Devign Intervention

by Dmitry Kirsanov 11. September 2012 17:44

Windows 8 typical application user interface

When average developer is asked to work on the user interface of his application, he is doing everything that is in his power to not do anything about it.

As the result, we usually get some minor visual enhancements which may further impair usability, but look better during the weekly meeting presentation. In worst case scenario, though, we get something that looks like an echo from 90-s with non-standard windows and 3-D controls. Because your boss is dying to see something “apple style”, and so you deliver.

Windows 8 introduced the new “Metro” style user interface, which is now officially not “Metro”, but Microsoft didn’t come with a new name yet (I am currently writing this from the office of Microsoft Denmark, so I am pretty confident about it). The most important part of that user interface is a unified style for your user interface layout, which allows you to forget about graphical bells and whistles and still make your application as good looking as any other application.

So, what does that mean for us, developers?

It means, that now the graphical design, and especially such old school elements as gradients, frames and tabs, are not anyone’s headache and responsibility. What we have to care about is usability, which lays more in the area of cognitive psychology and physiology and still require quite empathetic person to make decisions. Empathetic, because you must feel the wants and needs  of your customers.

However, the layout complexity is (almost) out of the equation now, as we only have to define the size and placement of tiles, what information we are going to place there, so it is more like playing with Lego now, and it completely eliminates the need of Photoshop.

Of course, .NET applications are not going to die (more about it soon), so there will still be scenarios, when you’ll have to pay attention to design. However, applications where user interface has to be fancy, are more likely to be migrated to Metro, which allows developers to breath easier without fear of having to deal with the brush.

Devigners

The paradox of the situation is that though developer is not a graphics designer, he is still the one responsible for user experience design, which blends into the new term – devigner. I like the term, as it implies, that not every developer should be assigned the work on user interface and usability design, as well as it doesn’t require designers to possess the software development skills.

Airport sign metro styleTalking about terms, did you ever think why Metro was called Metro? That’s because of the common style of metro signs (subway, that is) used in many countries, as well as airports and sea ports. You may not know the language, but you still know which way to go.

Also, the way that Windows 8 integrates applications reminds the map of the metro, where you can reach the point of destination by changing the trains. In our case – get additional information about users from their profiles in social networks without knowing about how to connect to these networks, simply by requesting the required information from official social network application. But more about it later.

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