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Metro: Guidelines to the Next Generation of Mobile UX

Microsoft evolves the user experience of smart-phones with Metro, their new design guidelines, and Windows Mobile 7 due out in late fall of 2010. Metro boasts some good thinking in mobile UX.

With Surface, Zune HD, Bing…and now Windows 7 Mobile it seems that Microsoft has finally embraced the design/experience side of technology. While most people will never encounter a Surface device, at least not at it’s current state, this was a huge leap for Microsoft and human/computer interactions in general. For the most part it’s a living experiment of what the future may hold. The Zune HD and Windows 7 Mobile, on the other hand, are designed to be used by the masses, in the present and take their respective markets to a new level.

Inspired by the simplicity and universality of transportation graphics Microsoft calls there new design guidelines Metro. Beyond the name is the focus on creating a modern, stripped down, easy to navigate user interface based on common elements and typography.  The use of typography as a key design element in the digital world is almost unheard of ; I would think design geeks should be overjoyed with this though I’ve barely seen any references to this from the general design world.

Along with typography here are a few of the highlights of Metro:

  • Based on transportation signage: simple, universal, easy to skim
  • General feel: Clean, light, open and fast
  • Experience: should lead the design
  • Consistent: common design treatments and transitions
  • Flexible: Inviting developers to personalize their use of the guidelines to allow them to make their apps unique yet consistent
  • User focused/Task focused: one primary action at a time
  • Panoramic: apps not locked to a single screen
  • Typography: as an element of beauty as well as to demonstrate hierarchy
  • Transitions: are as important as the static page. Guidlines request to keep them simple and related, noting “the more you use it (transitions) the less special it becomes”
  • Simplify, Simplify, Simplify: fierce reduction in unnecessary UI elements (chrome, non-related actions…)

Here is a link to a long but worthwhile video
http://live.visitmix.com/MIX10/Sessions/CL14
(Silverlight required for inline, but you can also download non-Silverlight version)

Here’s the official Window’s phone site:
http://developer.windowsphone.com/

Overall, I’m excited to see smart-phones continue their evolution and Metro looks to be a great step forward.  It’s also nice to see Microsoft (or anyone) not play catch up by porting over the status quo, but rather innovating beyond it.

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