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In some of our internal discussion lists there was some questions about how to host certain content for their application.  Most of the discussion came up from apps needing a privacy policy (Rule 4.1 from the Windows Store App Certification Requirements).  Some folks had apps they just developed, but no “site” or service they were using.  But they needed to host a privacy policy.  Lots of thoughts were floated around and I suggested Azure Free Web Sites as an option.  I originally suggested it as a simple way you could just have a URL to a privacy policy, but…duh, you could easily use it as a very quick marketing site for your app.

Creating a web site in Windows Azure

If you didn’t know, Windows Azure allows you to create a free web site!  It is very quick and simple to set up once you have your Azure account set up.  After doing that go to the portal and choose to create a new Web Site.  I recommend picking from the gallery and choosing WordPress.  There is such a vast ecosystem around WordPress as a CMS system that it is simple to use and set up. 

NOTE: Of course you can use others, even a static web site using the TFS/Git deploy feature even.  Do whatever you want.  I just think WordPress is great and allows you to scale your site features without writing code, etc.

Choose to create a site from the gallery:

Azure Find Apps image

This will walk you through a wizard to pick some names and options.  It is pretty self explanatory.  Once completed you will see your site provisioned in the portal.

Azure web sites image

Just click that link and you will be taken to your site…which for WordPress will be the initial setup page to choose your login.

Choosing a WordPress Theme

Once in the WordPress admin site, choose the Appearance option on the left, then the Themes sub-menu.  Once there, go to the Install Themes tab to pick a theme from the gallery.  Optionally you can grab a premium theme from various sites.  There is one called “Responsive” (search for that term) that is in the built-in gallery, free, and actually serves the basic needs well.  We’ll choose that one:

Responsive theme install image

After you pick it you’ll want to Activate it as the current theme.  Now let’s do some simple configuration.

Configure the WordPress site

In order to serve the goal of making this more of a marketing site and to host our privacy policy we don’t need commenting on pages.  Additionally we want “nice” URLs for our site.  Let’s start with a few simple tweaks.

First (in the WordPress admin site) go to Settings->Permalinks.  Choose the “Post name” option.

WordPress permalink settings image

Next go to Settings->Discussions.  In the top uncheck the “Allow people to post comments on new articles” in the top:

WordPress discussion settings image

This will prevent commenting on content.  Next using the Responsive theme we can configure the home page.  Go to the Appearance->Theme Options section.  You’ll see a “Home Page” option for the Responsive theme.  You can set the main text, tagline and two other options.  This gives you the chance to set the URL for your app that is provided from the Windows Store. 

Here are some posts to help you find URLs for your app: Linking your apps on the web and Connect your web site to your store app.

Here is an example:

Responsive theme home page config image

Now go to Appearance->Widgets to modify some information on the home page for the 3 widget areas.  These could be simple things like a quick blurb about what the app is, maybe some top features, or whatever.  In the admin widget area you’ll see Home Page Widget 1,2,3.  Simply add the “Text” widget to these and you can add the title/text for this:

Home page widget image

You can also remove the theme logo to provide your own logo in the Appearance->Header section to provide your own image.  You can also specify a custom image on the main “hero” section of the home page instead of the default image and specify that.  Once all these quick tweaks are done, your home page is done.  Visit the site to see the quick changes.

Now let’s add our privacy policy so we have a permanent place for our privacy details.

Add a Privacy Policy page

From the WordPress admin site, go to Pages->Add Page.  Name it “Privacy Policy” and then type in your privacy policy text.  You can modify the text using HTML formatting to fit your needs.  Make sure to use the “Full Width Page” template so that it shows the entire page.  Notice the URL for the permalink.  I recommend keeping it simple with “privacy” or “privacy-policy” as the name (which should be default):

Privacy page editing image

Once you Publish the page, your site will now have a link to “Privacy Policy” on the home page and you can use that in your site, for your certification process and other areas you may need it.

You can now provide a link within your app to your privacy policy as well.  Andy has a simple method of adding it to the Settings charm and simply linking to your online site now.  You can visit the site to confirm it looks as you wish:

Privacy page image

Done!  You can see this example at http://timscoolapp.azurewebsites.net

Profit!

Now you have a free site on Azure to host marketing your app.  Of course this helps those getting over the hump with providing a nice place for a simple privacy page, but also enables you to have a way to provide other pages for your app.  You could provide more detail on features, have a form to collect feature requests, whatever.  WordPress is very flexible and the same process you used to create the privacy page can be used for other full-page content.  Or you can explore what WordPress has to offer you.  Again, there are many different ways you can do this and even within WordPress other themes you could choose.  However I think the Responsive one is a simple one to get started with as a base.

