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Hands-on: Windows 8.1's Windows Store refresh makes finding great apps far easier

Ian Paul | May 15, 2014
Microsoft delivered a Windows Store design refresh on Tuesday--one focused on making improving app discoverability. The new store update puts more featured apps front and center and makes it easier to navigate to the Store's top lists by placing a persistent navigation bar right at the top of the screen.

Microsoft delivered a Windows Store design refresh on Tuesday — one focused on making improving app discoverability. The new store update puts more featured apps front and center and makes it easier to navigate to the Store's top lists by placing a persistent navigation bar right at the top of the screen.

But the new update is about more than just improving the Windows Store's much criticized app discovery chops. It's also an implicit admission that the old design that focused on text links and a lot of horizontal scrolling to get to the good stuff just wasn't working.

Microsoft claimed the Windows Store was "designed for discovery," after all, when the Windows Store came out as part of the Windows 8 beta back in 2011. "Ensuring the visibility of apps and the efficiency and fluidity of app discovery became the fundamental building block of our Store design," Microsoft said at the time.

Sure, the Windows Store has evolved in design over the past three years, but those basic text-centric elements remained the building blocks of the Windows Store — until now.

Here's a look at the new Windows Store.

Persistent navigation bar

The most obvious change to the Windows Store is the new navigation bar at the top of the screen, with options for Home, Top charts, Categories, Collections, and Account.

The new Home button is a particularly welcome sight. Under the old design, the most obvious way to return to the store's landing page was to jam on the back button over and over and over again. It wasn't the only way to get back to the beginning, but it was by far the most obvious.

Tapping the top charts, collections, or account options brings up a drop-down menu that lets you navigate deeper into the store with just one click. But Microsoft decided to break this design convention with the Collections button. Instead of seeing a drop down menu for collections, you're shunted to a separate page within the store.

What are collections? Glad you asked...

Collections

Collections are thematically grouped apps that have been curated by the Windows Store team. Currently, you'll find collections for social networking, sports, Xbox games, utilities, news apps, and apps currently on sale. There's also a "getting started" collection that includes a bunch of popular apps most users would probably like to install such as Adobe Photoshop Express, Facebook, Hulu Plus, Netflix, Skype, and Twitter. A handful of collections are also spotlighted on the Windows Store home page.

One collection you won't find, however, are personalized recommendations. Those are under Top charts > Picks for you.

Featured apps and red strike-throughs

 

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