In 2013, touch control is increasingly mature and commonplace for laptops, tablets, and ATMs, not to mention Windows 8, which is especially designed for touch control devices. In order to help consumers easily operate ASUS WebStorage apps for Windows 8, we were invited to develop Windows Store App at the end of May 2012. Because ASUS Cloud is a pioneer of Windows 8 platform development, we experienced more issues than we did in other platform developments; we had to independently grope our way out.During the development project, we experienced the brand new interface of Windows 8 that we were unfamiliar with, while the drastic change from the Windows 8 Consumer Preview to the Windows 8 Release Preview further complicated our Windows 8 platform development and almost endlessly slowed down our app availability.
App development and project management
Our Windows Store App development was like development on a browser; we simply put ourselves into the shoes of end users and thought real hard of how to smoothly transform mouse control to touch control and make the two coexist and compatible.
In order to help end users smoothly operate each and every touch control while keeping touch control active when a mouse is connected, the project team racked their brains and came up with many drafts and interface designs which were subsequently modified almost endlessly in order to effectively factor in each and every end user’s experience.
While the team was required to familiar themselves with the brand new interface of Windows 8 in only four months, product manager Vera and senior software engineer Alex in charge of this project made thorough use of project management. Vera was responsible for understanding the interface design for Windows 8 as well as design key points and then developing relevant specs despite limited resources available; Alex resorted officially to Microsoft to understand the programming languages supported by Windows 8 and started app development by trials and errors. They focused on user interface improvement and user experience innovation.
User interface improvement
A same app for different devices should suit how different devices work and have different styles. To these ends, Vera and Alex worked very hard to have existing functions transplanted onto the brand new interface of Windows Store App. An interview with Vera and Alex follows.
Q: What was your greatest challenge during Windows Store App development?
Vera: What bothered me the most was to figure out the nature of Windows Store App and the style of Windows Store App when designing the product specs for Windows Store App. The first thing came to my mind was what users should first see, i.e., the homepage. We kept thinking whether all functions should be presented as the so-called Metro style, a name first given by Microsoft. Our first version homepage is illustrated as below.
Putting our heads together, we grasped the key points of how to design for Windows Store App after trials and errors We needed to do away with unnecessary icon decors — e.g., boarder radiuses, gradient colors, shade, three dimensions, etc. — in order to highlight important information per se. However, such design simplification necessitated bold colors and tones in order to get users’ attention and highlight app features. Based on such understanding, we designed the second version homepage as below.
Seeing the second version, we asked ourselves why there was no the so-called Windows 8 style despite our adherence to all the design principles. Repeated discussions among project team members came to an understanding upon seeing the Windows 8 desktop at last, and so came the latest homepage design.
1. Format: There should be a standard space of 10px between the tiles in a same group; tiles alone are not all about the style of Windows 8. There should also be a border of 80px between different groups of tiles.
2. Icon: Icons should be scaled down instead of being as large and/or as three dimensional as possible. Icons should also be centered, flattened, and white color to highlight important texts.
3. Text: For Windows, texts should be left justified no matter how long or short they are and should be provided simply in white color. They do not necessarily look nice when they are centered and/or made colorful.
Alex: Windows Store App provides not only apps but also mouse interoperability. Moreover, Microsoft provides four display options, Full View, Widescreen, Minimum, and Snap View, while switching from one of them to another has to conform to the formatting provided by Vera. It was both energy and time consuming to have each and every pixel adjusted to the right position.
User experience innovation
Q: What is the user experience innovation for Windows Store App?
Vera: Windows 8 users will, over time, be able to experience continuous, accelerated, and smoother operation enabled by the brand new interface of the operation system, which is able to find a certain function without going through many layers as required in the past. Moreover, the Widescreen and Snap View functions of Windows 8 are a breakthrough from past patterns to multiply users’ efficiency.
Because I am a heavy music user, I found split-screen operation that allows users to listen to music stored on ASUS WebStorage while doing something else would be very attractive. I immediately brought the idea to Alex to discuss with him the feasibility of continuous music playing. Knowing this could be considerably difficult; we reached a consensus based on our vehement discussion and started planning right away. Our planning included a music playing interface, how to present any piece of music that is very long, and music playing application development. The continuous music playing function that our subscribers enjoy now is our highly selective and repeatedly fine-tuned result.
Alex: I thought continuous music playing was great immediately upon hearing her idea. We started planning as soon as we confirmed technical feasibility after complexity analysis.
Scrum is the development framework at ASUS Cloud to help us rapidly respond to product demands and effectively meet user needs and wants. Scrum is a highly-regarded approach to software product development around the world, and the use of Scrum at ASUS Cloud reflects our commitment to product excellence.
Lastly, Vera and Alex were asked about the most important key to the success of their highly challenging project. “Success is beyond any individual’s capacity; it is very often if not always achieved by teamwork,” they concluded after thinking for a long while, citing a senior executive at ASUS.
ASUS WebStorage will continue to add new functions for Windows 8 in order to further strengthen the high quality of service. We have been gathering suggestions from ASUS WebStorage subscribers around the world and will soon enable multiple file uploading and downloading, offline browsing, as well as the most anticipated support for social software applications, e.g., LINE and WhatsApp, for such applications to access the photo sharing function of ASUS WebStorage. All these will happen soon enough.
ASUS WebStorage welcomes your comments and suggestions, which can be shared with us and other subscribers on Forum.