With the advent of graphical user interfaces, creating the perfect experience for computer users has been more important than ever. Well designed applications should allow the user to complete their task with as little effort as possible.
Like Kat I have found the movie Her to have a fascinating look at the future of human and computer interaction, primarily through verbal communication and relationship building. While the movie certainly takes the relationship part of the equation to the extreme, I firmly believe that this kind of trust between digital agents and ourselves will eventually enable a new kind of human excellence.
Microsoft also collaborated with Vice’s Motherboard to produce a couple of short documentary videos titled Captivated by Her. They’re well worth watching if you’re interested in how human emotion inspires and shapes technology.
When I recently decided to set up a new workstation at home, I had a look at the available monitors. Without really thinking about it I assumed I’d just get a standard 16:9 monitor, but then I stumbled upon an article about an LG all in one PC with a crazy wide 21:9 screen. This really sparked my interest. Not in the PC itself – but how these ultra wide screens work with Windows 8.1.
Being a fan of Dell monitors, I decided to invest in a 29 inch Dell Ultrawide – so far it has done everything I’ve wanted, and I’ve been very happy with it.
Windows 8.1’s snap feature allows you to use up to four different applications at the same time with one of these Ultrawide screens. This extra horizontal space has drastically changed how I use Windows at home.
All of these screenshots are real examples of how I use Windows, and were taken over a few weeks of actual use. Basic tasks like email and note taking aren’t included, as I didn’t want to have to censor the content.
Why has the Metro design gone? Where is the uniqueness of Windows Phone?
Yes, as immediately noticed by those who care – the app doesn’t use the Metro hub pattern that the previous app used, but in my opinion it doesn’t matter because Facebook have their own design language.
In March Facebook announced an update to the News Feed that will bring a lot of design elements from their mobile applications into their main web application, here they clearly state that they’re after a consistent user experience across all of their platforms. While there’s no doubt that the design borrows heavily from Android and iOS apps, but – more importantly to me – it also is very similar to the mobile web experience, which was my primary way of accessing Facebook throughout the day.
But the principles are forward looking and similar to Metro, Facebook are focussing on stories and imagery, removing clutter and keeping their distinctive look with the typography and colour choices that users are familiar with. See below an example of how the same information is displayed on both the old and new versions of the Facebook app for Windows Phone. Which one looks more like Facebook?
By focussing on Facebook design language rather than Windows Phone design language, they’re actually following one of the most important UI principles for Windows Phone – content over chrome. Where the Facebook experience is the content, and the previous Metro UI treatments – like larger fonts and the main panorama – were essentially just chrome.
Does this mean the end of the Metro design language? Obviously not.
My personal view is that the built in templates that come with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are to be used as starting points. You get a lot of good design for free that way, but if your application has its own way of doing things then the Microsoft development tools will allow you to craft them. Real designers make the best decisions from the options that are available to them. In this case, the consistent Facebook experience makes the most sense.