I have been working a lot with Ipad and mobile sites these days. Mostly trying to create and redesign optimized experience for Ipad users on the existing web page without forgetting mouse. At the same time I have tested and sandboxed some apps for Windows 8 while looking into Microsoft approach to touch interfaces on their new Metro UI.
Touch is definitely the new black on interface design. Like the Director of Program Management for the Microsoft Windows User Experience Team Jensen Harris mentioned on his presentation in Microsoft’s BUILD Windows conference couple of weeks back. Harris was focusing on touch-first experience and then comes the rest which by the way resamples what Luke Wroblewski talked while back on mobile interfaces . Harris said that in coming years all screens will be touch enabled.
It will be like a screen without touch is like a computer without Internet connection. If you are interested how Microsoft is focusing for Metro UI in the future, I highly recommend watching this presentation to anyone who works with UI also check out Designing Metro Style Apps. No matter if you are Web, Windows, iOS or Android developer.
Maybe today it feels strange to think if stationary PC or laptop would have touch capabilities. It is somewhat unnatural that you reach over your laptop to the screen to move things around and then back to keyboard. But is it really so weird behavior. It is more natural than reaching your mouse, right?
Metro is user interface design-language that is heavily type based, think text, and which uses design principles of classic Swiss graphic design. Metro design excludes traditional icons, superfluous graphic and window chrome and it puts actual content up front. It uses large and clean typography and pages with lateral scrolling. Result is clean, sleek user interface that gets out of the way.
Metro UI and Touch behavior requires Windows developers to re-think their applications. How to remove all the chrome from the app is going to be a challenge to anyone who needs to develop on Windows 8. How does a developer re-design Microsoft Word -ribbon to touch? Should one go Apple way and remove from Ribbon those 95% of functionalities that is not used? This is not what Microsoft is used to do. Microsoft strength and burden has been always backwards compatibility and more-is-more features. Now the only way to go forward is to simplify so the software program can become an “app”. It is true that there is still Windows 7 alike Desktop environment but for future developers, if developer wants to develop app that can be used on all MSFT environments they need to forget desktop and go to Metro style. The Desktop in the future is for heavy users.
“When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks. But as people moved more towards urban centers, people started to get into cars. I think PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people will need them. And this is going to make some people uneasy”.
– Steve Jobs at D8 in 2010
I was really impressed when I saw where Microsoft is heading with Windows 8. Honestly I though the game was between Apple and Google but it is nice to see Microsoft is still on the game. It is not as “lickable design” as iOS but it is definitely something new and for Microsoft defense it is just a developer preview. Microsoft is inviting developers around the world to develop on it and with their huge developer eco-system there will be innovative applications coming out in coming months. Also, if you take consideration all the effort and help from Nokia on handsets and gaming community on XBox this unified OS experience will take Windows somewhere into completely new level.