Saturday, May 29, 2010

UX Proof of concept: Developing panorama applications in .Net CF. World Cup Application

You have probably already seen a bunch of really cool applications demoed as part of the Windows Phone 7 momentum following a chrome-less and fluent approach getting a very rich user experience browsing information that Microsoft has called “Panorama Applications”. In the “UI Design and Interaction Guide for Windows Phone 7 Series” document, panoramic applications are described as applications that “offers a unique way to view controls, data, and services by using a long horizontal canvas that extends beyond the confines of the screen. These inherently dynamic application use layered animations and content so that layers smoothly pan at different speeds, similar to parallax effects”.

I really like the way the information flows along a panorama application. That’s a great approach for browsing data in a mobile application, and it’s perfectly suitable in many use cases.

If this is such a great approach, why aren’t we already developing Panorama Application for Windows Mobile? Maybe, because the task is not that easy without Silverlight and Blend for helping us. But I’m totally convinced that a Windows Mobile application can provide such a great user experience, it’s just a matter of developing the right custom controls, and that’s the tricky part. That said, I included some Panorama application concepts as part of my usual UX spikes that fills the little free time I have. It was basically a set of touch friendly controls, responsive and smoothly animated, supporting kinetic scrolling all around, alpha blending, transitions and so on.

While I was working on that, one of the world biggest sport events start was getting really close: The FIFA Soccer World Cup South Africa 2010. And as a big soccer fan, I was really interested on it. I wanted to start following the tournament from my mobile device as well as from my laptop. But unfortunately, I didn’t find any world cup app on the Windows Mobile Marketplace. I did some research on the web, because WinMo users still can download a .cab installer from the web, and just install it on the device, but I didn’t find anything meeting my expectations though.

But I’m a mobile applications developer and my free time development spikes were needing a bounded focus. Building a world cup app was a very good case study for validating the UX development I was working on. A panoramic approach for a World Cup app sounded great to me. So I decided to align my spikes targeting a World Cup Panorama Application, trying to keep it as simple as possible features-wide, but validating the panoramic approach in a .Net Compact Framework application. It was risky, as far as I didn’t have to much time for it (I had less than five weeks before the world cup starts, and this is just my pet project).

Now, we’re only 13 days away from the World Cup first match, and the application is in very good shape. I recorded a small video to show you how it feels in action, running on my Samsung Epix.

If you’re a soccer fan, and you have a Windows Mobile device, I bet you want it on your phone!. It will be available for downloading before the world cup starts. That means I’ll publish it on my blog as a free download, during next week.

The requirements are .Net Compact Framework 3.5, and a touch-screen Windows Mobile device.

If you’re a Windows Mobile developer, you’ll probably find this app very interesting. I hope we start seeing lots of Panorama Applications not only in Windows Phone 7, but also in Windows Mobile 6.x. If we have the ability to build such kind of UX in .Net CF, our applications eco system will be better for sure.

Stay tuned! This story has just begun.