Developer: Windows Store is a disaster

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One of the features that an app store must absolutely get right is search. Users have to be able to find what they are looking for and discover titles that meet their needs. At the same time, developers who spend time creating apps need to have their titles easily available to potential customers. If one, or both, of these requirements is not met, that creates a serious problem.

Windows Store is in this exact situation, according to multiple developer reports. Microsoft has been unable, or, worse, unwilling, to make the search functionality as useful as users and developers might like, at a time when Windows Store is already being penalized by its pitiful selection of top-tier and quality apps.

Nikolaus Gebhardt is one of the latest Windows developers complaining about the search functionality of Windows Store, which is described as "quite empty" with "most apps [of] low quality". Gebhardt has published a number of Windows apps, one of which is said to have support for Windows 10.

Since Windows 10 arrived, the sales of all of my apps, which have been very low compared to other apps stores, have gone down significantly, nearly to zero (even the one I upgraded to Windows 10). And it is not surprising that this is the case: You cannot find my apps anywhere in the app store. Unless you know the exact name of my app, you won't find it. You can type any of the keywords my apps have in their title, description or even in the list of keywords submitted to the store, and it won't list my apps. Instead, the app store will simply list 2 or 3 other, useless apps. In total.

Right after reading that part I remembered that Martin Brinkmann has basically raised this issue as far back as December 2014, when Windows 10 was not even officially available to the public. At the time, Martin explained how Windows 8.x users could find apps that do not show up in Windows Store search results, apps which obviously exist and are available to download if users know their exact URL or they search by their publisher's name.

These kind of issues have also been raised by developers on Microsoft's MSDN forums. One developer is complaining that a cryptocurrency app is not searchable, losing revenue because of it. Here's another complaint about an "unsearcheable" app. And another. And yet another one.

When asking Microsoft about it, Gebhardt says that the software giant has offered a "prewritten text" in response, that basically says that it does not "have any control over the search results in the app store". Considering that we are talking about one of the leading software companies in the world, which has created a search engine -- you know Bing, right? -- it can be hard for anyone who knows a bit about Microsoft to take such a response at face value. Gebhardt is obviously not looking to game the search results, but for his apps to simply show up in them. That is a reasonable expectation -- otherwise, why should developers even bother?

The whole experience seems to be extremely frustrating also because when developers complain that the answer is not helpful, Microsoft's representatives, who continue to offer it in response to other developer complaints with no follow-up from someone higher-up, are pushing for feedback on it. Here is what Gebhardt has shared with his readers.

Here is how the mail exchange went (drastically shortened):

Me: Hi, since Windows 10, my apps cannot be found in your App store anymore. Please help, and please don't send me that "we have no control over the search results" text you seem to just paste into the forum.
Microsoft: Hi, we don't have any control over the search results in the app store.
Me: [I didn't answer, because I got quite angry about this.]
Microsoft: Hello, it seems you didn't answer to our mail for a week now. Wasn't it helpful?
Me: No, it wasn't. It was just the same text you sent to all the other developers. Are you even aware of the problem?
Microsoft: Sorry that I couldn't help.

one week later
Microsoft: Hello, it seems you didn't answer to our mail for a week now. Wasn't it helpful?

So it seems like they don't care.

Gebhardt confirms that this is actually an old issue with Windows Store. He also complains about the tools offered to developers wanting to publish their apps, which seem to have taken a turn for the worse in terms of quality.

With Windows 8, the process of creating software for their app store was really nice. The documentation is great, signing, testing, verifying and uploading was a piece of cake. And the website for managing all this (named 'Dashboard') and looking at your sales was impressive. With Windows 10 thing got worse. There is no way to update your Windows 8 (.1) C++ project to Windows 10. You have to manually edit your solution and project files with a text editor at a few dozen places to make them work. And they replaced that Dashboard with a new version, which is barely useable, shows only half of the information and only works if you have a very big screen and surfing with a browser made full size. Really strange.

Going through the comments below Gebhardt's post, you can see many similar issues shared by developers and Windows users. Microsoft seems to be aware of these problems, or at least some of the people working there are concerned with it now that this issue has received some more attention. Gebhardt has been contacted after writing this blog post by Microsoft employees, so hopefully things will finally get moving in the right direction.

Windows 10 brought along with it a new version of Windows Store, a so-called unified app store that now serves as a source of both Windows and Windows Phone apps. Developers are now encouraged to write universal apps, titles which work on both operating systems. Obviously, discoverability hasn't also changed for the better. (Although the name has stayed the same, Windows 8.1 and Windows 8 actually benefitted from a different Windows Store, one which only included titles developed for the two, PC and tablet operating systems.)

With Windows Store a core part of Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile, Microsoft wants its latest PC operating system to be adopted on one billion devices in the first two to three years of availability. And, so far, it seems to be doing pretty well, being installed on over 200 million devices. However, growth is slowing as far as adoption goes, and there is no telling how much of an impact Windows Store has, but one thing is for sure: it's not helping Microsoft's chances of reaching that goal.

"Whatever the reason for all this is, I won't develop any apps for Windows 10 anymore, since I cannot make any money with them. And I can recommend other developers to do the same: Don't start developing apps for Windows 10, in the hope your apps will sell on the app store", concludes Gebhardt.

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