Former Windows Phone Experience Designer talks about Modern UI

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced a new beta program for the Windows Phone 8 Facebook app. Some people who have tried out the app have made comments on the Windows Phone about how it doesn't follow all of the standard design decisions that other Windows Phone apps have chosen.

One person posted his thoughts, stating, "What happened to Metro? This look totally out of place on Windows Phone. I did not buy a Windows Phone just to look at poor copies of Android/iOS UIs!". Yet another person wrote, "An App from Microsoft which doesn't follow Metro? Seem like Windows Phone has lost its identity and direction. It's a shame."

This debate has resulted in a new and extensive blog post written by Arturo Toledo, who used to work at Microsoft as the senior user experience designer for Windows Phone. Toledo, who uses the UI's former Metro name in his blog, says that, for the most part, the over 100,000 Windows Phone apps in the store look the same, mainly because their designers stick with app design patterns like Panorama or Pivot.

Toledo states:

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.

The fact that the Facebook beta app for Windows Phone is moving away from those patterns is a good thing, according to Toledo. He feels that while app developers should be aware of design guidelines when making apps there should never be any hard and fast rules when it comes to app creation. He adds that other mobile operating systems are not immune to these kinds of changes, saying:

Think about it, the most breakthrough apps from iOS have come precisely from startups that broke apart from the out of box design elements in iOS. Look at Clear, Paper, Flipboard… all award winning apps, all leveraging their own design language, not Apple’s out-of-the-box.

Toledo's post is an entertaining read and hopefully both the new Facebook app and his comments will inspire other Windows Phone app makers to try out some new design ideas for their creations.

Source: Toledo2 via WPCentral.com | Image via Facebook

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I am not a UX/UI designer but I have almost 10 years of experience in software development mainly for microsoft platforms. What windows was all about was the familiar pattern of UI that people used and loved. I am not a Metro oposer and i know its all about content not chrome and all that fancy words but I think what metro lacks is the giving people control. Its important that people see information on most of the screen but its also important to give them control to what they want to do in that screen. Most Metro apps lacking this feature. There is no standard of what menu option down there you could expect if there is any by swipe up. Clean is nice but a device should bring content and functions equally. Windows 8 is a great example of a design mess. Shutdown is one of the primary tasks which was directly on start menu now is buried under that charm menu yet under setting option which makes absolutely no sense. Devices monitors and everything else are weighted equally all together in devices charm menu. I dont know from whome these brilliant design ideas came from but its an absolute clustro.... And you see it. The only reason there are windows 8 out there because its pre installed on every laptop. People are still depending on softwares such as exchange, Visual studio, office suit and all great products of Microsoft. But for god sake stop this BS and cut those sick designers hand off the real world products. Stop this confusion you making for people.

Edited by trojan_market, May 4 2013, 6:51am :

Are you implying that he was fired for being a bad designer? FYI, he chose to leave.

heimlich said,
Exactly. His blog post is a lot of incoherent stuff pulled out of his ass.
Please, point out at least one "incoherent" example. None of what he said was "pulled out of his ass".

There are plenty of great apps that make use of the metro principles, these guys opted for user familiarity over showing any imagination and if that's their decision that's fine but expect to cop criticism for taking the easy way out.

"Modern UI" is going to be a funny name several years from now when Microsoft replaces it with something decent. That's why I just keep calling it "Metro".

One of the reasons I love Android is that developers aren't bent over a barrel and told what they can do with their apps. UI consistency is a buzzphrase to me, what I really want are apps that work not apps that all look the same. Innovative developers are what will make a platform and they aren't exactly flocking to WP in record numbers so Microsoft should be trying to encourage more of this creative design.

Last I checked, besides providing design guidelines and developer tools, MS wasn't forcing anyone to design a certain way. There are a lot of apps in the WP store that don't follow the Metro style. Then there are countless others that try to do Metro style but fail horribly at it.

Enron said,
Last I checked, besides providing design guidelines and developer tools, MS wasn't forcing anyone to design a certain way. There are a lot of apps in the WP store that don't follow the Metro style. Then there are countless others that try to do Metro style but fail horribly at it.

Exactly but having said that, the templates like panorama and pivot save a lot of non-designer developers from making a horrible experience, the whole font, layout and colour scheme is there for you to at least make something decent. On iOS and Android there isn't such a thing and it makes most of the apps look like complete crap. Go check out some random apps on Android and you will know exactly what I mean, no consistent UI and the worse possible UX with unhandled exceptions and unresponsive events everywhere.

Android and iOS also have design guidelines. Same with WP, they're just guidelines and you don't have to follow them at all. Neither MS, Google or Apple force anyone to follow these guidelines. Don't know why you think Android is difference here because it isn't.

It's important to remember that design flaws aren't the fault of the platform so much as they are the developer. An ugly or unusable app isn't bad because it's on Android, iOS, or WP. It's bad because the people who built it lacked the skill or motivation required to make it better.

Android is cheap to develop apps for, so it attracts a lot of hobbyists and small teams that don't bother with mockups or design phases. They don't research UI or UX. The look of their app is a product of the features and flow they build it around.

Some over-eager developers will try to add..."flair". This is almost always a mistake. An app is well designed when design comes first. Flair is the equivalent of flaming gif dividers on a web site in the 90s. This is where you'll find flashy splash logos, tacky font selection, colorfully vomited controls, explosive gradients, etc. Think along the lines of the old custom themes for Windows XP (chaninja, I'm looking at you), or anything that's ever farted out of KDE.

Garish for the sake of being garish because for some reason garish was cool. Welcome to the land of hobbyist programmers.

/though when I'm in the right mood, I just blame everything wrong with Android apps on Java, because it deserves it

While I have gone back to iPhone 5, I have to say I've used the beta, and prefer the use of the familiar UI of the iOS/Android facebook app. The Metro touches added, actually do make it "better" than the iOS/Android apps.

You don't have to follow a pattern or guideline to the T. Especially if it results in your app being as flat and boring as the next app. This app actually gets back to one of Microsoft's most successful practices, "embrace and extend."

They embraced the familiar, successful facebook app design and extended it nicely with some Metro touches. This is a good thing IMO.

Imagine of One Note MX just used the top and bottom Metro Bars instead of it's fly out radial menu's. :::shudder:::