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Let’s face it, most developers are not designers. In fact, most developers suck at designing applications. The nice thing about Windows (before Version 8) was that you didn’t have to be a designer to build a good looking application. Windows were rectangular. There were canned controls, such as the X close button on the top. A button looked like a button, and fonts could be selected from a list. There didn't need to be flashy graphics because the focus was on the functionality of the application — the ‘business’ objectives .
Now it seems that we are moving into an era where sizzle is more important than substance. It seems that the iPad and consumerization of applications has caused an expectation that using an X for close and an underscore for moving something out of the way is no longer acceptable.
Now you need to be a graphics artist to build interfaces. While my parents commended me on my crayon artwork in the first grade, my skills for becoming a graphic artist didn't seem to materialize after that. As such, my attempt at building an appropriately graphic interface for a Windows 8 application falls short of the expectations in today’s market.
There are a couple of options to get around this. The first is to hire a graphics artist to build your interface for you. They can build all the graphics and animations for you to simply plug into your application. Of course, you need to be careful of the graphics designers that have been doing standard applications the past decade as they might still try to give you an X in the corner or they might try to use gray rectangular buttons!
A second option is to cheat. You can use a third party library to help you with the interface. (no, this isn’t really cheating.)
There are a number of vendors that create tools that have controls that are skinned to look much nicer than the standard Windows controls. While this might not give you everything you need, it will definitely push you above the applications created by the majority of developers who don’t use such tools or a graphics person.
Here is my shameless plug. One such company that has tools to help you build your interface as well as build your application is DevExpress. We’ve been working with DevExpress for a while. Because we are working with them, we had an article written (by an independent writer) to show how to build a pretty cool Windows 8 application using their DXtreme product. Simply put, this application uses a lot of their controls to build a Twitter application that shows how positive or negative tweets are for a given topic. It also includes mapping, listing, and other features in a very nicely done package that really looks and feels like a modern Windows 8 app. Using the DXtreme controls, our writer was able to build a pretty sharp looking application without being a designer. He did use one set of graphics in an added feature he built-in. You’ll know which area when you look at the application!
The article is written in a way that you don’t have to be a Windows 8 developer to get value. In fact, the article actually walks through the steps of building the application. If you were wanting to play with Windows 8, it would be a good article to read through to see how the tools can help you create a slick application as well as to see how to build a Windows 8 application. The article, Light up Your Modern Apps with DXTREME is on Codeguru now. Check it out and let me know what you think of the app and the DXtreme tools.
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