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Getting ready for the Windows Phone 7 Exam 70-599 (Part 5)

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Peter Kuhn
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Peter Kuhn
Joined Jan 05, 2011
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10 comments   /   posted on Jul 05, 2011
Categories:   Windows Phone , General
"Taking the WP7 70-599 exam was a bit tricky due to there being no set material. But @silverlightshow has a good guide on what to learn, which I followed myself."

Matt Cavanagh, http://roguecode.co.za

This is the last part of my article series to prepare you for Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 exam which will be available starting July 14th. For a short introduction and overview of the exam as well as a list of general learning materials please take a look at the first article. The official outline of the measured skills breaks down the topics into the following parts:

  • Designing Data Access Strategies (19%) (this article)
  • Designing and Implementing Notification Strategies (17%)
  • Working with Platform APIs, Tasks, and Choosers (21%)
  • Designing the Application Architecture (21%)
  • Designing the User Interface and User Experience (22%) (this article)

The last article was about the general application architecture and hence dealt with topics like the application life cycle and tuning for performance and certification requirements. This last part focuses on the user interface and user experience on the phone, from best practices in programming to recommendations and requirements for creating a consistent and convenient experience in your software.

A note on the MSDN documentation: all online resources in the MSDN library for the Windows Phone documentation are now the pre-release documents for Windows Phone OS 7.1 ("Mango"). The original documentation for Windows Phone OS 7.0 (which the exam is likely based on) can be downloaded for offline use here (CHM format). Often there's little difference or it is likely that the changes have no effect on the exam; however in some cases this might not be the case or there are options available in "Mango" that are not part of the RTM release, so you should carefully compare the different versions, and if in doubt, base your learning on the 7.0 documentation.

Designing the User Interface and User Experience

This part of the exam topics has an interesting twist in it: whereas normally it is all about concrete features, mechanisms and APIs of the platform and its surrounding technologies (like the Push Notification Service), this part has a section about a specific architectural pattern in it: MVVM. This is new, and isn't explicitly mentioned in the Silverlight exam (70-506) for example. The remaining sections are about specific controls for Windows Phone, virtual keyboard input, making use of the built-in styles and topics like working with different screen orientations.

Design for separation of concerns

"This objective may include but is not limited to: presentation patterns that use view models, MVVM"

I'm sure that every Silverlight developer has heard about MVVM and view models by now, even if they're not using the pattern actively. MVVM helps with separating your data (model) and application logic from your user interface, and is a tailored version of other presentation patterns to fit Microsoft's modern UI technologies, like Silverlight and WPF. It helps to solve some of the most common problems with modern workflows and software development, for example to allow designers and programmers work on the same application easily, and to increase testability of code. On of the points of criticism always was that there is no real standardization or official recommendations from Microsoft on the pattern – at this point several popular frameworks exist to help you make use of MVVM, and each one has a slightly (or sometimes also dramatically) different notion of what that should look like. Therefore it's good to see that some articles on the pattern made it into the MSDN documentation of Windows Phone, and basic introductory explanations everybody can agree on are now brought to some kind of an official level.

I won't go into more details on the pattern at this point, because a comprehensive discussion would be way beyond the scope of this article, and there already are hundreds of discussions and great articles about MVVM out there. The following is a list of useful resources. Don't mind that some of them are about WPF and/or Silverlight – the pattern was created at a time when there was no Windows Phone and it really doesn't matter which one of these technologies is used to explain or demonstrate it.

Design Windows Phone 7 control usage

"This objective may include but is not limited to: design control usage as described in UI Design and Interaction Guide for Windows Phone 7; design proper use of PanoramaControl and PivotControl; choose when to use the Panorama Control and PivotControl; recommend when to use ApplicationBar"

The user experience design guidelines are another helpful resource for you to make your application fit into the concepts on Windows Phone. It makes recommendations on general aspects of the platform, the design process and principles, best practices on application structure and navigation models, how to increase usability and consistency of your applications, and finally guidelines for the most common controls available in the SDK. The latter one is especially important for developers new to the environment, because Windows Phone includes some new controls specific to the platform (like the above mentioned Panorama and Pivot controls), and using those controls in a wrong or unintended way may have a great negative impact on user experience.

