Saturday, May 19, 2012

Windows 8 UI design

It was quite amusing to look through past Windows UI from MSDN blog.  Here's an abbreviated tour through Windows UI history.

1985 - Windows 1:

I don't remember seeing this;
I think I was still using Apple II in 1985.

1990 - Windows 3 and 3.1:

My first home-built machine's OS;
I remember using 3.5 disk driver with Windows 3.

1995 - Windows 95:

Windows 95 was the first machine that featured 'Start' button

2001 - Windows XP:

It's not just me who wondered about XP desktop background screen

2006 - Windows Vista:

Half transparency was introduced to Windows UI.

2009 - Windows 7:

Better way to organize open application icons

2012 - Windows 8:

Personalized tile-based Start menu screen on Windows 8;
I hope it's not just another marketing point made by Microsoft, and
it actually adds value to users.

Looking at the changes over past decades and comparing them with Windows 8, one design intent shows.

Content is highlighted rather than file system and applications.

No files are presented when starting out.  Windows 8 tries to present content to user right from the start, and that allows users to make choices without trying to search for what to pay attention to.  In other words, it  makes effort to lay out the dashboard not by application, but what user is interested in seeing.  It's almost like dashboard where you can see important news from people you are connected with.

But on studying the UI closer, Windows 8 doesn't look like it implements the philosophy 100%.  There are still applications like Internet Explore, Skydrive and XBox Live games.  They would have been better named as Internet, In the Cloud and Games, and it should show relevant updates from sites, cloud services and games that the user subscribes to.

Also while tile concept is interesting, default color scheme makes the UI look a bit garish.

Windows 8 Desktop page: not much has been changed from Windows 7;
If it ain't broken, why fix it?

Comparing Windows 8 Start page with Desktop page, it almost looks like Start page was designed as compromise by multiple design teams on their way to create something entirely new while keeping the old visual styles.  I wish Microsoft would have been more forward looking UI with Windows 9 in general.

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