What you want to know about Xamarin – March 25th

This month we’re going to be joined by Xamarin’s James Montemagno who’s visiting from Seattle.

What do you want to know about building apps with Xamarin?
Please let us know when registering or in the comments and James has agreed to talk about the topics that are most requested.

Garry has also volunteered to talk about his experience in taking the Xamarin certification exam. If that’s something you’re interested in doing too, he may have some useful tips for you.

And as ever, we’d love to hear about the apps you’ve been building. If you’re interested in demoing your and and sharing a little about your experience of building it please get in touch.

If you’re planning on coming please register on Meetup OR* Eventbrite so that we have an idea of how many to expect and can organise catering appropriately.

*There’s no need to register on both :)

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Thanks for all the nice things you tweeted about us

Earlier this month @dvlup tweeted asking about the best local dev meetups.

Thanks to everyone who said such nice things about us:

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Back to basics with Visual Studio and lessons in app development – Feb 25th

While thinking about what’s coming in Windows 10 can be exciting, it’s also sometimes good to go back to basics and make sure we understand and are making best use of the tools we have available to us.

Visual Studio is a really powerful tool, with more features than I’m sure any of us realise, so this month, we’re going to have a look at some of them.

We’ll be joined by Mike and Peter from Microsoft and they’ll each be showing us 10 tips in a particular area of the program that will enable us to be more effective and build better apps with less effort
If you think you really know an area/feature of Visual Studio well and want to share your tips too then please get in touch as well. The more we share the more we all learn.

Windows 10 is looking to be a trigger that causes lots of people to build brand new apps or rebuild existing apps from scratch. Similarly, some of us will be building our first apps for Windows 10.
With this in mind it’ll be great if we can help each other avoid the mistakes of our past. If you’ve built any number of apps before then I’m sure you’ve learnt things in the process. What have you learnt that you wish you’d known when you started? By sharing these insights we’ll save each other time and help build even better apps.

All this plus the opportunity for app demos too. If you want to talk about your app then get in touch. Even if you don’t want to demonstrate it yourself but have released or updated an app lately, please leave the details below and we’ll spread the word about what you’re up to.

If you’re planning on coming please register on Meetup so that we have an idea of how many to expect and can organise catering appropriately.

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Windows 10 Announcements – Jan 21st

Apparently there’s going to be a “significant” event related to Windows 10 on January 21st.
Come along and hear all the news and discuss what it could mean for you and the apps you’ve made or are thinking about.

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As a group we’re all about helping everyone create great, successful apps and that means more than just hearing the latest news.

The benefit of meeting in person is that it’s easier to learn from other people directly. At this meeting we’d like to provide an opportunity to make it simple to meet and learn from others in attendance. As a way of doing this we’re going to have a “speed networking” session. It’s a simple, non-threatening, way of meeting similar people and learning from them. We hope you’ll take part.

We’d also like to learn from each other’s apps in a collective capacity. To do this we’d like to host another “Pimp my app” session. If you haven’t attended this previously it’s where someone volunteers their app to receive expert suggestions, comments and feedback to help make it better and this is shared with the group. If you’d like your app pimped please let us know in advance.

Additionally, as with past meetings, if you’ve got an app you want to demo or talk about we’d love to hear from you too.

If you’re planning on coming please register on Meetup so that we have an idea of how many to expect and can organise catering appropriately.

Or, if you’d prefer not to use meetup, you can also register your intent to come on: Eventbrite, Lanyrd, Twitter, KweekWeek, Microsoft Technical Communities, Google+ or Facebook.
There is absolutely no reason to register at more than one of the above. Just use whatever is the easiest for you.

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Saturday’s hack event postponed until next year

If you were thinking about registering late (or just turning up on the day) for the publish hack originally scheduled for this Saturday, please be aware that his event has been postponed until the new year.
New date to be advised.

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Dev 17th: Xamarin Re-Evolved and porting from Windows Phone

In December (17th), we’ll be joined again by Dominique Louis and Michael James from Xamarin.

They’ll be recapping the important announcements from the Evolve conference and show us how to make the most of taking an app that is currently on Windows Phone and using Xamarin’s tools reach other platforms too.

As ever there’ll be an opportunity for you to share or demo what you’ve been working on too. Please get in touch if you have something to show.

Plus there will be food, drink and plenty of networking opportunities.

If you’re planning on coming it help us plan if you can please register.

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November 26th: Preparing for Windows 10

At the end of September Microsoft announced Windows 10- the next version of Windows.
This has implications for everyone building apps for Windows and Windows Phone (or who’s thinking about it).

We’ll look at what’s been said, what hasn’t, and make some reasonable assumptions about what we can take from this. We’ll start with a presentation but then open into a discussion about what developers and designers can do now. Come share your thoughts, plans and ideas, plus hear what others are thinking.

We’ll also look at the tools we’ll be using to build apps for Windows 10 – Visual Studio 14 and C#6.0.

And of course there will be the usual food, drink and networking.