The Application Bar is a special platform feature that allows your application to add "quick access" icon buttons and menu entries to access common and frequently used tasks and features of your application. It is special in that it is not really a part of Silverlight. Instead, this element is handled by the phone shell, and you should be familiar with the restrictions implied by that, for example that normal Silverlight concepts like data binding or giving the elements on the Application Bar an x:Name cannot be used with the Application Bar.

The guidelines can be found on MSDN here, and are divided into the following parts:

  • The Windows Phone Platform – This gives you an idea about the kinds of applications available and suitable for Windows Phone, and explains all the fundamental details of the system, including a description of the status and application bar, the hardware buttons and the supported screen orientation modes. It also gives you some performance considerations and tips to work with.
  • The Application Design Process for Windows Phone – Gives a lot of advice on the design principles baked into the Windows Phone platform and how you could and should make use of them to create great applications. It also tries to get you started with the conceptualization process, prototyping and testing of your application.
  • Application Structure and Navigation Models for Windows Phone – This sections gets more specific on possible structuring and navigation possibilities for applications, including the use of the Pivot and Panorama controls as well as drilldown scenarios.
  • User and Platform Interactions for Windows Phone – Makes recommendations and explains all kinds of platform related topics, like color themes, animations, the concepts of frames and pages, touch input, tiles, splash screens, icons and other visual elements, and briefly also covers advanced topics like advertising.
  • Control Design Guidelines for Windows Phone – Tips and recommendations on specific controls.

Additional resources:

Recommend keyboard layout for a given situation

"This objective may include but is not limited to: InputScope property"

The input scope property is a feature of the text box which allows you to specify the layout for the on-screen keyboard on Windows Phone. There are several layouts that make it more convenient for your users to input text in specific situations, for example when they are supposed to enter URLs or phone numbers. By setting this value either in Xaml or code you can determine what layout is used when the keyboard is shown once the text box receives focus. Possible values are listed by the InputScopeNameValue enumeration.

Useful resources on this topic:

Design for system themes, accent color, and screen orientation

"This objective may include but is not limited to: built-in styles that use system themes and accent colors, ApplicationBar icons (size, transparency), landscape, portrait"

Windows Phone has a set of themes the user can choose from. They include things like the background color (black or white) and an accent color. When you create Silverlight applications for the phone, a set of named resources is available to your application which you can use to nicely integrate with these themes. For example, when you use the named brush resource "PhoneAccentBrush" for your elements, it will use the currently selected accent color of the system at runtime automatically. This is an important instrument to create a user experience that preserves the native look and feel of the system in your own application too. In addition, the available resources also provide visibility and opacity properties for the "dark" and "light" theme you can use to dynamically adjust custom elements of your application depending on which theme the user has selected.

The system themes are also an important aspect when you use the Application Bar, for example when you create custom icons for it. Windows Phone makes it pretty easy for you to get that same level of consistency with it too: you don't need to create a set of two icons; instead, you only create the white one (used for the "dark" theme), and if the user switches to the "light" theme, the system will invert your icon automatically, so that it is black on white then. Another important thing to know is that your icons are not supposed to have the circle border around them – it will be added by the system automatically.

On Windows Phone, there are three potential screen orientations: portrait mode (vertically positioning the page content), and two landscape modes, left and right, which are named by the position the status bar takes when you look at the phone (i.e. landscape left means the status bar of the phone is located at the left of the screen). You have to actively support orientations through a setting of your page. From there, orientation changes are triggered automatically e.g. by rotating the phone. If you support both portrait and landscape mode, you have to adjust your screen content accordingly when you are notified about an orientation change through the respective event. The involved basic techniques for that mostly concentrate on two variants: to keep the layout and use scrolling, or to dynamically rearrange the layout, for example by using grids.

All the details about built-in styles, the Application Bar icons and screen orientations are also covered by the user experience design guidelines (see above); I didn't list them here again.

