5 tips to get your apps certified quickly


From the beginning, we designed the Windows Store to be a partnership between developers and Microsoft. We’re committed to ensuring that our certification requirements and app submission processes are clear and easily understood, so that you, the developer, can create high-quality apps that customers love. In this post, we want to highlight a few of the patterns we’ve noticed in app submissions, and provide you with some guidance on how to help speed your app through the submission process. Gus Salloum, Program Manager, authored this post.

–Antoine


For an app to be published and to remain in the Store catalog, the app has to comply with the Windows Store certification requirements. These requirements help ensure that apps in the Windows Store are of high quality and interact with the system in ways customers expect. The latest version of the certification requirements are always available on the Dev Center. We also provide a revision history, to help you see how these requirements evolve over time.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been tracking why apps fail certification and have noticed a few patterns. To help get your app in the Store, we want to provide guidance on the requirements and certification processes that have proved a bit challenging and some suggestions on how to get listed quickly.

Publish a privacy policy when required

Privacy is a key dimension of our promise to customers. It is important that our mutual customers be confident in the apps they get from the Windows Store. We’ve had a statement about privacy policies since we first published these requirements in December 2011, and we’ve recently clarified the expectations to help developers meet this requirement. The requirement now reads:

Your app must have a privacy statement if it is network-capable

We made this change because we want customers to be comfortable with how you handle their personal information. Any app that connects to a network has the potential to transmit personal information. That’s why we ask and require that you maintain a privacy policy if your app declares one or more of the following capabilities:

  • internetClient
  • internetClientServer
  • privateNetworkClientServer

Your privacy statement explains to users what personal information your app transmits, and how that information is stored and managed. If your app is ad-supported, the policy describes the personal information shared with the ad provider. In cases where your app doesn’t actually transmit personal info, just say so in the privacy statement.

As a reminder: there are two places where you have to provide access to your privacy policy:

  • in the Settings charm of your app (this will be available to the users while they’re using the app)
  • in the Description page of your app on the dashboard when you’re submitting the app (users see this page before they acquire the app)

Submit valuable apps

Certification requirement 1.1 states:

Your app must offer customers unique, creative value or utility in all the languages and markets that it supports

We share a common goal: to fill the Store catalog with fantastic apps for customers. Apps that offer very minimal value will be rejected—such apps can hinder discovery of quality apps, which in turn hurts customers and developers alike.

What’s an example of an app that provides too little value? Well, consider our code samples that were created to help developers build apps for the Windows Store. Those code samples make it easy to create an app with basic functionality that demonstrates the capabilities of the Windows 8 platform. Unfortunately, a minority of developers have opted to re-package these samples and submit them to the Store. These apps have little purpose and will fail certification.

Here are a few more examples of apps that fail this requirement:

  • Collections of apps built around a given theme using what appears to be a cookie-cutter app template. We recommend that such apps be combined into one app. That larger app will potentially provide more tangible value to the users (and likely get better ratings and reviews than each of your the apps submitted separately), and have a better chance at passing certification.
  • Apps whose only purpose is to display a limited set of static images (sometimes as little as one image— of a flag or a celebrity for example).

Submit complete apps and avoid misleading app descriptions

Our certification requirement 1.2 states:

Your app must be fully functional when the customer gets it from the Windows Store

We require that the apps that you submit be fully functional. We also require that your app description accurately describe the app’s features and content, and explicitly list any restrictions the app may have (geographical, hardware-related, or other), so that customers know what they’ll be getting before they buy or install your app. When an app fails this requirement, it’s usually for one of the following reasons:

  • Misleading description text or screenshots. The app description must only list features and content that are actually implemented in your app. If you know that some of your app features will not work in certain geographies or in the absence of certain hardware sensors or peripherals, explicitly mention those restrictions in the app description. The goal is to give customers all the information they need before acquiring your app.
  • Including non-functional user controls, broken links, or placeholder sections. The goal here is to avoid giving customers the perception that the app is not finished. In a lot of cases, our testers find placeholders for functionality that a developer intends to provide in a future update. We will reject any app that has such placeholders.
  • Not providing enough details for Microsoft to test your app. If your app requires special instructions to test thoroughly, such as a username and password, you need to include that information when you submit the app.

Properly localize the app submission

Another area in which we’ve seen some questions and confusion relates to our localization policies:

6.5 You must localize your app for all languages that it supports

6.8 You must provide localized screenshots of your app for each language it supports

Windows Store apps can support more than one language (see Package manifest schema reference). This platform feature can help your app reach a wider customer base, but comes with requirements:

  • The list of languages your app supports must include at least one certifiable language.
  • For each of the supported languages on the app dashboard you must supply localized app description elements (text, screenshot images and captions, and so on). This is to ensure that customers have the information they need in their preferred language to make an informed decision about the app.
  • The app must be useful in each of the supported languages, and should present most of its chrome and its content resources in those languages. You can learn more about some of the tools you can use to help you localize your apps in this blog post.