Register on MeetUp

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Book Review: Designing Mobile Payment Experiences – Skip Allums

Back in the late nineties I worked on a system that produced store gift cards/vouchers. Fast forward to 2008-9 and I was working on mobile payments, NFC payments, stored
value cards on mobiles and even custom software for chip and pin terminals. More recently I’ve worked with a number of banks and money transfer services to build them mobile apps. (There are more than a couple of screenshots in the book that look VERY familiar!)
All in all it’s fair to say I have an interest and background in working with mobile payment solutions.
When I first heard about this book I became very interested. Mobile payment and money transfer is an area which I expect to grow considerably in the next few years and the recent announcements by Apple, with the iPhone 6, will only help fuel interest in this area and speed up growth.

The book is relatively short at just 7 chapters and a little over 200 pages but it’s packed with useful information.

The first chapter starts the book by providing some background on the history of money and how and why it is used. It provides the perfect grounding for the rest of the book.

The second chapter introduces the three payment types covered in the book: NFC; Cloud : and Closed loop. The description of each of these is intermingled with a few UX notes dotted about. I think it would have been nicer to have made the UX points stand out more. As I am familiar with the payment options and their pros and cons I would have liked to see the UX tips stand out more form the text so I didn’t risk skipping over them as I skimmed a paragraph about a subject I am already familiar with.

The third chapter is the first to provide some easy take-aways for the reader. It analyses the strengths and weaknesses of the design, payments, feedback and security aspects of popular mobile payment solutions available today in the US. Namely Google Wallet, ISIS, PayPal, LevelUp, Starbucks and GoWallet.

The fourth chapter is about building trust into mobile payments. It was while reading this chapter that I realized I had been reading this book with my “developers hat” on, rather than one of a designer. I think of myself as a developer who wants to understand design. I also hope that more developers take an interest in design and how it impacts what they are developing. Anyway, this chapter diverged from what I was expecting and had a strong focus on the psychology of the consumer (or person using the app). I found it really useful to have this focus and the idea of designing for the most common security concerns people have with mobile payments was explored in depth in the rest of the chapter.

The fifth chapter is about actually designing successful payment interactions. The chapter is full of useful advice if creating an interaction using NFC, Bar or QR codes, or geolocation. It even made me smile as I remembered back to building an app that displayed barcodes on an iPhone and testing it in actual supermarkets. I’m sure with the information from this chapter I could revisit many past applications and create improvements. My only criticism would be that it would be nice to touch upon iBeacons or similar when also focusing on geolocation as that would, I suspect, address some of the issues of a geolocation approach. (e.g. getting the wrong neighboring store.)

Chapter six feels somewhat of a mish-mash of topics. This is probably due to the nature of the chapter being about additional services that can be provided with a payment experience to bring a richer and more valuable user engagement. Depending on the original app or services purpose is will affect what additional services are appropriate. This chapter provides guidance on: managing finances; rewarding loyalty; offers and coupons; and travel.

The final chapter looks to the future. As Apple has such an influence in the mobile space (especially in the US – the market this book focuses on) it is right that there is talk about what Apple may do. (This includes consideration for iBeacons-as noted earlier.) Then there’s speculation on what may come from MCX (the Merchant Customer Exchange) and Facebook. The chapter concludes with a look at wearable devices and bio-metrics and how they may be part of payment experiences in the future. As it’s still early days for these technologies the book provides no specific guidance in using them though.

All in all a useful book. If you are, or are likely to be working with mobile payment with regard to mobile devices and apps then I recommend you buy and read this book.

There is also a website by the author that contains additional content (via a blog) and a collection of mobile wallet & payment UI design patterns: http://mobilepaymentux.com/

Disclaimer: The copy of this book was supplied for review as part of the O’Reilly User Group/Community program.

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Two quick reminders

Firstly, on Saturday (20th) it’s the “Windows Apps JumpStart LIVE Series: Publish Hackathon”. More details and registration via http://aka.ms/winappspublishhack

Then, on Wednesday (24th) we’ll be hearing about Azure Mobile Services and Application Insights. If you haven’t heard of Application Insights before check out this article http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/developers/articles/week03sep14/improve-your-product-by-analysing-real-world-usage-data  More details and registration on Meetup – so we know how many are coming and can order food and drink accordingly (There’s NO NEED to register on both)

I hope to see you at one or both of the above.

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Help to finish or improve your app

At the May and June events, engineers from Microsoft’s Windows App Consult team attended.  These engineers work in Microsoft’s Global Business Support organisation providing assistance to Microsoft’s developer customers across the UK and Europe. The Windows App Consult team help developers ensure they have a quality application and can help with development issues, debugging, troubleshooting and reviewing apps. They can also highlight design issues and generally provide tips on how to improve applications.

Most of you said having a service like this would be useful so I’m working with Microsoft on the best way to secure us some resource and ensure the time is best utilised. Although useful to have an engineer at the event, we could probably make better use of time and provide more value to you by considering booking engineers for Remote App Consultation. This would mean that instead to getting 20-30 mins to discuss your application at the event, you can request a Remote App Consultation, which would give you individual time with an Engineer for up to 3 hours.  This time could be used more flexibly over phone and email to provide you with assistance.  Please note that depending on availability and the nature of your request it may take a few days to line somebody up to help you.

If you’ve got an app that’s almost finished or you need helping improving an app you’ve already released you can request a review by filling in the form at https://www.microsofttechupdate.co.uk/remote-app-consult-request/

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