Ahead of the highly touted Windows Store unification, the Windows team is finally sharing with users their plans to improve the Windows Store app catalog. With the 'One Windows' strategy, Microsoft has made a huge, but logical, bet on combining the stores from Windows Mobile, Windows 10, and eventually the Xbox. The end result could be the first unified merger of app store assets being delivered by one of the biggest software firms to date. The power developers could potentially wield when developing software and services across different screens and products through one unified Store is the stick and carrot Microsoft is depending on. But, as one famous uncle once said, “with great power, comes great responsibility.”
Some could argue that in Windows race to compete in the app wars, they’ve sidestepped taking responsibility for their app stores. According to a post on the Windows Blog, those days are coming to an end. Today, the Windows team has offered some details regarding their new approach to curating the Windows Store.
First off, the Windows team will be enforcing a more robust approach to 10.1 app certification policy. According to the Windows Team, “Policy 10.1 has been designed to improve Windows Store experience for both developers and customers. As developers, you increase the possibility of success if you follow these practices when developing and publishing apps that are unique, and that add value.” This enforcement will be applied to both new and existing apps. The new enforcement is meant to ensure customers find high-value, high-quality apps easily when in the Windows Store. The Windows team plans to clean up the store by:
Eliminating app clutter
The Windows team plans to address visual and category clutter that has, until now, plagued the Windows Store experience. Developers often use similar icons and titles to stand out or in more nefarious intentions, get clicked on by accident. The Windows team will now remove apps that are too similar or confusing to Windows Store customers. Apps that can’t be distinguished from another app, have icons or titles too similar, or don’t properly represent the functionality being described, will be removed. Beyond that, apps that fail to offer unique content, value or utility will also be subject to removal from the Store. A warning to flashlight app developers, start adding to your app.
Ensuring apps are appropriately priced
Now developers will be forced to price their apps reflective of their value. While developers maintain sole pricing discretion, Microsoft will lean heavily on the Windows Store Code of Conduct to address apps the utilize irregular or unfair pricing. According to the Windows team, “If an app is priced significantly higher than other apps in its category and it is determined that users might be confused and believe (incorrectly) that the higher price is warranted based on superior functionality or value, it may be removed from the Store.”
Distinguishing informational apps
For anyone who might have been tricked into a $3.99 tutorial app, thinking it was Clash of Clans, this next proposal is for you. Perhaps Microsoft is finally beginning to realize the value of transparency and is now extending that philosophy to the Store. As the Windows team plans to move forward, they would like developers to identify clearly informational apps like guides, tutorials, instructional content, reference material and other similarly related material. This enforcement was without a doubt a direct response to the various critics of the Windows Store that have written poor indictments of the Store. A few months back, an investigative study revealed how many misinformed users were being tricked by fake and mislabeled apps in the Windows Store. The evidence was damning for the Windows Store to say the least. Apps or services that fail to easily identify themselves as a reference or informational apps will be removed from the Store.
Ensuring relevant app titles and keywords
Lastly, the Windows Store is enforcing the management of titles, descriptions, tags and keywords associated with apps. The Windows Team would like developers to ensure their tags, keywords, titles, and descriptions are accurate and relevant. When these items are addressed, the Store can easily identify an app and present it to a user. The Windows team is discouraging the use of ‘popular’ or irrelevant keywords assigned to manipulate an app’s placement in the search results or overall rankings. Developers should stick to a max of eight keywords and make sure those keywords are relevant to the function of their apps. Once again, failure to meet these requirements will result in a developer’s app being removed from the Windows Store.
Visitors of the current Windows Store might view this news as a much needed olive branch or apology. To date, the Windows Store has been a wild west of misleading app developers attempting to fill giant holes. Even with explicit titles keywords being typed into searches, some users still can’t find the apps they are looking for. Users looking for the larger named titles, the experience has ben marred with ‘me too’ apps that outrank and junk up search queries. It looks like in Windows 10, the mishandling of the Store will no longer be tolerated by lazy certification boards or developers. The Windows Team’s stricter approach is also a nod to the developers who are putting in the hours to offer unique services and functionality. With Windows users potentially having access to thousands of apps across various devices, a clutter free and curated experience is a must. Some argued against Apple’s vice like grip on certification, but it looks like Google Play and the Windows Store are seeing some user benefits to applying a tad more scrutiny to app submissions. Now, it's one thing to promise, it's another to deliver. The Windows team will need to dedicate a lot more resources to a Store housing Xbox, Windows Mobile and Windows apps, more than they have in the past. We will be watching with a scrutinizing eye as to whether the Windows team can deliver on this announcement.