October 31, 2012

My Windows 8 Store Woes - Lesson's Learned

I have been debating for a while now on how much detail that I put out in this blog post.  However, today finally pushed the final button and I think it is important to share a bit of my experience and some of the key lessons that I have learned.  In doing this I hope that I can prevent others from going through such a horrible experience as what I have.  The story in this post is a bit trimmed down to make it easier to follow, but the key highlights are all here.  I will finish up with a few "Lessons Learned".

I should first put a disclaimer here that I absolutely LOVE Windows 8, but this store process is horrendous and I've heard that I'm not the only one out there experiencing these types of problems.  My goal with this post is not to bash the store process, as I know it is new, but more than anything trying to prevent people from spending literally months just to jump through all of the hoops to get into the store.

Store Account Process

My troubles started with trying to get a developer account created, there were really two individual issues with this process.  The first was actually getting to the point where I could create my account.  I was looking to create a business account, and wanted to associate it to that MSDN account.  Overall I tried this process off and on every few days for at least a month and was not able to get the account created.  I think it had some to do with the fact that my Microsoft Account has multiple MSDN subscriptions associated to it.

Once I finally got through that process I got stuck in "Identity Verification".  I instantly completed the verification item they asked for but over a week later my account was still "Pending".  I reached out to the Windows 8 Store people via their Online Chat and sadly was told that "It was a third-party service and I can't help you.".  After more digging and another chat with Symantec I got a "I'm not sure why you were not approved", which then lead me to get instantly approved.  8 hours later it finally transferred to Microsoft and my account was successfully created.  

All in all between the various e-mails, chats, and other discussions I had along the way, this whole process took me a little over two months to complete and finally get my developer account created.  Most people that have been having problems have all been around the verification process which typically is resolved much faster than the other types of items.

Application Submission Process

As a developer the integration in Visual Studio, the packager verification ability, and all of that flow is great.  It is fast and easy for me to build my app, test my app, package my app, and "validate" my app.  But this is where the process starts to break down.  In the case of my application someone had accidentally selected "Internet (Client)" as one of the access levels needed.  The application passed the verification checks locally, passed the package verification within the store, and sat in the queue for 11 or so days.  This morning it was denied due to missing a Privacy Policy both within the package submission, AND in the application itself under the "Settings" charm. 

Now I take full responsibility for a developer accidentally selecting the box.  My concern here comes from the fact that something that could be validated, and reported systematically took 11 days to be denied for.  The notes about Privacy Policy inclusion are very easy to overlook and only after a very detailed review did I find the secondary requirement.  In a matter of 10 seconds I un-checked the box and re-packaged.  I've re-submitted to the store, but now I start the 10 or so day waiting period to see if it gets denied again.  There is no fast track to getting the app re-certified, just re-submit and hope for the best.  All in all from this I've missed having my application make it into the store for launch, and now it looks like I'll be at least 1.5 to two weeks after launch.  Competitors have already gotten a bigger jump start on me, frustrating indeed.

Lessons Learned

So although sharing my story might help me vent a bit, the key point of this post was to share some lessons learned.  Tips and tricks to help those trying to navigate through the store process and wanting to try and avoid as many of the bumps as possible.  

Start Early, Really Early!

I think this is the key item for any new developers looking to get started.  Sadly a luxury that wasn't available for me as I was looking to get in on the first wave.  But the key here is to get started with everything as early as possible.  If you are even thinking about doing Windows 8 Development projects, just create your developer account now.  But don't just create the account.  Verify the identity, verify the payout account.  Get it so that everything in your account shows as Active.  Anything that isn't is likely to cause a delay, and although these items are supposed to be "quick" they don't always appear to be so.  I know a number of people that have had issues with Identity and/or Payout verification.

Memorize the Certification Rules

This is a hard one, but there is a long list of published certification rules.  You can find these here under the Windows App Certification Requirements documentation.  Become 100% familiar with all of the rules, criteria, etc. There are design requirements here that are not validated through the package validation process so you will want to pay special attention to anything that places a requirement on your application to show information of any specific kind.  For example 4.1's requirement to show the Privacy Policy this is a requirement not only on the application package, but on the Settings Charm within the running application. 

Over time I hope that these rules will become easier to test, easier to verify and we can prevent small mistakes from causing 10+ day delays with 

Conclusion

In conclusion, dotting the i's, crossing the t's and planning way ahead seem to all be key aspects to getting an app successfully into the Windows 8 store.  If you have other comments you would like to share, hints for developers on things to check please share them below.


tags: Windows 8
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