You may want to not have “azurewebsites.net” as your site URL as well.  If you wanted you can migrate to a shared instance (not free) and have custom domain name resolution on your Azure site as well.

Hope this helps!


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution By license.


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9/27/2012 2:26 AM | # re: Using Azure Web Sites to market your Windows App
If you use this template will it keep WordPress up to date or will you have to update it yourself when the security fixes are released? Not updating WordPress pretty much guarantees getting hacked.
9/27/2012 7:48 AM | # re: Using Azure Web Sites to market your Windows App
@Mog - no of course it is your site so you'd be responsible for keeping any software up-to-date that you use. WordPress admin console makes that easy though.
10/17/2012 1:02 AM | # re: Using Azure Web Sites to market your Windows App
While I can see that Azure offers free web sites, it looks like credit card details are required up-front and I could end up being charged if the usage of the site exceeds the limits of the free offer.

There doesn't seem to be a way of creating a free web site and having it become inaccessible if usage exceeds the free limits? I appreciate that if I exceed the limits, I'm probably doing very well - particularly if I'm just hosting the privacy statement - but I wanted to check I wasn't overlooking anything.

Thanks.
10/18/2012 5:05 PM | # re: Using Azure Web Sites to market your Windows App
Of course this allows those getting over the problem with offering a awesome position for a easy comfort web page, but also allows you to have a way to offer other webpages for your app. You could offer more details on functions, have a type to gather function demands, whatever.

from an essay writing service
10/22/2012 7:15 AM | # Completely unrelated post diven by frustration.
Microsoft's Expression product line is starting to have the appearance of being abandoned (Expression 5 preview ... the saga). If you bought into Expression Studio thinking you could do WPF and Silverlight development, it is clear Microsoft has no answer for you now that Silverlight has been axed.

You now have to purchase Visual Studio 2012 to get a version of Blend that allows you to do commercial development.

What has happened to Microsoft as a company? Product strategies appear EXTREMELY confused.

What is the deal with Expression Blend 5? Will it ever be released? Is it really that critical to delay its release in order to pave the way for other initiatives (HTML 5)? Not to worry, trying to push the Silverlight genie back in the bottle is no longer necessary. It is obvious that Silverlight is dead even to the die hard loyalists.

We do need some path forward with Blend. If there is none, all those cool corporate Silverlight client applications will die and with it any prospect of XAML having a future for creating corporate applications.

Perhaps that is the idea? XAML is to be used only for toy applications? If so, then just tell us that and we will look elsewhere for alternatives.

Microsoft needs to decide on XAML or HTML. Right now, neither has the tooling from Microsoft needed to deliver corporate applications. Just a word of warning here ... the folks invested in XAML did consider it the superior choice (that's where your external brain trust is invested).

If XAML turns out to be Microsoft's toy platform, your corporate client's will turn their backs on you as you appear to be doing to them now.

WinRT's App XAML has no validation features, WinRT's App XAML controls set is incomplete (no DatePicker, AutocompleteBox, etc., etc.) such that you cannot easily create a business application, WinRT's App local database services are incomplete (do we use Esent, SQLite that complicates certification, or what?), and what about the rest. Where is an alternative to RIA? What happened to PRISM (now months overdue)? What is the vision for WinRT?

And if the desktop is the place for corporate applications, then please bring support tooling up to date.
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10/23/2012 5:29 AM | # re: Using Azure Web Sites to market your Windows App
Can you easily plug in forum software using the Azure web sites? If so, do any come recommended? Thanks.
10/27/2012 4:18 PM | # re: Using Azure Web Sites to market your Windows App
Great post! Have you tried the step where you chose from a gallery on a touch device like a surface. I think there might be a little bug there :)
12/8/2012 8:29 PM | # re: Using Azure Web Sites to market your Windows App
I'm not sure how this can be considered "free" when the only option is a 90-day trial. Maybe you meant "free for 90 days".
12/17/2012 9:30 PM | # re: Using Azure Web Sites to market your Windows App
Same question as Todd asked. to get this free site. First I need to buy Azure account otherwise it is free for just 90 days? Correct?

Another question, if it is really free without paying for any Azure account, Can I host a service (WCF) in there?

 
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The opinions/content expressed on this blog are provided "ASIS" with no warranties and are my own personal opinions/content (unless otherwise noted) and do not represent my employer's view in any way.