You’ve done it, you have finally finished your Windows 8 app and are ready to submit it to the Windows Store. Your masterpiece can now be downloaded by the hundreds and thousands of Windows 8 users. You have made sure your code is clean, double checked your unit tests and deployed it onto another device just to triple-check. You are ready to submit your app, but are you really ready?
That is what this post will take a look at, I have created an individual account and will walk you through my experience of submitting my first app and discuss the certification process as well as common pitfalls that you can easily avoid.
Before you can submit an application to the marketplace, you will need to setup an account at http://dev.windows.com first. Registration is $49 USD for individuals and $99 for companies and requires a valid credit card number. You will also need to enter such things as: Your publisher display name and developer info. If you are planning on selling an app, then you will need to create a payout account before you can enter a tax profile. After that process is complete, you may now submit an app to the marketplace.
Some Prep Work before Submitting an App
Now that you have access to the Windows Store app dashboard, I’m sure you are eager to submit your app to the marketplace, but there is a few steps that you can take right now in order to make your submission process successful on the first attempt.
- Run the Windows Application Certification Kit – This tool gives your app the best chance of being certified on the first try. It will test for things such as, crashes and hangs, App manifest compliance, Windows security features, supported APIs, performance and much more.
- Capture Screenshots of your app by using the built-in Simulator in Visual Studio 2012 – You will need to submit at least one screenshot of your app when submitting it to the marketplace, I would recommend at least taking 4-5 screenshots of your app and placing them in a folder to have them ready.
- Create the App Package in release mode – Inside of Visual Studio 2012 select Project->Store->Create App Packages. This will walk you through creating an .appxupload file that you will submit later on in the process.
Submitting an App
Now that you have an account that you can publish apps from, and have performed some prep work, you are now ready to submit your app. You can log into your dashboard by going back to http://dev.windows.com and selecting “Dashboard” then “Submit an app” and you will see the following screen as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: The Windows Store Dashboard to submit a new application.
One thing to point out here is that you can complete any step at any time and come back later to complete the process. This is especially important for the “App Name” as you will need to register a unique name as quickly as possible to make sure your brand name isn’t taken by somebody else.
- App Name – When you click on the “App Name” icon or link, you’ll be taken to a simple screen with a single input box for the name of your app. Enter the name of your choosing and click “Reserve app name.” If the name isn’t available, you’ll be presented with an error message.
- Selling Details - In the selling details screen of the submission process, you’ll be asked to choose pricing information, trial details, where you want to sell your app, when you want it released, a category and sub-category and if your app should meet accessibility requirements.
- Advanced Features - The next step in the submission process is specifying any advanced features your app provides, specifically Push Notifications for background tile updates, Live Connect Services for features like Single Sign-On and finally, any in-app offers for your app
- Age Rating and Rating Certificates - Next, you’ll need to select an age rating for your app. You’re allowed to select the rating yourself, but be aware that you app’s content will be evaluated against the professed rating during certification.
- Cryptography - The next step is related to your app’s use of cryptography. If your app makes use of any form of encryption of data files, uses a public key infrastructure, secure communication channels or works with platform DRM features, you’ll need to answer yes to the question on this page, which will then ask that you verify that your use of cryptography or encryption is limited to common cases like password encryption, copy protection, digital signatures or DRM.
- Packages - Finally, we’ve come to the good part, uploading your app package! First, you’ll need to find the location on your local file system where Visual Studio created your packages (.appxupload file).
- Description - The second-to-last step in the submission process is the description page, which sounds simple, but there’s a lot of information you need to provide. Not only that, but what you provide on this page will be visible to potential users of your app, so consider the content carefully. This is where you will upload the screen shots talked about earlier.
- Notes to Testers - The last screen is for any notes or information you want to pass along to the people who will be testing your app prior to approval. If certain aspects of your app need some setup or description, or if you want to highlight features of your app, you’d enter this information here. Additionally, if your app or its content lives behind a login screen, you’ll want to provide a test username and login on this page.
Now your application is ready to be submitted and the waiting game begins. It goes through several stages as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: The Windows Store Dashboard to submit a new application.
The stage that takes the longest and rightfully so is the “Content compliance” stage, where someone from Microsoft will review that your application meets the certification guidelines detailed here. Shortly after your app has been submitted then you will see a certification report that says if your app passed or failed certification as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3: The Windows Store Certification report with a failed content compliance.
As shown in Figure 3, we can see that my app did not pass certification due to the fact that I declared network capabilities (internet) and did not include a privacy statement in the Charms bar. In other words, I did not pass the 4.1 requirement in the certification guidelines detailed here.
It turns out that this is a common error and could have been easily avoided by reading through Jennifer Marsman’s series called, “Common certification errors when submitting to the Windows Store”. I’ve listed out all of the parts below:
This is a great series and I would recommend started from the beginning and reading your way down. Jennifer works for Microsoft and has seen it all from developers, so make that your starting place before submitting your app.
Once I fixed my error, it was time to upload my package again and I received a passing certification along with a link to where my application is located on the web which allows your user a quick way to download it from the Windows Store.
Today, we learned that building your Windows 8 app is just part of the process. You will need to go through many other steps in order to obtain a successful submission. Microsoft has put these pieces in place not to annoy you, but to make sure that every app in the store maintains a certain level of quality that gives the end-user a pleasant experience. I hope this blog post shed a light on some of my experiences and would love for you to share yours in the comments below. As always, if you have any questions, then feel free to leave a comment below or connect with us on twitter.
Thanks for reading!
-Michael Crump (@mbcrump)