the smaller of the two images).

Scrolling right on this page reveals the replacement layout for the original image:

image

I have taken the opportunity to use different hub layouts depending on the number of ‘towns’ available within the County.

The hub layout provides a lot of opportunity for customisation and I can see it being refined as the number of areas covered grows.

Vantage Point – Creating an Image

The last thing I would want to do is put anyone off from creating their own images but before we begin, perhaps i should just say (in case anyone is in any doubt) it isn’t always as straightforward a process as you might think.  The variety of cameras in use along with the innate distortions that are included in their lenses will often present you with a challenge that goes beyond simply lining up a shot at the same spot as the originating photograph …

image

I tend to treat each new image for Vantage Point as a project in its own right.  The following is a basic list of the steps I often take along with some hints and tips along the way:

1. Identification of an old image (often from an old postcard)

2. Time spent on the web attempting to establish that it may be viable to position yourself in the same spot as the original photographer (you would be surprised how often old photographs are taken from the middle of a (nowadays) busy road or from some other inaccessible position.  And so a little homework now can save you a lot of time later on.   As an example of what can happen I recently visited the Bank of England having established that a particularly nice historical shot had been taken from the steps of the building across the road from it (and that building, and those steps still exist!).  I was up early and reached the location around 7am in the morning, only to find that access to the steps was locked and they were inaccessible.  I vowed to return later in the day and made enquiries within the building only to be told that the steps are ‘only used on state occasions’ and that I would need to write to get permission. That is not untypical of the situation I have often found myself in – other times I have jumped through some hoops only to find that the position I had been targeting was simply not correct. (On this occasion I had some other old shots of the same area so it wasn’t a completely wasted journey)

3. Pre visit Geo-coding of potential locations (I often use this site)

4. Planning the visit – often times if I am travelling any distance I try and line up as many shots as I can, a little planning on a sensible route to cover all the locations can save a lot of time!  While not a requirement if you can take the current photograph at the same time of day as the original (look for a clock in your source image) then that can make the end result more pleasing as shadows and lighting conditions help to match up the two images.  It goes without saying that the time of year can also have an impact on how well the two images match.

5. Take some steps or otherwise ensure that you are able to take photographs from above the average head height.  Have a look at your originating shot – often times you will find that it has been taken from above a normal street position.  This is because postcard photographers were always very keen to limit the negative effects that perspective can have on a shot. (Hint: if there are people in your old shot do you feel like you are looking down on them or are your eyes at the same level as theirs?).  I am quite tall and have been known to hold the camera above my own head in an attempt to position the camera in the same spot as the original photographer (who may well have been on top of their own custom photographers vehicle)

(This post is a ‘work in progress’)