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What Windows 95 Can Teach You About App Development

microsoft90logo copyTwenty years ago, this happened. And everything changed. What this very dated video of Friends stars Mathew Perry and Jennifer Aniston shows is the now iconic Windows 95. With Apple grabbing headlines with every new announcement it makes, it is easy to forget just how big Microsoft became off the back of Windows 95. In fact, at its peak on December 27, 1999, Microsoft was worth $873 billion in today’s money — far more than Apple has ever been worth. Windows 95 was a juggernaut that changed computing. At the heart of why is its then-revolutionary graphical user interface (GUI). These days we take this for granted, but 20 years ago it was a game changer.

Windows 95 laid the groundwork for all subsequent computing user interfaces. Even today’s smartphones — essentially pocket computers — owe their look to 95. Whether you are on an Android, iOS, Windows or Blackberry device, the interface still bears hallmarks of 95. Apps change and develop very quickly though, so what can we learn today from Windows 95?

Just like Windows 95, apps need a great GUI. 95’s was so good that Microsoft still can’t get rid of it. That’s not to say an app needs to change the landscape, but it does need to be a well thought-out design. Just as Windows 95 was the main way people interacted with Microsoft, an app is the main way people will interact with your business. It needs to be good.

All apps start as just an idea, a way to solve a problem. But then they evolve and progress. Once that idea is clear in your mind though, it is time to turn to the experts. App developers can help you create a storyboard and flesh out your ideas. The next step is developing that idea into a mobile juggernaut — your own 95.

Under the development name of Chicago, Microsoft spent years working on 95, turning it into the phenomenon that it was. App development is a lot more mature than the systems that were in place 20 years ago, so it takes much less time. But developing a reliable and powerful user experience is just as important.

With the user experience such a high priority, it is key to rigorously test an app. Quality Assurance (QA) testing ensures that an app is ready for market. Making sure an app doesn’t crash, stall or is difficult to use is the difference between success and failure. This is something that unfortunately Microsoft forgot with its successors to 95. However, Microsoft is learning from its mistakes. It’s just a shame it took so long. Some say that Microsoft largely missed the boat when it comes to mobile, and they have been playing catch-up ever since. Don’t let your business follow suit and miss mobile. Get started on your app and have your own Windows 95 moment.

Visit Infostretch at the Jenkins User Conference U.S. West on September 2-3 in Santa Clara, CA — or at the Selenium Conference on September 8-10 in Portland, OR — to learn more about how we can help with developing and testing your mobile app.

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