Metro 2.0: The New Modern

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Since the release of the second preview for Windows 10 I’ve been going over the presentation and the latest Build looking at the changes for Windows and the Metro interface. Visually there have been clear changes made to core applications as they make the shift from Windows/Windows Phone 8.1 to the Universal app model. Reception for the overhaul has been mixed to be polite. I’ve read a few user comments saying Windows 10 sucks for tablet users. Also a few feel the new interface with new app controls and the hamburger menu means Windows is losing its unique accents.

While the overall ideas and final look for Windows 10 is far from finished, there is enough stuff there to make a preliminary brief.

Up first let’s talk about the Hamburger. The Hamburger menu is a button composed of three lines which represents menu selection or more options. It is used a lot for mobile websites and apps across platforms. The menu is a bit controversial in design circles; some consider it the mystery meat of design. Now in Windows and Windows Phone the Hamburger was rarely used; instead pivot and panorama controls were used on Phones and edge UI elements used on tablets. The new Modern UI is moving beyond both. Now one thing I observed with the new menu is how much it also resembles the look of the Mail app in Windows 8. When you shrink it down the Map app’s settings resemble the template used in creating the new Map app. Photos, and others. The Hamburger menu simply lets you hide them.

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One of the things some of the early applications show is that the shift in design is partly about providing an experience that moves easier between screens. The transfer of Metro from mobile to tablets wasn’t as easy because the teams designing them were coming from different directions. Another aspect I am noticing is the new Modern design might’ve been created to with an eye on reducing app repetition. By repetition I mean how a lot of Metro apps just used the basic templates which resulted in a bunch of similar apps.

The new Modern language deviates from some of what Metro was but not much. It’s not backing away from minimalism or a focus on content over superfluous elements. The Universal app model carries an inherent need for the reuse of elements, but not necessarily shrinking the interface. There is a merger of ideas in some places and changes in others. The edge UI’s in Windows 8 and 8.1 have been replaced easily available quick app settings (hamburger). The app bar remains but rules on controls have be relaxed. Commands can now be on top or bottom. One thing to note is that some apps appear to use motion and animation when switching controls. An example of this is in the new Mail app. App controls look to be heading for a change in styling. A new design for App controls was seen.

Beyond applications there has been work done to modernize the desktop. The taskbar has a new highlight feature with opened programs. Microsoft has tweaked the flat color and style introduced in Windows 8 along with the title bars and the minimize, maximize, and close buttons. The Start menu continues to be iterated on. In an interesting move the Start Menu has been rebuilt in XAML, a software language used to make applications. This is interesting because Microsoft is using its tools to build apps; these tools are available to developers.

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The interface and experience that has been made public has divided Windows users especially those who loved the Metro design language. The new Modern language. Windows 10’s rough sketch is showing an OS that is trying to think about mobile from a new perspective and balance the needs of traditional PC users while not abandoning users who adopted touch and tablets. This approach is obviously something to get used to and refine.

images: Microsoft

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1 comment
  1. Nick said:

    Having just tried W10 out on my Surface Pro 2, I can confidently say W10 on a tablet does (at least currently) suck. It is no longer very touch/gesture friendly, and instead relies on me fat thumb trying to press small buttons. It feels like a major step backward for a touch interface. Having said that, the desktop side of things is rather nice, specifically on a larger screen that is not touch friendly.

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