Microsoft and Design

This is one of those posts where I have to preface I am not a designer or a web developer and you are free to disregard my views at any time. This post stems from reading up on user interface/experience design especially in regards to Microsoft and Metro.

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When someone talks about design in technology they do not mean Microsoft. In fact to some anything revolving around Microsoft and a pretty interface had to involve a photocopier. And to be honest if all you’ve dealt with was Windows XP you’d agree.

Microsoft was never a software clothes horse and its easy to understand why. Its a company of engineers and the onus was on providing features to users. Now they tried a few things like Microsoft Bob, but that didn’t go so well. And to be honest the UI that developed up till Windows Longhorn/Vista followed a similar path to other vendors.

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Somewhere along the way, probably during the XP days when Microsoft started thinking about moving into the living room, the design known as Metro was born. Metro, which Microsoft designers describe as a language, is the UI used on Windows Phone and will be used for Windows8. It makes use of a minimalist approach to creating graphical interfaces.

The seeds for Metro can be seen in the Media Center interface, the Zune media Player, and the short lived Origami experience software. Also if you look closely at the early designs for Windows Vista (then codenamed Longhorn) certain aspects can be seen in the Metro design.

 

Metro is different and like a few others I didn’t think highly  of it at first. But the thing about this interface is that it make use of the notion of glance and go; where relevant information can be put on the icon so a user doesn’t have to open an app

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Metro is controversial. Its like a piece of art some love its minimal design and others call it just a block of icons. And to me there both right. The thing about it is that iOS is a beautifully designed OS. They paid attention to detail. And its something we are used to. Metro, while having similarities, is different. It eschews the over detailed icons, it relies on typography, the tiles work as both icon and widget.

Now I like Metro, but I also think it stills needs work.

To me Metro revolves around typography, color, and a minimalist style. To me these are the overarching characteristics, everything else is subject to change. To me Metro should be a set of design decisions that rethinks what an OS should be. Icons are simplified. I would love to see them incorporate aspects of the “Aero” glass metaphor. So I can have a background image. Hell I even like to see them add textures like Linen to background. To me Metro is one of those ideas that one can constantly see new possibilities.

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I would love to see Redmond’s designers integrate the UI ideas used in Microsoft’s Courier project and the 2019 future productivity video.

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But I also see problems. It will be easy to bore of the UI and it is also easy to get wrong from a design perspective. I also can see people turned off from it’s modernist nature. These are issues that Microsoft needs to stay on top of.

Metro is different and it is  going down a path different from everybody else. And that is ultimately a good thing.

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