7Digital: Music downloading and streaming for your Windows Phone

imageYou’re at work (or university), are really excited to hear the new album by The Shins and can’t wait to get home to listen to it. But wait! You’ve got the 7digital app that lets you preview, buy and listen to music through your phone. So within seconds you can start listening to new music and pass the time away on your trip home. You’ll also be able to listen to the same album on your computer or on another mobile device as your music will be stored in a virtual locker that sits in the cloud. Genius!

7digital is a fully licensed, multi-million track digital music store. It was the first company in Europe to have a 100% MP3 offering, with content from all the major labels, and is now available in no less than 37 countries worldwide, including the UK of course.

The 7digital music store has some unique differences compared to other sources of online music. First, you can listen to your collection in a web browser in high-quality FLAC format or download 320kbs MP3 files. Second, you get your music delivered on whatever platform you want to listen on, whether it’s a smart phone or a PC. With apps already available on Android, Blackberry and iOS, the company is now looking to expand its portfolio by developing a Windows Mobile app, due in March 2012.

We spoke to Ling Khor, Product Manager for Mobile at 7digital about their experiences with Windows Phone development.

Why develop your app for Windows Phone?

We want to give our users the option of accessing the music on any device. We’re platform-agnostic – it’s everything we stand for.  We’ve seen Windows Phone mature and it’s become a solid operating system. Windows ‘Mango’ was a significant update and Microsoft’s partnership with Nokia is very promising.

How are you developing the Windows Phone app?

We partnered with a specialist Windows Phone agency in New Zealand, where I am based, to develop the Windows Phone version.

What are the unique features of Windows Phone that you’ve been able to integrate into the app?

We’re currently working through some of the new Mango capabilities such as Background Transfer and Audio Agents for downloading files and always on audio playback. We’re also integrating the app with the Zune Music and Videos Hub and ensuring it comes up for users when they search using the Bing App Connect feature.

How did you adapt it for Windows Phone?

We had to take a good look at design patterns and UI elements that were particular to Windows Phone in order to create an experience consistent with the platform. It is always useful to take a steer from native apps such as the Windows Marketplace and Zune player, especially if there are features similar to your own app.

The Windows Phone OS is elegant, very engaging and has distinctive features that we want to make the most of. Using a panorama to showcase recommendations and featured content is one example of this. We are also using Live Tiles to allow the user to pin their favourite artists, albums, tracks, playlists and genres to the start screen.

What would you advise other developers to do?

In terms of advice, spend as much time up front sketching and trying out different ideas for the user flows and experience. It’s much harder to change this once development starts and it also ensures everyone has a shared vision of the app. Also, don’t re-invent the wheel. 90% of what you need in terms of core controls and approaches for layout is already done in other apps and in the OS itself. Learn from them and extend them in a way that enhances the user’s experience whilst being consistent with the overall feel of the new Windows design language.

Download the free tools to get started developing for Windows Phone

Published by Sara Allison

Sara is the editor of Ubelly - when not heads down scouring Ubelly articles for typos (and not always catching them), she's scouting for new writing talent. Give her a shout @SaraAllison if you've got something to say about development/design and want to be heard.

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