I've noted the previous topics on Windows Phone 7 best practices and will be reading the suggested docs over several coffees this evening, but to help me on my way I'd appreciate any input you all may have in this area.

I'm looking into the viability of porting an iOS app to Windows Phone 7 and what that might mean for existing interaction and UX. Are there any mental models that Windows Phone users have developed that differ from other platforms? Has anybody encountered any problems with this process in the past? I'm interested to see if there is much written about this so far and would be hugely grateful for links to research or articles, but anecdotal examples are equally welcome. I'm familiar with iOS and Android characteristics but haven't managed to get hold of a Windows device to play with yet.

I'm happy to wade through developer talk but real nuggets of design insight are proving elusive so far. Is that because the platform is relatively young or because porting simply isn't too much of a headache from a UX point of view?

To refine slightly: Are there any stand-out examples of apps that have been repurposed for Metro that have successfully retained some iOS/Android interaction principles, or typically does the approach tend to be a full Metro-ifying of the UX from top to bottom? Is there a precedent for this kind of process yet or is it largely in the hands of the developer?

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    They're pretty much as different as can be due to the Metro interface. I think this question is a bit more broad than you realize, do you have more specific questions or a particular topic of interest?
    – Ben Brocka
    May 1, 2012 at 14:57
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    You're right, definitely broader than I anticipated. I'll be getting my hands on a device later this week at which point I'll be able to refine the question further for this particular app, but already the answers here have beefed up my reading list considerably.
    – Harry
    May 1, 2012 at 15:20

3 Answers 3


Understanding the Metro Style Language is key. Unless you are porting a game, you have to take this into account. Windows Phone users have come to expect and love this.

That being said, following the Metro Style does not mean that your app has to be text only, just that it shouldn't contain superfluous chrome. The application that I point everyone to as an example of an app that has its own identity while still following the metro guidelines is Cocktail Flow. It is elegant and embellishes in a way that still follows the standards.

Another consideration is the abilities of the Tile. On the Windows Phone, applications that are pinned to the start screen have interactive tiles that can provide information before the user even launches the app. For example, a weather app can display current weather on its tile. Your app can run in the background using an agent and update the information on the tile as it becomes available. Also, you can give users a chance to opt in to push notifications, which allows your hosted service to send updates to the phone (rather than the phone pulling updates).

Also important are transitions. When a user navigates through your app, they will notice if the next page just "pops" up rather than using a built-in animation to transition to the new page.

If you get those three elements right, (aside from the Tile interactions a lot of it comes free using the built-in controls and even the extended toolkit), you'll be on your way to fitting within the WP7 eco-system.

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    PS. If you're interested, Microsoft is running a contest called 30 to Launch basically you spend 30 Days building up your app (they provide guidance for each day). In the second week you can apply for one of 250 Lumia 800 phones and if you complete the program, you get the phone (plus there's a contest to win other goodies). May 1, 2012 at 15:11
  • Thanks Mike, really appreciate the quick breakdown of the three interaction principles, and Cocktail Flow is a cracking example (especially interesting to directly compare their WP7 and Android apps). Are there any others you could point me towards?
    – Harry
    May 1, 2012 at 15:57
  • I'd say look at the major social services. The official Twitter and Facebook apps are pretty good examples. 4th and Mayor (Four Square app) is another clean example. The Amazon Kindle App and Netflix provide a great example of media browsing. Weave is a newsreader that focuses on content rather than managing your feeds. Other than that the built-in apps give a good feel for the Metro aesthetic. May 1, 2012 at 17:19

I think the greatest challenge is adapting the navigation to the panorama system. You can usually port a navigation structure between Android and iOS without too much strife but doing that in WP will cause some problems.

There really are quite a few differences though, I would suggest reading through these pages to get a sense of the Metro concept and then adding any specific details you're interested in to your question.

WP Dev Blog (note the link to the PDF design guide)

MSDN WP7 Design Cheat Sheet

Smashing Magazine WP7 Design Overview (note their awesome paper prototype idea)

  • Many thanks for the links, particularly the Smashing Mag one, can't believe I overlooked that.
    – Harry
    May 1, 2012 at 15:30

There definitely are some significant differences in the UX of Windows Phone. I'd really think you'd need to either get your hands on a device, or run the emulator from a computer with Visual Studio installed. However, you can also get the general gist of the experience from a demo app that Microsoft has released for iOS and Android devices which you can see here.

I haven't been able to encounter any definitive guides on porting an iOS app to Windows Phone, partly I think because some of the concepts are so strikingly different. This is a tough question therefore to cover all the possible considerations.

I would say that getting used to the Metro Design Language is going to be the biggest difference in play here. There are a batch of differences in the design, and overall switching from iOS to Windows Phone is pretty striking.

One of the biggest differences is definitely getting used to the Metro style Panorama navigation (as opposed to iOS' tab-based navigation system).

If your curious to get a basic understanding of some of the differences, here's a related article on a Microsoft case study of converting an iOS app to a Windows 8 app.

  • That case study is absolutely brilliant, exactly the kind of thing I needed, thank you.
    – Harry
    May 1, 2012 at 15:33

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