Summary

Apart from the initial discussion on MVVM, this time we mostly covered the visual appearance of the user interface and input options, learning about recommendations on and best practices for the design of applications on Windows Phone.

This last part concludes the exam preparation series. I hope you got a good overview of what topics you can expect and how to prepare for it. I'd love to hear your personal experience with the exam in the comments below (in compliance with the exam regulations of course), whether the articles helped you during your learning, and of course also any feedback about what could've been made better. Good luck!


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Comments

  • MisterGoodcat

    Re: Getting ready for the Windows Phone 7 Exam 70-599 (Part 5)


    posted by MisterGoodcat on Jul 12, 2011 17:07

    Apparently the exam went live a few days early, you should be able to take it now. I just passed :).

  • chintanpshah

    Re: Getting ready for the Windows Phone 7 Exam 70-599 (Part 5)


    posted by chintanpshah on Jul 12, 2011 19:45
    Will I earn any certificate upon passing this exam or it just qualifies me for other exam?
  • MisterGoodcat

    Re: Getting ready for the Windows Phone 7 Exam 70-599 (Part 5)


    posted by MisterGoodcat on Jul 12, 2011 20:50

    The resulting certificate is MCPD: Windows Phone, Developer

    Please note that you need to take a recertification exam every two years to keep the certificate.

  • chintanpshah

    Re: Getting ready for the Windows Phone 7 Exam 70-599 (Part 5)


    posted by chintanpshah on Jul 13, 2011 09:12
    Thank you for your quick reply.
  • MisterGoodcat

    Re: Getting ready for the Windows Phone 7 Exam 70-599 (Part 5)


    posted by MisterGoodcat on Jul 15, 2011 11:58

    The missing information about the certification requirements are now online on the MCPD site:

    http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/certification/mcpd.aspx#MCPDWindowsPhone

    This finally clarifies that you indeed need exams 70-506 (Silverlight 4 Development) and 70-516 (Accessing Data with Microsoft .NET Framework 4) in addition to 70-599 to receive the MCPD certification. This information was added only within the last days, I did not have it before; sorry if this caused any inconvenience. I will update the articles with this information.

  • chintanpshah

    Re: Getting ready for the Windows Phone 7 Exam 70-599 (Part 5)


    posted by chintanpshah on Jul 15, 2011 13:01

    Thank you for updated information.

    Does this mean that I can't give 70-599 without clearing 70-506 and 70-516?

  • MisterGoodcat

    Re: Getting ready for the Windows Phone 7 Exam 70-599 (Part 5)


    posted by MisterGoodcat on Jul 15, 2011 13:31

    The order you take the exams in is not important. For example, you can do 70-516 after 70-599, even though 70-516 is a TS exam and 70-599 the Pro exam.

  • chintanpshah

    Re: Getting ready for the Windows Phone 7 Exam 70-599 (Part 5)


    posted by chintanpshah on Jul 15, 2011 13:34

    Thank you for your quick anwer. One question that I was facing for long time.

    1.What is TS and PRO?

    2. Does earning 70-599 alone makes any sense?

  • MisterGoodcat

    Re: Getting ready for the Windows Phone 7 Exam 70-599 (Part 5)


    posted by MisterGoodcat on Jul 15, 2011 14:13

    1. This is simply the differentiation of exams that credit toward an MCTS (Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist), and those that are for an MCPD (Microsoft Certified Professional Developer) certification.

    2. Earning 70-599 alone does not make any sense if you want to become certified. Passing 70-506 alone will result in a certification as Silverlight 4 Development MCTS. Passing 70-516 alone will result in a certification as .NET Framework 4 Data Access MCTS. But passing 70-599 will only result in the Windows Phone Development MCPD certification in combination with 70-506 and 70-516.

  • chintanpshah

    Re: Getting ready for the Windows Phone 7 Exam 70-599 (Part 5)


    posted by chintanpshah on Jul 15, 2011 14:20
    Thank you. Now have full idea of Mirosoft Certification terminologies and levels.

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