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Don’t call it Metro, call it Good Design

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#1 BajiRav

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 14:36

I found this as a good read and kinda agree with him about the facebook app (but Untappd is just plain ugly).

Source: http://www.toledo2.c...it-good-design/

It is a long post, I am quoting first two paragraphs below.

I think I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for a while. A few days ago, Facebook announced the release of a new Windows Phone app (Beta). The app does not use the typical out-of-the-box controls i.e. Panorama, Pivot or Page that have “traditionally” given Windows Phone it’s particular flavor and perhaps even differentiation from iOS and Android design languages. The release of the Beta sparked a range of comments, some in support, some against the design aspects of this app. To be clear, the ones that support the app (me included) are not saying that this is the best ever possible app of all times… We are simply celebrating the fact that a major industry player like Facebook is pushing what I’ll call Metro, to the next generation. This celebration is independent of whether it is Microsoft itself or Facebook who actually authored this app. There are questions about whether Microsoft is actually behind the development and design or if Facebook is doing in house and/or with the help of a 3rd party agency. All of this is meaningless. The app is an official Facebook app and that’s what matters.

For 3 years now we have seen 100K plus Windows Phone apps hit the market. Many of them are games and the rest rely on mainly two design patterns: Panoramas and Pivots. I’m sick and tired of this. It’s not that Panorama and Pivot are wrong, no, they are reliable, flexible, powerful controls that give you a lot of options to create great apps. My problem (one that is shared by many in the community and inside of Microsoft) is that we have made these two patterns dictate our 100K Windows Phone experiences. This is wrong. Design patterns like Pivots or Panoramas are just that, patterns. A mature, design savvy, sophisticated designer knows that that story and experience comes first, much before “design patterns”, those are just tools. By slaving ourselves to these couple patterns we’ve tried to solve 100K experiences… It’s almost laughable when you think about it. If you think this is just a recent problem, no, it’s actually been there from the beginning. I talked to numerous Microsofties of all levels and most agreed “all Windows Phone apps look the same” – don’t you agree? But hey, isn’t that a good thing? The way higher level execs would pitch it is by saying they wanted to offer a unified experience in the phone. Nah, among other business reasons it has more to do with enabling an ecosystem with zero apps to get quickly to a 100K apps.




#2 Dot Matrix

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 14:48

I, for one, like the new Facebook design. It's new, but retains most of what makes metro, metro.

#3 fusi0n

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 14:52

I, for one, like the new Facebook design. It's new, but retains most of what makes metro, metro.


Figured you would like it.. :p lol

#4 +warwagon

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 14:53

Figured you would like it.. :p lol


I know, right? It's shocking!

#5 OP BajiRav

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 15:02

Figured you would like it.. :p lol

I know, right? It's shocking!

Let me guess - you both think this is about Windows 8? :/ (Hint: it is not)

#6 +LogicalApex

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 15:02

It will be interesting to see how this all play out. From what I've seen the new Facebook app is completely non-Metro. I wonder if this is a wider admission from MS that Metro is failing? It will be interesting to see (since the app is supposed to have been coded by MS).

As the whole pigeonholed problem of Metro came from MS stressing hardcore to developers to "drop chrome" so everything was supposed to be text heavy with actions being contextual. The Facebook app is going against all of that so you have to wonder what that means long-term.

It is probably bad if you're a WP user who loves the Metro design language and style as you'll soon get a lot of Android or iOS looking apps on the device. As this being made by MS will convince a lot of third party developers that this model is now officially sanctioned.

#7 +warwagon

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 15:05

Let me guess - you both think this is about Windows 8? :/ (Hint: it is not)


No I did not think this was about Windows 8. That being said, I did install Launcher 7 on my android as my primary launcher, it's actually not bad. The Live tiles are actually pretty nice. It makes it really easy to get an update on Missed Calls, Emails and SMS's all with one glance. I also really liked the Phone 8 launcher but it wouldn't let me have a live email tile.

#8 Dashel

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 15:06

I liked Paul's article.

http://winsupersite....id-and-ios-apps

If this will 'help' developers utilize better cross platform tools to get apps out sooner, fine. (Is that what is really holding us back you iOS loving devs?). I still don't like it nor do I like the idea of them getting cold feet with Metro, which I love.

#9 OP BajiRav

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 15:10

I, for one, like the new Facebook design. It's new, but retains most of what makes metro, metro.

Yeah - they kept overall same Facebook look across different platforms but still have the "metro" bar at the bottom etc. It still has some iOS like UI elements though. :/

It will be interesting to see how this all play out. From what I've seen the new Facebook app is completely non-Metro. I wonder if this is a wider admission from MS that Metro is failing? It will be interesting to see (since the app is supposed to have been coded by MS).

As the whole pigeonholed problem of Metro came from MS stressing hardcore to developers to "drop chrome" so everything was supposed to be text heavy with actions being contextual. The Facebook app is going against all of that so you have to wonder what that means long-term.

It is probably bad if you're a WP user who loves the Metro design language and style as you'll soon get a lot of Android or iOS looking apps on the device. As this being made by MS will convince a lot of third party developers that this model is now officially sanctioned.

