Introducing Deep Theming – Guidelines for Windows Phone 8.

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What is Theming ?

Based on wikipedia entry , theming is described as

the use of an overarching theme .. to create a holistic and integrated spatial organization of a consumer venue. Often themes are derived from history, different cultures and fantasy. Theming can vary in intensity from interior design to entire architecture based on a particular theme, with theme parks being an example of a common large-scale application of theming. Theming is prevalent in certain restaurants, casinos, museums, airports and resorts.

We can and should theme apps  !

With respect to apps, theming refers to the use of color, layout and imagery to create a holistic and integrated thematic experience for a given app. Thus, “Deep Theming” refers to a theming/design paradigm where developers of an app provide users an opportunity to modify theme specifications for that app .

Why Deep Theming

Would a user be more interested in using an app if they felt they could easily control it better ? E.g would are they more likely to continue using an app if they thought they could easily modify its look and feel ? Apparently, some theories in psychology , specifically Theory of Planned behaviour (TPB) seems to agree. TPB  started as the Theory of Reasoned Action in 1980 to predict an individual’s intention to engage in a behavior at a specific time and place – for all behaviors over which people have the ability to exert self-control. The theory identifies percieved behavioural control (in addition to beliefs, attitudes and norms) as one of the drivers for actual behaviour. In the case of apps, the conjecture hinges on the premise intention to use and actual usage will increase when users can excise better control (e.g deep theme) an app. While this conjecture is made, it is also acknowledged that the ability to control the main features of the app (e.g character attributes, graphic settings etc in a game) would exercise a greater influence on its usage than mere theming.  Implementing deep theming would contribute to the interactivity.

When to deep theme ?

Windows phone (like many other platforms such as android) support system-wide themes Light and Dark with multiple accent colors to chose from . And for good reason. The dark theme (with less vibrant colors overall) uses up less LCD power to display content and hence longer battery life whilst the light theme provides a more vibrant ambience. A theme is a user-selected combination of background and accent colors that personalizes the visual elements on a Windows Phone. Only colors are part of a theme; other elements, such as fonts or control sizing, don’t change.  Windows Phone apps automatically take on the selected theme and ensure that system controls and UI elements appear consistently across the platform to prevent a jarring, unsettling user experience.

You can override the theme within an app if you want to set your own theme. A custom theme can establish quality, originality, or familiarity in a branded app. Decide ahead of time how much of your app’s visual design will be customized, and plan those elements accordingly. You can provide your own resources and override any themed properties, but you can’t turn off themes.

However, many times, this does not fit in with your app especially when you want to convey a specific ambient experience whilst users are in your app – e.g bright and vibrant or dark and ominous. And you dont want that changing whenever the phone theme changes.

Deep Theming Guidelines

Whilst brainstorming on the best way to give users a changeable but great-looking UI within Trivia Monkey , I hacked up the deep theming principle and here’s its main tenets

1.) Select Vibrant but dark colors
can handle both light and dark text

2.) Define thematic resources

3.) Build / Design in key aspects of your app such as backgrounds, control (buttons, borders, etc) backgrounds , select texts, to use color resources

4.) Set Theme by Modifying thematic resources for an IMMEDIATE app-wide effect!

5.) Theme your live tile if so needed.

6.) Important – Make provisions for Dark Options (power saving concerns)

About Vykthur

Mobile and Web App Developer and Researcher. Passionate about learning, teaching, and recently - writing.
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