Grabbing the Microsoft Windows app development opportunity

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Windows application development represents a profitable opportunity that few developers have embraced, which is highlighted in recent data. 

A survey of more than 55,000 coders worldwide conducted by programming community Stack Overflow indicated only 59 respondents (0.1 percent) said they were Windows mobile developers. Also, the survey revealed interest in Windows Phone was waning among developers.

Windows 10 Mobile, however, has the potential to transform the app development market. 

Stack Overflow developer survey

Source: Stack Overflow Developer Survey Results, 2016

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) recently began its rollout of Windows 10 Mobile to select Windows Phone 8.1 devices.

The rollout ensures Windows Phone 8.1 device owners can update their gadgets and enjoy innovative Windows 10 features, Microsoft noted. 

"We are focused on delivering a high-quality experience for our customers," Michael Fortin, corporate VP for Windows and Devices Group Core Quality at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post. "Our goal is to only offer the Windows 10 upgrade to devices that we are confident can continue to deliver a good customer experience."

In addition, a study of 5,120 Windows Phone apps conducted by cross-promotion network AdDuplex showed 15.2 percent of devices are capable of running Windows 10 Mobile already are running the operating system. The study indicated 50.4 percent of all devices in use were capable of running Windows 10 Mobile, highlighting the potential growth opportunity the OS provides for developers. 

"One billion Windows 10 devices equals a fantastic opportunity for developers," a Microsoft spokesperson told FierceDeveloper. "With Windows 10, we will deliver a Universal Windows Platform and one Windows Store for all apps; make it easy for developers to bring all their code to the Windows Store with new monetization opportunities; enable them to build innovative apps featuring Cortana, Xbox Live and even holograms; and make it easy for a single app to reach customers across the broadest devices family ever."

So what does it take to design Windows apps? Microsoft offered the following tips for developers:

1. Figure out what your app does.

Developers should start big and narrow their focus during the Windows app creation cycle.

Microsoft suggested developers consider all of the features they would like to include in an app and remove those that fail to support the app's core functionality. 

"Draw a line through every feature you don't absolutely need," Microsoft wrote in a blog post. "Then draw a line through features you think you need, but which don't fit well with the other things on your list. At the end of this process, you'll have reduced your app idea down to its purest form."

2. Understand your target audience.

Learning about a target audience empowers a developer to design and deploy a Windows app that hits the mark with the right consumers. 

It is important for developers to connect with their target audience before they design an app. By doing so, developers can understand their target audience's needs and design an app accordingly.

"Once you know who your target customers are, go talk to them. It may seem like overkill, but the more effort you put into understanding your customers, the better off you will be in the long run. Take video of your intended customers (with their permission, of course), observe them, ask them questions [and] find out what they would like from your app," Microsoft recommended.

3. Try and try again.

Prototypes give developers visual insights into what users will see when they access an app. 

Microsoft noted even simple mock-ups such as screen designs drawn on sticky notes may provide value for developers, as these images will offer a glimpse into how an app will look after it is deployed. 

"Mock up different screen designs based on your customer feedback, either as sketches or wireframes, and imagine the workflow that customers will go through to accomplish their tasks," Microsoft pointed out. "But note that you don't need specialized software for this process, nor do you need to be able to draw. Notecards and sketchpads are just fine."

Microsoft appears prepared to help developers as they move forward with Windows apps. 

Omer Sharif Madni, director of Professional Services at mobile app development company Appiskey, told FierceDeveloper that Microsoft's experience in the consumer market ensures the company is ready to assist developers. 

"Microsoft is encouraging talent to switch to Windows 10 apps," he said. "From the looks of it, Microsoft has aimed to become a market leader in the coming years and it has already started to gain popularity in developer community."

Madni added Windows 10 for Mobile may prove to be a popular choice for consumers, which could lead many developers to create apps for this OS.

"Windows 10 is [fast] and user friendly. Since it is built upon such a consumer research, which is perhaps true interpretation of what consumers really want, it has better reach than ever," he said. "In addition to that, its integration with Microsoft online products, which are already being used by most of the users worldwide, gave [consumers] a reason to consider the integrated mobile platform."