Early Last week we announced that Microsoft Fanboys would be focusing on independent and small app developers, and this week we begin that journey by putting you on a path to build a Windows Store app in 30 days. Being that I am a beginner, you’ll actually be following me on this journey as I work on my first Windows Store app. I’ll be sharing my progress, roadblocks and frustrations as I work to publish my first app in the Windows App Store by December 1st of this year.

Thankfully Microsoft has provided developers new and old with countless tools, lessons and examples to guide you along the path of app development success. The first of those tools we’ll be discussing is Generation App. The goal of Generation App is to help you develop and publish your first Windows Store app is just 30 days. The website provides you with day by day guidance on just how you go about developing and publishing a Windows Store app within 30 days, and is aimed at developers of every skill level.

The Generation App 30 day challenge is broken down in to the following five categories:

Get Ready!
In this category you are guided with links to download an evaluation of Windows 8 and the Windows 8 app development SDK and toolsets, which of course includes Microsoft Visual Studio 2012. For those with MSDN subscriptions you can download the full version of Visual Studio 2012, and for those working on a budget you can download their free toolset with Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows 8.

It is key to remember that developing apps for the Windows Store requires a system running Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro or Windows 8 Enterprise (Windows 8 RT is not currently supported). For a short time you can purchase the Windows 8 Pro Upgrade for just $39.99 online!

To develop Windows Store apps Visual Studio and Windows 8 are all you need, however if you would like to publish and/or sell your app in the Windows Store you’ll need to obtain a Windows Developer account via the Windows Dev Center. Registering for a Windows Developer account usually costs $49, but for the next eight days Microsoft is offering this for just $8 (you’ll pay the $49 and then they’ll refund $41).

Microsoft BizSpark, DreamSpark and MSDN subscribers can receive a Windows Developer Account for free for one year. You can access the registration code from within your MSDN login under the “Access benefits from My Account” link. Most of these users are generally granted product keys for retail copies of Visual Studio as well. We’ll be discussing BizSpark and DreamSpark further in a coming update.

The Get Ready section also provides case studies for Windows Store Apps, Windows Azure Training kits and links to the Dev Center forums, sample apps and additional resources. This section shows you how to get prepared before you go about designing, developing and publishing your app. It is the preface if you will.

Week 1 – Planning and designing your Windows 8 app
The weekly sections literally count you out day by day and gives you step by step guidance on the progress you should make each and every day of your app’s development. During the first week you’ll plan your Windows Store App, be taught the design guidance for apps while being offered category guidance and shown detailed design case studies.

Once you understand the design principals and guidelines for a Windows Store app you’ll begin to mock out your app with design tools and templates. You’ll also be taught how to migrate apps or share code from a previous project you’ve worked on in the past, which should help save experienced programmers some time.

The week is finished up by helping you determine which set of design languages are best for your app. JavaScript and HTML or VB, C#, C++ and XAML. Programmers with heavy web development backgrounds may be more comfortable with JavaScript and HTML, while those experienced in .NET and Native Code may want to focus on VB, C#, C++ and XAML, which should be familiar to Silverlight developers.

Check out the video overview for this week for further details.

Week 2 – Coding your Windows Store App
By this point you should be well versed in the proper design of a Windows Store App, and you should have come to a conclusion about which development languages would work best for your app. You probably have fairly detailed sketches or mock-ups of your app which will allow you to start building your app immediately with Visual Studio.

Early in the week you focus on different hardware form factors while building upon the design fundamentals you learned in the previous week. You are also introduced to the differences between Silverlight XAML and the XAML found in Windows Store apps, while you’re also familiarized to Windows Phone and Windows Runtime APIs.

By the middle of the week you’re fully focused on designing a user-friendly and fluid interface while learning to integrate key resources and components. When you’re finished with week two your app should be well on it’s way, and you should have a firm grasp on the look and feel of your app, including detailed understandings of the user inputs and interactions required.

Check out the video overview for this week for further details.

Week 3 – Making your app shine
This is the point when you really start to put the polish on your app. You start the week out by taking an in depth look at Windows 8 Live tiles and notifications. For your users to get the most out of your app you’re going to want to put dynamically updating live tiles and notifications within your app when applicable. Live tiles allow your app to come alive and show personality while providing important information to your users.

You also begin to debug your app to insure that it runs smoothly. If an app is unstable, you’ll lose your users as faster than you can find them. So it is key that you understand the core concepts of debugging and testing, and then you test , test and retest your app as you progress. Performance is a key part of this as are the concepts of launching, suspending and resuming your app.

Once your app is stable you can begin to make it pop by adding value to it using multimedia, extensions and interactions with Windows – including integrating peer connections, sharing and networking services. You should also be focusing on enhancing your app by utilizing background tasks, so even when your app isn’t active, it is still working for the user.

Check out the video overview for this week for further details.

Week 4 – The finishing touches
This is the home stretch, where you’ll learn about integrating your app directly with devices, printers and sensors. You’ll also learn about the Windows Live SDK which will allow you to integrate a secure sign on without having to code it on your own. You’ll also learn about the cloud and Azure and how it can be an affordable and easily managed asset for your app’s backend.

At this point you can also focus on monetization if you so desire, with detailed overviews of how to sell your app and how to integrate in-app advertisements to help cover development costs or produce a profit. Once your app is complete you’re set to compile and submit it for validation and certification within the Windows App store.

Now that your app is published it doesn’t stop there. Your training now focuses on finding and keeping users while also analyzing and improving your app thanks to the data you collect along the way. You’ve made it a long way on your journey, but this is where it gets fun. You’ll have real-life users working, playing and hopefully enjoying your app. Where you go from here is up to you.

Check out the video overview for this week for further details.

Summary
Generation App claims, “Your idea. Your app. 30 days.”  Sign up for Generation App today, where real-life developer and design mentors can contact and guide you on your path to success. This is a free program, so what have you got to lose? You’ll hopefully find that having a set schedule and clearly defined goals will help you keep focused on delivering an app you can be proud of.

To stay in tune with Generation App or similar news and programs, be sure to follow Microsoft’s User Community Twitter account @UserCommunity. Also be sure to check back over the coming weeks as I’ll be posting periodic updates on my current 30-day quest to build my first ever Windows Store app.