Up until a month ago, I knew as much about programming as most non-techie people, nothing. The last time I did anything even remotely close to programming was writing HTML and copy/pasting java script snippets, about 10 years ago. But given what I heard about Windows Phone regarding it’s relative ease to learn the coding language, the greater potential for profitability over competing platforms, and the fact that I own a Windows Phone, I decided to give it a go. I didn’t make any big amazing plans to create something mind-blowing. I just wanted to dip my toe in the water. I was doing this for fun and didn’t want to get bogged down by paying for courses or paying for anything. In my search for knowledge, I discovered one great resource: MSDN. It’s free, and the videos are designed with beginners in mind, so everything is paced accordingly.

Once you get through the videos, you’re ready to start some minor programming. The biggest problem I faced was at this point. The point where you know enough to kind of do something, but will run into constant errors and questions. The help out there is usually written with intermediate and advanced users in mind. This is the hardest part as you will have to ask people more knowledgeable that you to help explain and dumb things down to your level. You will spend most of you time figuring out how to use .NET libraries and only a small fraction of your time actually writing code, but once you get the hang of it, the process will go much more smoothly. In addition, it’s the struggling that helps you learn. When it takes me several hours to figure out a simple mistake(there were LOTS of simple mistakes) ,I guarantee you I wont be making the same one again.

That being said, I think writing an actual app for Windows Phone, was extremely easy.  I’ve finished writing a dedicated app for Mobility Digest, and it has been submitted for certification. It should be available to download within a week and I’ll be sure to let you guys know when you’ll be able to download it. From that experience, I can safely say that learning how to make a simple program wasn’t all that hard. I’m not saying all programming is easy. And definitely don’t think you’ll be able to make a competitor to The Harvest any time soon. I haven’t even attempted to look at XNA yet, and I think I’ll pass on that until I get a better handle on Silverlight. If anyone is interested in developing for Windows Phone, I highly encourage it. If you’re a student, don’t forget you can use DreamSpark to get yourself a developer account for free, instead of paying the $99 charge. And no, you don’t need a developer account to download the tools to start learning on your own. Visual Studio Express for Windows Phone is 100% free, but if you have DreamSpark you can download VisualStudio Premium for free as well.

Bottom line, if someone with absolutely zero knowledge about programming, like myself, can learn and write a working program in under a month, I don’t see knowledge as a serious barrier to developing for Windows Phone.

Update: My app has passed certification and can now be downloaded from the Marketplace! Leave suggestions and comments in the post about the app HERE, thanks!

6 COMMENTS

  1. Good read. I was thinking about creating some simple apps myself but I was too scared.

    Thanks for putting my mind at ease! And looking forward to installing your app!

  2. It’s good to hear you didn’t have too much problem picking up .Net/Silverlight – because programming for Windows Phone is mostly about that, not about the phone itself.
    I’m an experienced .Net developer, but I’d never used Silverlight, written a phone app, or a web page before. I was simply amazed at how easy it was to write an app. The integrated visual designers, code assistance, and integrated debugger with the virtual phone make it easy and “real”.
    You think it was easy for you? Think about the millions of trained Microsoft .Net devs out there (like me). It took me a short weekend to figure out GPS, mapping, page animations, and on, and on… If Microsoft can get off their damn butts and update the phone and Marketplace faster, enterprises will have a real hard time justifying spending money on any other platform. If they already have .Net devs, but no Java or Cocoa (or whatever), it’s a no-brainer… except for the install base!

  3. Downloaded the app – really useful! I develop for WP7 myself and I’m finding the Silverlight so straight forward I’m soon thinking of braving the XNA side of things – good job!

  4. @Idrankbluekoolaid: Keep us updated if you do try your hand at making an app

    @Todd McDermid: If I can do it in a month, I can only imagine how easy it must be for people with expertise in the field like you. MS did a good job encouraging employees to develop, that’s for sure!

    @Steven Pears: thanks, let me know about your experience with XNA if you do give it a go. Would love to hear about it. I want to try it myself, but don’t think I’m quite ready for it yet.

    @Ken: I haven’t tried anything for WM6.X yet. Like I said this is my one and only app of any kind. I would guess not though, since WP7’s UI is comprised completely of Silverlight and I don’t believe WM6.X supports that natively(if it at all). I think the only thing you can port over is the C# code behind(someone who knows more correct me if I’m wrong).

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