The Conversation We’re not Having

A lot has been written about Microsoft’s new interface. Most of it on whether it works on a desktop or its resemblance to Fisher Price toys. There have been articles on the dissonance between the Desktop and the new Start Screen; and even a discussion on use and/or misuse of the word Metro to describe the UI.

But the one thing that hasn’t been discussed, at least not to my satisfaction, is on creating touch applications for Windows 8 and Windows RT. Now I’m not talking about about just building an app, there are resources describing how to using XAML, C++, and Java. Many of these resources are aimed at developers and just cover the basics.

And while the resources are there I think what’s missing is a serious discussion on design in general, and Windows 8 in particular. I really have to agree with others that Microsoft needed and needs a conference built around User Experience and design. They had MIX, but

Part of the reason I think there needs to be a discussion around design specifically is that there needs to be guidance beyond the Microsoft Developer blog. Its because I see developers who have come in early repeat the same stuff they did with Windows Phone; which is try to get the look right instead of paying attention to what the application does. Another issue is trying to avoid the Android situation, in which developers don’t redesign their phone applications for tablets because they will scale. I’ve had a few Twitter discussions where the majority of it was about why Windows 8 doesn’t behave in the same way as Windows Phone. And beyond all that I think the discussion is necessary because I think there is confusion around Metro.

The Metro principles are sound and  provide a solid footing; but they need to be translated into English or at least shown how you use them in a sentence. I personally believe the phrases “Content over Chrome” and “Authentically digital” trip up a lot of people who are trying to copy the Metro “style”. I also think that the some of the material used in the Dev camps don’t address how Metro can avoid becoming repetitive. Also not enough time is spent on XAML and C++ examples.

Beyond that I think what I’m not seeing are people playing with the guidelines and principles and sharing that information in the community. I also don’t see people talking about what would make a great Windows touch application. Its not enough to give guidance about font sizes or grids if all you provide is the standard stick to X.

I mean right now if some developer wanted to see content over chrome in action or experience software that is similar to an app on Windows 8, I’d say go look at the Microsoft Surface table. If you want to see what an program could look like using responsive design, look at what people are doing on the web. Microsoft’s issue is that Metro to a lot of developers is more style than substance.

And what this is leading to are a lot of apps that look like they are barebones and look like they were done in a week. And I think Windows 8 and RT can do more than that. And that’s what I think is needed, a proper discussion. 

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