It is mostly non-metro but has some metro elements as I mentioned above. I don't know why you would say this as "metro failing" though. It is possible that facebook forced Microsoft to adapt to its style. twitter is a good example of doing a metro app but still keep cross-platform style.

No I did not think this was about Windows 8. That being said, I did install Launcher 7 on my android as my primary launcher, it's actually not bad. The Live tiles are actually pretty nice.

Good then. (goes to print and eat my post :p)

#10 +LogicalApex

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 15:18

Yeah - they kept overall same Facebook look across different platforms but still have the "metro" bar at the bottom etc. It still has some iOS like UI elements though. :/

It is mostly non-metro but has some metro elements as I mentioned above. I don't know why you would say this as "metro failing" though. It is possible that facebook forced Microsoft to adapt to its style. twitter is a good example of doing a metro app but still keep cross-platform style.


That is why I left that as a question. I don't think this one off event is a clear signal that MS thinks Metro has failed or, to put it better, that it is too far in the wrong direction. I have felt that although I like Metro its push for no chrome at all was a bit too extreme. I like where Google went with Android 4.x to pull in the flatness of Metro, but to not go so far as to render anything but text unwelcome. It is possible that this app is Microsoft admitting that they are considering Metro too limiting. It could also just be a one off that gets ignored and isn't really anything.

The curiosity stems from whether or not this is a glimpse into the future of WP or not.

But the core problem of Metro is the same as that of WP in general. By pulling the UI to be primarily text focused you limited the ability for designers to build a brand connection with their audience. This is similar to the problem OEMs face when they put their handsets on the shelves and they all look identical. I feel MS may need to update Metro in a way that encourages differentiation while still feeling familiar. Similar to Holo from Android 4.x, but even that isn't perfect.

#11 Dashel

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 15:29

Logi, can you speak at all to the state of these cross development tools? I still read it as a need to ease deployment to multiple platforms, a particularly mobile problem, vs devs just wanting more identity (or complaints about a lack thereof - when most of the needed app vendors keep giving the marketshare song and dance so they don't have to develop at all, I doubt they care how it looks overly much. Nor do they want to admit their design problems stems from iOS).

#12 LaP

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 15:37

[edit] I should read before commenting

#13 brianshapiro

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 15:49

This was my response to his post.

Your argument makes it sound as if Modernism as a movement wasn’t replete with avant-garde fads. A critic of Metro might re-emphasize the “flatness” and compare it to brutalist architecture and other ugly modern buildings where the architects were over-concerned with reducing ornamentation, avant-garde ideology, rejecting universal and classical standards of beauty, while he might compare skeumoprhism to traditional architecture, which, while not consciously modern, would be still in his view be “timeless.”

That said, I like Metro, but I find it being more “modern”, than Modernist. It fits more in with modern commercial design, which is only influenced by Modernism in as much as it is unornamented, but which as a whole tends to be more attuned to classical aesthetic principles rather than being interested experimentation. Metro reminds me of Ikea, Crate & Barrel, and Gap, not Bauhaus.



#14 jakem1

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 16:46

That is why I left that as a question. I don't think this one off event is a clear signal that MS thinks Metro has failed or, to put it better, that it is too far in the wrong direction. I have felt that although I like Metro its push for no chrome at all was a bit too extreme. I like where Google went with Android 4.x to pull in the flatness of Metro, but to not go so far as to render anything but text unwelcome. It is possible that this app is Microsoft admitting that they are considering Metro too limiting. It could also just be a one off that gets ignored and isn't really anything.

The curiosity stems from whether or not this is a glimpse into the future of WP or not.

But the core problem of Metro is the same as that of WP in general. By pulling the UI to be primarily text focused you limited the ability for designers to build a brand connection with their audience. This is similar to the problem OEMs face when they put their handsets on the shelves and they all look identical. I feel MS may need to update Metro in a way that encourages differentiation while still feeling familiar. Similar to Holo from Android 4.x, but even that isn't perfect.


Your argument is based on a false premise. MS haven't mandated the sort of chromeless UI you refer to and there are plenty of apps in the Marketplace that take the standard look of WP apps and enhance them with background images, icons, etc. I'm not aware of any rule that says that all apps must look the same which probably explains why they don't.

There may be many apps that use the standard Panorama and Pivot controls but that's because a) those controls work exceptionally well on a small screen and b) Visual Studio comes with templates that use these controls and developers are obviously using them. There's nothing stopping developers from using these basic controls but still producing apps that look fresh and interesting.

I happen to like the fact that WP apps have a relatively consistent look and feel and I think it's important for all platforms. I don't like the look of iOS but I think Apple were right to include rules that ensure that 3rd-party apps have a consistent look because it aids usability. Android by comparison is a dogs dinner of incoherent, ugly looking apps. It's a shame that MS have allowed apps like Untappd into the Marketplace without asking them to drop the iPhone UI and replace it with something that is consistent with WP's UI.

I'm happy to have devs develop a "brand connection" as you put it but it should be consistent with the platform they're targeting. WP's UI guidelines are flexible enough to allow distinct looking apps that perform the way a WP user expects.

#15 Active.

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 16:47

I, for one, like the new Facebook design. It's new, but retains most of what makes metro, metro.

I'm confused. This is what Thurrott claims:

This app has NO Metro features. It is a duplicate of the Facebook app on iOS and Android.