Jun 232012
 June 23, 2012  Posted by at 5:13 am WinRT  Add comments

As promised, here are some of my questions from the AEL lab (and I sure had many), and the answers I got. I’ve attended about three sessions about Metro apps, as well as done a whole-day virtual training on UX metro apps, and I currently have a Metro app that is about 60 % done. I went to the AEL lab to get some feedback, and my goal is to create a reference app and get a token to Windows Store once the app is upp to scratch.

The windows store, AEL lab and tokens

There are two templates that come with VS2012RC, will an app get approved by using the templates as-is?

“The template follow the guidelines and many apps have used them as-is, but even though many of those apps got the checklist approved they are still not available in Windows Store (they are currently in quarantine) as we need more unique apps that users will want to use. The templates are a good starting point, but you need more to have a great Metro app.”

Do you need to have an app to go to an AEL lab?

“In the beginning that was the idea, but since we didn’t get the amount of developers as we had hoped for we decided to use the AEL lab for educational, prospective work to help developers create those great quality apps we want”

So how do you get a token then?

“In your case you will have to come to a second AEL lab, we will go through the finished product and see if you have met all the requirements, check the result from running the WACK-test and then there is also some subjective assessment of the App’s design and wether the app is appealing and inviting. ”

What does the token give you as a developer?

“The tokens gives your app access to the Windows Store before it goes public, that means your app will be available in the preview version, and also as one the apps once the store goes public. The token gives you these privileges for two years, and other apps you create won’t have to go through the same scrutinizing process- although it will still have to be approved and we highly recommend that you use the requirements as guidelines.”

Are the requirements mandatory?

“The requirements belong to different categories, category one to three. Category one is strict mandatory, category two is mandatory but exceptions can be made, category three is recommended but not mandatory. Most requirements are category one, a few category 2 and some category three.”


It seems a bit hard for developers with no design-background, and for companies that cannot afford a designer, to succeed with all the design requirements. How can I (we) succeed?

“There is a lot of quality documentation on this, the project templates, app examples and also design assets (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/apps/hh700403.aspx ) that provide really good help. You don’t have to be a designer to succeed with this.”

–          Comment from me: I wasn’t aware of the design assets and I am using them now to layout the app, and they are really great! I’ve also learned how to use the gridlines in VS2012RC – I’ll write a post about that, as well as some handy design tips and tricks next week.

The app-bar

Can you have multiple app-bars based on view?

“Yes, that is perfectly OK, and also a good idea for some apps that provide different options based on view”

Any specific tips for app-bars?

“ Think of app-bar like a context menu! A sticky app-bar can be nice to have when multiple select is enabled. Make sure the app-bar doesn’t hide any commanding surface, and don’t forget the app-bar in snapped view!”


Aspect ratios, resolutions and views

What is a good approach to solve the problem of different aspect rations and resolutions to make sure the app still follows the design guidelines?

“For some apps three different layouts for the three different resolution mentioned in the requirement would be the best solution”

Is vertical scrolling recommended in portrait view?

“Yes, it is”

How can I test that the app is accessible (for handicapped) – (contrasts etc.)

“A good tool would be AccChecker http://acccheck.codeplex.com/ , and similar tools”

I have removed some of the apps functions in snapped view as it doesn’t make any sense having the functions there, is that okay?

“That’s perfectly fine. You don’t have to have any functions in snapped view, but at least provide a text that explains that. “Tap here to get to full view” also works.”

The semantic zoom

There is a lot of talk about the semantic zoom, is this a requirement?

“It is not a requirement, but something that is very nice to have when displaying a large amount of items- and something that the users appreciate. Make sure it works with ctrl +`- , mouse scroll, pinch etc.”

When talking about hierarchy not being more than three levels deep, does that count in semantic zoom levels?

“No, the levels that semantic zoom offers are still within the same view and do not count in towards the three-level hierarchy recommendation.”

Frame rate

I haven’t seen a frame rate requirement before, how does this apply to Metro apps?

“This is more for games, and a framerate counter (during development) can easily be enabled in XAML and javascript”

Error handling

What is the best way to display error messages such as ‘No internet connection’ in Metro apps, icon/text box, message, fly out, other?

“For no internet connection I would use an icon/ text area. What is important to think about is that it shouldn’t be annoying to the user (for example every time internet connection is lost a message pops up and interrupts the work flow for the user). Make sure the message disappears, and/or the user has the option to close the message / flyout.”


Is the main purpose of animation to indicate to a user that a certain action (such as selection) is supported?

“Yes it is, and we recommend that developers take a look at the animation library”


I’m not sure I quite understand the font hierarchy, any tips?

“Have a look at the Word template styles, font hierarchy is used there and this is what we would like to see in Metro apps as well. Open a Metro template and have a look at the styles defined for fonts and use them as a starting point.”

Anything in particular I should watch out for, in regards to fonts?

“Italics is not recommended due to poor readability. Don’t write ‘click here’, be consistent with the use of fonts and sizes, and respect the margins.”

Working with data

Is it a good idea to serialize objects to avoid making unnecessary server calls (to limit the bandwidth usage)?

“Yes it is. One of the requirements is to think about bandwidth usage and avoiding unnecessary server calls. There are different ways to go about this depending on your needs.”

And a good way to measure this would be…?

“Use a tool such as fiddler”

Login in, roaming data

Can I allow the user to login with another account to the app and still use the out-of-the-box roaming options?

“As long as the user logs in with the Live account on his/her device it doesn’t matter which login is used for that particular app.”


I know there are a few issues in Windows Phone with transparent png’s used for tiles and background art. How is it with Metro apps?

“Transparent layers in png’s are not recommended as it will give errors when running the WACK-tool”


Do I have to use live tiles, and what about secondary tiles?

“These two are not mandatory, but it does provide something extra to the user”


Do you have to implement share contracts etc? Anything in particular I need to think about when using a share contract?

“You don’t have to, but if you do make sure that you have a privacy statement in there, and don’t forget to brand the contracts. If you are using the search the user should still see where he/she is”

  One Response to “Some of my App Excellence Lab questions – and answers”

  1. […] Iris Classon has also blogged her experience and is a worth read […]

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