I’ve talked to a lot of Windows Phone developers who say that they have a hard time with design. Heck, I’m not really any better. I’m not designer and apart from naming new things, there isn’t much that is harder for a programmer than figuring out design.
One thing that doesn’t really help are the excellent templates that come standard out of the box when you do file, new project. The font choices look decent, spacing is done well and it even responds well to when a user changes light / dark theme preferences. When your app looks okay out of the box, it’s easy to forget a few finishing touches that make it stand out from the crowd.
Applying just a few simple guidelines can really punch up the presence of your app.
First, color selection. I bring this up first, because on Windows Phone, you have a choice of using the accent color that the user has already selected. This is a great choice, because appropriate use of the accent can really punch up the presence of your app. In addition, these accent colors were selected because they look really good on both light and dark themes. People like it when you use their preferences.
The other color option is to select some colors to use as your brand. Look at existing apps that you think look really well. Their colors match their website and the colors on all the other apps that they have too. The bonus of thinking as a brand, is that you can re-use this color palette across any other apps you have or make in the future.
The application bar is one item that I see people forgetting to show some love. If you use the user preferences, I really like the look of accent color as the background of the app bar and theme color as the foreground color. This inversion on the application bar contrasts the usage of it in your app and makes both stand out more.
The default font, Segoe UI, is an attractive font. However, it is the default. Everyone else is using it their app too. My first suggestion is for those who keep the app title at the top of every page. Make the font for your app unique. It’ll really make it shine. In addition, think of applying your brand or accent color to make it stand out even more.
Once you’ve started branding your app’s title with a custom font, you may want to continue with changing all of the typography in your app. Go for it, I have, but be careful that the text is readable and appropriate for what you are trying to convey. You also may want to check out Microsoft’s guidelines for typography.
Let’s take a look at one of my apps, Battery. First, I’ve colored the title and gave it a distinctive font as well as a drop shadow to make it stand out. I also gave the percentage a special font as well as colored it with the accent color to show its importance. The rest of the text has been given an easy to read font. Finally I took my own advice on the app bar. In light or dark theme, with differing accent colors, this app will look good and you won’t confuse it with blander cousins in the store
Not all programmers are designers, but that is no reason why our apps should be unattractive or boring. No one wants to use a utilitarian app. Spice it up just a bit, it’ll get you a long way towards a sharp look without having to spend too much on design.