The Windows Store has been criticized for its line of cluttered, confusing, and unnecessary apps. Now Microsoft wants to clean up its act.
Bernardo Zamora, Director of Windows Apps and Store at Microsoft, announced in a blog post on Wednesday a set of new policy guidelines for Windows app developers, all designed to rid the store of inappropriate apps. ie garbage.
Launched in 2012 with the launch of Windows 8, the Windows Store offers touchscreen apps designed to work on PCs and tablets. But in its race to fill the store with a multitude of apps, Microsoft has allowed too many similar, junky apps to fill its virtual shelves. The problem here is that the company’s app policies have been lenient, which has led to too many apps that leave consumers with a bad taste when they buy software. Due this summer, Windows 10 is Microsoft’s chance to redeem itself after the poor reception of Windows 8. And part of that buyout will be an attempt to redesign the Windows Store.
Windows 10 is also Microsoft’s effort to deliver a more unified experience across all devices – PCs, laptops, tablets, and phones. To this end, the company is consolidating its Windows Store and Windows Phone stores into a single mall. Therefore, cleaning up the dreck will be even more vital as all Windows 10 owners consider it a one-stop-shop.
In her blog post, Zamora described four ways Microsoft will attempt to improve its app store through stricter development guidelines.
One way is to get rid of app clutter. According to Zamora, too many apps with similar titles and icons can confuse customers, especially when those thumbnails and icons don’t properly represent the app itself. As such, apps that appear too similar to other apps, have similar titles and icons, or use icons and titles that don’t match the content of the app could be kicked from the store.
Microsoft may also abandon apps that don’t deliver unique content or value. As the example cited by Zamora, the company may get rid of certain “flashlight” apps if it finds too many with similar functionality.
Another goal is to ensure that the price of each application is correct. Although developers set the price for their apps, Microsoft wants to make sure customers pay a fair amount. If Microsoft finds an app that is significantly priced higher than similar apps in the same category, that app may be given weight.
Microsoft also wants developers to distinguish information applications, such as guides and tutorials, from functional applications, such as games and productivity software. The goal here is to make sure that customers aren’t fooled into buying an information app when they actually want a productivity app.
“In order to make it clear to users what they are buying, information applications that are not readily identifiable as benchmark applications must be distinguished by prominently displaying text or a banner labeling them as such.” , Zamora said. “If an information app violates this policy, it can be removed from the Store.”
A final goal is to ensure that the title and keywords of an application are relevant to its content. The title and description cannot say that the app is similar or better than other apps, unless they are comparable. Additionally, developers cannot use irrelevant keywords to try and increase an app’s ranking in search results and should limit themselves to no more than eight keywords. Again, if the developers violate this policy, their application can be started from the store.
Microsoft has a web page with tips on how to describe your app and another page that describes its Windows Store policies.
With the imminent release of Windows 10, the policy changes are a step forward. But the store suffers from other problems. Some applications have been. For example, you can find games called Super Mario, a popular series from Nintendo. But some of these games are made by third party developers, not Nintendo. Other apps snatch names and content from programs like Netflix and Facebook Messenger.
Such apps not only confuse consumers, but deter developers from designing apps for Windows. And Microsoft needs good developers to build great apps if it expects consumers to gravitate to the store.
Microsoft may also need to take a lesson from Apple, which follows a strict set of guidelines before certifying an app for its App Store. Perhaps it is time for Microsoft to just say no to certain apps before consumers see them.