Vancouver User Experience Group (VanUE) recently held an event called Modern Mobile Design Language: From Transportation to Pixels on the newly released Windows Phone 7 featuring guest speakers Albert Shum and Mike Kruzeniski who worked on the design team on the project.
Showing up at the event with the FCV User Experience team, we were all hoping to get a glimpse at how the new Windows Phone 7 works. Surprisingly, we were informed that there would be no demo. Instead, they were going to focus on the new design principles they had developed to breathe into every part of the project.
Here are some references we used to familiarize ourselves with Windows Phone 7.
Video demo by Gizmodo:
Screenshots courtesy of Engadget:
The new set of design principles is called Metro. Drawing inspiration from Print Design, Motion Design, and Information Design, the team defined Metro as:
- Clean and modern
- Fast and in motion
- More about the content and less about the aesthetic design
With Metro, the Windows Mobile Design Team took a departure from conventional user-interface standards of buttons and constrained spaces and instead chose to focus on fully interactive screen space. They argued that icons seclude users’ movements to feel limited within a specific application. In designing Windows Phone 7, the team made the conscious effort to expand the content that bleeds from screen to screen, creating a sense of continuity and flow.
The workshop was intriguing for several reasons. It’s surprising to see Microsoft start their process with user interaction and experience around content for one thing, given their reputation. The Windows Mobile Design Team took a huge risk in basing everything on an untested design principle.
Despite sharing the same name with the latest desktop OS, Windows 7, there are few similarities between the two. Other event attendees noted that the new Xbox and Media Center have clearly been influenced by Metro. So maybe Metro is paving the way for future projects at Microsoft.
With such an unusual interface, it will be interesting to see what kinds of challenges arise for developers who wish to create applications for the phone. There is already a user interface design guide [PDF 2.1MB] for developers to keep the look and feel consistent.
It would appear that Microsoft is taking a page out of Apple’s book when it comes to keeping a tight leash on its applications. For instance, the default for search and maps is Microsoft Bing. They are also imposing strict control on manufacturers over the types of applications that can be loaded on Windows phones. Microsoft is in the middle of a shift!
Main image credit: Malcolm Bastien