Naturally, apps will fail against this requirement if they declare support for a given language but do not include resources for that language, or if a language used in the app description elements does not match the language that was declared.

As a reminder: we make a distinction between the languages your app supports and the markets you want to distribute your app in. You define the languages in the app manifest, and you choose the distribution markets on the app dashboard.

We hope this helps you save valuable time during the certification process. We remain committed to ensuring that the Windows Store provides a leading experience for both the developers building apps, as well as the consumers using them. We are incredibly excited by the work you are all doing. The apps we’re seeing demonstrate your shared commitment to creating great experiences, and we’re working hard to make sure you have the tools and information to ensure your apps are certified in as little time as possible.

–Gus Salloum

Comments (12)

  1. Livven says:

    How about requiring an icon? There are loads of apps in the Store right now that use the default app icon. It's horrible.

  2. Peter Vrenken says:

    Hi,

    is there also any advice on how to handle certification failure based on requirement 3.2:

    Your app must not stop responding, end unexpectedly, or contain programming errors.

    The only feedback i have received after three submissions is :

    "This app stopped responding during the review and we couldn't complete the review of it"

    And yes, I did try to change stuff. All my development systems work great, but somehow stuff messes up on the test environments used by the certification team. I’ve even asked for more detailed information over the support chat, tried adding developer notes in which I explicitly asked  for more details and of course looked to all possible solutions for a problem I could not reproduce.

    No success yet.

    In my opinion the Windows 8 store is still very young when compared to the Windows Phone developer ecosystem. But I've never had feedback on my Phone apps like this, not even when the Windows Phone store was in its initial state.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm quite enthusiastic about the whole approach Microsoft is taking, and probably this process will eventually improve. But in this specific situation it quite frankly takes the fun out of being an Indie game developer…

    Nevertheless: keep up the great work!

    Best regards,

    Peter Vrenken

  3. Pete Brown (Microsoft) says:

    @Livven The new version of WACK will check for that. I assume the Windows Store certification process will follow suit. 10rem.net/…/the-update-windows-sdk-and-windows-app-certification-kit-tool-now-checks-branding-images

  4. Puzzle Win 8 App Developer says:

    So why is this not followed by the marketplace, especially the second point about Submit Valuable Apps?  One of the worst offenders is the Microsoft Innovation Center (MIC) and they have have published a number of repetitive apps, all copyright Microsoft even.  Search for "SoundColors", "SoundFruits", or "MIC" and you'll see them.  So why bother to have rules like these if you aren't going to bother enforce them.  Bulks up the numbers, but tell me how these apps provide value?

  5. @Antoine Leblond says:

    Call FB, Twitter and other social networks guys and propose them to create Windows Store app already!

  6. Josh says:

    Will my app pass certification if it downloads lua scripts over the internet?

  7. Alessandro Del Sole says:

    Now we wait to get detailed reports when certification fails, as it happens for Windows Phone πŸ™‚ It is often difficult to understand where an error is without details, especially if the app passes local certification with the Windows Cert Kit. Thanks.

  8. jacqmizz says:

    Dear Windows Dev Team,

    As an experienced C#.NET Developer, I would like to develop Windows Phone 8 applications, however since I live and operate from Malta, I cannot. Is there any way to bypass this? I understand that I am still able to publish free applications. Is it unethical to provide free applications via the Windows Store, and sell the full application versions outside Windows Store?

    I am pretty sure lots of talent is being thrown away by not including several countries.

    Thanks.

  9. LMK says:

    Before I submit my app, I want to make sure it runs OK on ARM. I have no physical device to test with. Can MS come up with some benchmark results or, better yet, an ARM simulator for VS? At the moment it is guesswork. I don't want users downloading my app only to find it won't run properly due to lack of CPU/GPU power.

    I have an unanswered question here re. benchmarking:

    social.msdn.microsoft.com/…/43bc5439-2db7-4271-a77f-0dd54d7c5795

    Someone else asked about a simulator here:

    social.msdn.microsoft.com/…/02f2e128-e1be-476b-8068-1853483d2e77

    Really want to hear some reassurances from someone within MS.

    Thanks

  10. Tony Winston says:

    Very helpful thank you

  11. Kim, etc Question says:

    기타 의견.

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  12. Steve B. says:

    Hi, I couldn't find an area to post this question, so I figured I'd ask it here.

    When will MS begin refunding the folks who were able to take advantage of the 8 for 8 deal.  ( $8 annual fee for joining the Windows App Store Developer )

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