To Microsoft Office Apps/Developer Teams: Some requests to improve #Office #Apps Experience–a developer’s view :)

SharePoint conference 2014 is around the corner. The office team & office developer team have been posting some new content on their blog, useful tips for anyone building Office apps for office store. Be sure to check these recent posts for guidance on office apps development:

(also, Office 2013 SP1 was released this week, sp1 new features for sharepoint & office apps api/sdk expected to be announced during the SharePoint conference next week)

Anyway, this post is not for developers, but for Office Apps developer/seller dashboard teams :)

It’s my personal view, after publishing, supporting & improving a few apps (SmartCharts, GanttChart, -a few others coming soon ;) )on how the experience could be improved for end users and developers, hoping to drive a much higher acceptance for Office Apps & the App model in Office365/SharePoint.

So, what have we learned and what would be great to see improved in the Office Apps experience?

1-Apps in the office ribbon are difficult to find (available only through insert/app.. :( )

We frequently get people asking where they can find the app after installing! We need an individual Apps tab, where we could add our favorite apps, our full list of installed apps, quick access to the store & recent apps. And task panes apps  aren’t particularly “insertable” anyway. ~

Sorry, this need an urgent fix! An new Apps ribbon tab!

image

2-No app icons? Except for local catalogs… needs fixing also, why is that? we get the icon in about, but not listed in our apps…

image

Developer/Local Catalogs Apps with Icon

image

Office Apps-no icon :(

(SP1 for Office 2013 seems to bring some minor improvements but far from what I describe above… we get app icons for some apps but you can’t configure the apps that show in the ribbon… currently you will get bing maps and people graph  from msft)

image

Office 2013 SP1 tab for Apps

3-Users can’t get details/screenshots about an app using the Excel built in app browser?

How are they supposed to pay, install & trust an app if they don’t know what its supposed to do?

image

we click try/but/install and the only available info is…

image

come on!? doesn’t make sense when we have rich description and screenshots available in the store.

Also this should be en easy fix by the office team because all we are seeing is a web page from the store. (you can see that page here)

(also note that in this screen there is no way, that I know of ,  of clicking to open the app details in the browser…? you need to click the publisher link and then see all apps…)

4-App analytics in seller dashboard is….well…not great :(

Trust me, the one thing you should do from day one is to configure google analytics, your own custom analytics framework or both (yes, be sure to reflect that in your privacy page).

Office Seller dashboard analytics is not very useful to gain insights on how to tune your app and how it’s being used. Main pain points for analytics in the app seller dashboard (office apps):

  • we get historic data only for the latest 4 weeks :(
  • we only have week totals, not detailed data, not even daily data (no demographics, time, date, browser versions, nothing…)
  • The CSV you can download also has only week total aggregates, not very useful
  • data usually lags 2-3 days behind, and happened recently due to some issues on the office store, even weeks behind current date
  • if you are actually selling apps, there’s no metric whatsoever regarding revenue (you’ll have to wait for the end of month and use very limited tax/payout reports, and even then you’ll have to convert from international currencies to local currency…)
  • paid downloads & free download are bundled together in downloads metric

image

image

Hope all these could be fixed soon, in the world of data, the available dashboards and data are really lacking (being kind here honestly…).

I would gladly skip the built-in Seller Dashboard “dashboards” and exchange all that for the detailed “fact” data on downloads, browser hits. I’ll do my “dashboarding” on that! :)

5-Developer support could be a little better

While developing and getting SmartCharts approved we had several issues with the api, supporting IE9 in Excel web app, strange redirects issues breaking the office API context model, undocumented issues with permissions and data read API calls. I must say that having been in touch with some office apps support teams in this process, we were on your own almost all the time :(. Expect delay for advanced issues, these are the ones difficult to reproduce (ex: excel web app in IE9/chrome).

There a few locations to send feedback (foruns, office sp dev user voice site), but getting through and actually get real help has been a struggle for us. My initial post on addFromPromptAsync /read permission question is still to see an answer, (we just went ahead and requested full read/write permissions instead of read, problem “solved”… but seems a bug/very undocumented to me…)

6-Some bug/issues remain

Some reported issues, that seem to be related to core office app js API  remain,

  • for example excel web app & dates have issues:

clip_image001

  • very annoying issue-some users buy the apps but Excel keeps showing the app as trial, I have seen that happen, there are app reviews from users pointing this issue, and we’ve also received reports from some users with this problem (yet to find a proper workaround… been using  an undocumented one to fix this… ) –
    (note:received two user reports today with this specific issue!…not good…)

That’s it…

Hope this can reach someone on the office teams and help a little bit with some of these issues.  Do you know someone there? can you please pass this along? thanks!  ;)

btw-be sure to check the SharePoint Conference App Awards – People’s Choice! contest. now running into final voting period until February 28, 4:00PM PST. (little disappointed to know that SmartCharts didn’t make it to the final in people awards, wasn’t aware of this voting until very recently :( but hoping we still get a chance on other categories :) )

Take care!

 

Rui

Advertisements

About Rui Quintino
Developer & Software Architect @ DevScope

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: