If you follow us on Twitter, you should know that we recently overhauled our suite of mobile apps: Android and iOS got some nice updates. The file upload field provides a camera icon and a preview once you select a file. If your device has a camera, you can still take a photo or choose from existing library. Labels and radio/check buttons have been made larger and more visible. And upon submission on the iPhone update, the iPhone notification box pops up and includes your customized message.
Additionally, we added a new platform to our roster: Windows Phone. To commemorate the launch, I was asked to write about the app and what makes Windows Phone interesting.
Metro/Modern/Windows Design Language/Whatever Microsoft decides to call it tomorrow
The Windows Phone/Windows 8 interface is unlike anything else on the market: it’s a severe simplification of traditional software interface design that is simultaneously striking and useful. For example, a button in the Metro design language is simply a box with text in it; there’s no metallic or glass texture, drop-shadow, or anything that would make it look like a real button, but it is still recognizable as a button.
For our app, this created an interesting challenge for the visual design: we wanted the app to respect Windows Phone’s design guidelines while still being distinctively Formstack. We ended up with a Formstack theme that the app defaults to, that is functionally a palette-swap of a standard Windows Phone color theme, but with Formstack’s colors. We also tried to make all of our messaging (like the loading text) more playful. For those of you who want your apps to look native, we allow for that too.
This is arguably the best feature of Windows Phone. Live Tiles combine Android’s Widgets and the traditional App icon. The goal of a Live Tile is to provide ambient information to keep people from obsessively going in-and-out of apps to get information that could (and, in this case, should) be readily available. In Windows Phone 8, people have control over the size of their tiles, giving them more control of the amount of information they can get from their tiles.
Our app does not yet have a Live Tile, as we were focusing on getting a solid version 1.0 release. We have a few ideas we’ll look to implement as we improve the app.
Windows Phone 7 apps work on Windows Phone 8
This is mostly exciting for us as developers, but it’s a very nice thing Microsoft did. The newly released Windows Phone 8 is a major structural change to how their software works, but Microsoft has made sure that most (if not all) Windows Phone 7 apps will run on Windows Phone 8 with limited (if any) modifications. Using only the emulator to test so far, it does appear that the Formstack app simply works on Windows Phone 8.
So that’s a brief overview of what give our Windows Phone app its own special brand of awesome. If you have any questions about it, feel free to jump in the comments and ask. If you are a Windows Phone user and run into any issues with the app, please get in touch with us at support.formstack.com.