Windows Phone 7 Marketplace, Please Learn from Android
I’m frustrated with the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace. I’ve been working on apps for about a month now, and it seems like a struggle at every turn. Of course any new service will go through an adjustment period, but I can’t help feeling they’ve tried to overthink this whole thing. While I’ve been pleased with the Windows Phone 7 development tools (the emulator is amazing), I’ve been less impressed with the application certification process. I’ve written previously about the cumbersome signup steps, but now that I’ve been through the application submission and certification process multiple times, I’m really losing my patience. There are several things that need to be addressed to improve the experience: 1) Reduce the rigidity of the testing, 2) Remove the fee for submission of free applications, 3) Streamline application updates, and 4) Allow authors to interact with reviewers and customers.
Overly Thorough Testing
This is a tough point to argue. It’s always difficult to say “perfect” isn’t necessary and “good” is better than “best,” however, that’s really where we are with application development processes today. It’s generally accepted that getting the product into the hands of the user, and then rapidly improving it, based on feedback, is much better than long periods of internal testing. Unfortunately, Microsoft is operating under different assumptions. It takes about a week to complete the application testing process, and that’s just too long. By the time you address a complaint, your app has already lost its momentum.
In my opinion, the Windows Phone 7 testing team is spending entirely too much time with each application and often “failing” applications for minor offenses.
For example, I spent two weeks trying to get one application approved after two separate failures. This all centered around the functionality of the Back Button. One tester felt that the Back Button should allow a user to read back through the data, looking at each page of data as an application page. The very next tester decided that the paging behavior was confusing when a user jumped into the middle of the data pages. Two failures and over two weeks later, the free, one-page application was finally certified. Mind you, this was an update to an application that had already been approved. The back-and-forth about the Back Button delayed a more important change from going through, and the users suffered.
Fees For Upgrades
For free applications, developers can make up to five submissions to the marketplace for free (submissions are unlimited for paid apps). After that, Microsoft charges about $20 to submit a free application. The reasoning, I assume, is that they don’t make money off of free apps and therefore need to charge for testing. Of course they do make money if the app contains Microsoft advertising, but they must not be taking that into account. Additionally, the “five applications” includes application updates, not just new applications.
[Update: I’m not sure if application updates are included or not. It’s confusing. All the more reason to remove the limit.]
There are just too many things wrong with this process. First of all, why would you ever charge someone to submit an application update? You are penalizing the author for trying to improve the product. Free applications are popular. Why would you want to prevent free applications from entering your marketplace? You’re limiting the growth of the marketplace. I really don’t understand this.
Perhaps Microsoft won’t need to charge for free applications if the testing process is relaxed.
Streamlined Application Updates
Many application updates are small code changes based on user feedback in the reviews. The idea is to quickly respond to the review and get the update back to the users. Besides the long testing process, the submission process hinders quick responses. When submitting an application update, an author must complete every part of the submission form as if it were a brand new application. The description, keywords, and application images must all be resubmitted.
I notified Microsoft of this problem, but Microsoft Support suggested that this was a “feature,” since applications often change during an update. That may be true, but again, going back to our iterative development process, many updates do not change the core features of the application. Filling in a completely new application submission form is a big waste of time.
Authors Must Respond
Currently, an application reviewer can write any sort of review, and the author cannot respond. Reviewers are allowed to scare away other users and put forward false information about applications. I understand that it’s important to display honest feedback, but the application authors must have a way to respond to reviews.
One place where the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace really shines is in the area of support. I’ve submitted a couple of support cases and have received prompt and polite responses. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Ben, of the The Windows Phone Marketplace Support Team.
While I can see a lot of room for improvement in Microsoft’s processes, I’m hopeful, based on replies to my support requests, that Microsoft will listen to our complaints and take action to make this a better experience for everyone. I want to see this platform succeed, and that’s why I’m offering my criticism.
There is already a great model for the suggestions I’ve made. This model allows for quick updates with reasonable costs. Updates are easy to submit and a developer can quickly respond to user feedback. Yes, the model allows some inferior applications to enter the marketplace, but users quickly identify those applications. The users become the ultimate gatekeepers, and they appreciate the breadth of applications in that marketplace. Of course I’m talking about the Android Marketplace. Yes, it has its issues as well, but from a developer and user’s perspective, Microsoft would be wise to study it more closely.
data-text=”Windows Phone 7 Marketplace, Please Learn from Android (Shannon Whitley)”