The last several weeks have been quite busy at work. However, I finally found the time to publish my application to the market place and it now now live there, with a few downloads reported too! In this post I will walk you through the steps involved in submissions, and share with you my experience.
Registering at the App Hub
Before you can submit an app to the market place, you first need to register for “App Hub” membership. You do this by going to http://create.msdn.com. This essentially is a vibrant community of app and game developers for both Windows Phone and XBOX live games. The hub provides free tools, information, and the community you need to create and publish beautiful apps and games that reach every Windows Phone user and XBOX live members worldwide. Here’s how the home screen looks before you sign up
You first need to register for an annual subscription of $99 USD that gives you the following privileges for both the world of phone apps and XBOX.
The registration itself is a 5 step process as noted below and is quite simple. I show some of the screens below as well
Once signed up, the App Hub home screen now looks like the following. Notice the advertisement for the next version of Windows Phone, code named Mango! I can’t wait to upgrade my phone, and have been waiting to finish this tutorial and getting my application published!. My next app will be on Mango!
Also notice that the action on the App Hub are different now – for example, you get the option of “Submitting for Windows Phone”
The App Submission flow
The following diagram captures the flow involved in the app submission process
We have of course so far been focusing on the first step of the process – creating the application in Visual Studio. I have also been developing using the Emulator. Before submitting the application it is of course also very important to test on an actual device. To do this however you will need to “Unlock” the phone. To do this, connect a phone device to your laptop using the USB (charging) cable, and the run the “Windows Phone Developer Registration” application from the Windows Start menu (this application gets installed on your system when you download the phone development tool kit). The application looks like the following – it takes in your Live ID and then “Unlocks” the phone device so that Visual Studio can deploy the phone application binary directly onto the phone device.
In Visual Studio you can select the “Windows Phone 7 Device” as the target for the publishing as shown in the Visual Studio Menu bar below. Now when you build and publish, the application will be deployed on the device and you can do your pre-certification device testing there. The application of course worked well for me there.
The Certification Process
The certification process is of course the most important part of the submission. The goal is to ensure that before any application or game is taken into the market place, it is certified that the application is reliable, it makes efficient use of device resources, the do not adversely interfere with the device functionality, and that they are free of any malicious software.
The full certification and submission process is as outlined below.
The flow through the certification process
The following screen shots show the flow, as I proceeded with each step of the certification process.
The submission process starts with the “Upload” step where you select the name of the application, give it a version number, and point to the .XAP file in the bin\release directory where Visual Studio builds the application. Note that the entire application is contained in single binary manifest file of extension XAP. This is shown below.
On hitting next on this screen, the submission process found one error – that my application did not have the locale information marked correctly. At this point I had to add the following lines to the MainPage.xaml.cs to mark the locale as “English”, recompile the application to regenerate the XAP file, test it, and redo the application submission process.
This information will help potential buyers decide whether they want to try or buy your application or not. Here you choose to describe the category that best describes what the application does, a detailed description, and also key words that will lead an application search to your application. This essentially is your “marketing” collateral for your app.
As part of this step, you are also needed to provide various icons and art work that are used in various places in the market place. Here note that the Large Mobile Tile app is really a mandatory image (as I would learn later) though it is not marked as such. This icon is used when you pin your application to the start page. Likewise the “Background Art” image is mandatory too – it will be used when your application shows up in the market place. You can also submit a set of screen shots for the application and these will further describe and “market” your app when listed in the market place. The most convenient place to capture the screenshots of course is when you test your application on the Emulator. You can use the Windows Snipping tool to capture the screen shots – however, be sure to avoid including any of the Emulator “chrome” in the screen shot – this too I found out later.
The next step is to select the price for your application, and also decide which market placed the app would be listed in. There are three different geographical regions as you see in the image below. Select carefully and check out the defaults – or your application may not show up in the right marketplaces. (Note, each phone user provides a Live ID when they configure their phone for us. The country the Live ID is associated with then becomes the default market place for the “Marketplace” application on the phone.
The next step is to call out a set of testing instructions that will be carried out in the “backend” to make a final validation that the application works as designed. You can also select the publishing option – for example, you can select that the app be published as soon as the validation and certification is done, without any further interventions from you.
The last step then is to click the “Submit” button and submit the application.
You can track the state of the submission on the “My Dashboard” page at “App Hub”. For example, a couple of days later I noticed that my submission had run into issues.
As shown above, the certification had run into errors, and clicking on the “View Error” page leads you to a PDF file with details about the errors. The PDF files looked as follows
In my case all of the errors were related to the images and iconography. I was missing the large mobile tile app, and the background art image, and the application screenshot included the chrome of the Emulator. Also, it called out that one of the icons in my application was still the generic Windows Sunburst icon. I then proceeded to fix the errors and in the process created my own custom icon and images (using Microsoft Paint, and saving them as .PNG files of the different dimensions necessary, as called out in the submission process).
I also had to select the “United States” market place, as apparently in the last submission I had not selected it.
The submission goes through
This time the submission went through without errors – a couple of days later, it was nice to see on the “Dashboard” that the process had worked, the app was in the Marketplace and it showed there were a few downloads too. The dashboard provides you several reports and statistics of your application.
The App shows up in the Marketplace
It was exciting to then checkout the Marketplace on my phone, search for “AmitC”, and have the app show up – and I could install it from there! To capture an image of the app in the market place, I launched the Zune application and searched for the app there – and there it was!
It felt great to build, blog, and publish about this simple Windows Phone application. I hope it has spurred some of the readers to write and publish your own application. I really liked the Visual Studio tooling experience and felt proud of my team which has developed this tooling!
On now to the Mango version of Windows Phone!