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Designing for the Windows 8 Metro experience

There is a lot of excitement at Habanero for the launch of Windows 8. You may be curious how designing for the Windows 8 Metro experience is different than designing for its competitors, namely the iPad and Android devices. 

At its core, a lot of the same UX principles still apply:

  • Design for your fingers (they are not as pinpoint accurate as a mouse)
  • Consider portrait and landscape orientations
  • Utilize gestures in an intuitive manner
  • Incorporate location-specific features if your app can benefit from them

The intent behind your app is still as important as ever — no one will use an app that they don't find useful or enjoy!

So what is unique about Windows 8?

While I love my iOS devices, one thing that drives me nuts is that the same functionality on one app is often located in a completely different location in another, and even represented completely differently! 

One example is looking for the 'settings' of a particular application. In some apps you can find settings under a 'more' category, while in others you're looking for an 'info' icon. 

The folks at Microsoft have put a lot of thought into how Windows 8 can provide a seamless experience between all applications, regardless of the intent behind the app. What that means is certain features can be accessed using the same gesture, in the same location, across all applications. 

Here are three features that I think if used as intended, will have an impact on maintaining a unified user experience on Windows 8 tablets.

Charms

A user can access the 'charms' bar at all times by swiping from the right edge of the screen. Charms are features like search, settings and sharing that app developers can leverage. What that means from a user standpoint is that you always access these features from the same location, by swiping from the right side of the screen. In addition, you can perform a unified search across all applications that tie into this feature!

In app menu

The 'in-app menu' can be accessed by swiping from the top or bottom edges of the screen. For anything app-specific, such as navigating between sections or pages within an application, or accessing app-specific features such as the URL bar in Internet Explorer), you can build them into this area of the interface, and access them in the same way.

Snap view

While the 'snap view' doesn't necessarily fit into the category of maintaining a unified user experience, I do find myself quite excited about this feature! 

Essentially what it means is you can see two apps side-by-side in landscape mode, with one app taking up one quarter of the real estate, while the other app utilizes the remaining screen real estate. Imagine seeing your Twitter feed running down the left side of your screen while you're browsing the Internet!

So what does this all mean?

We are living in exciting times where new user interface paradigms are being created that enhance the touch-first experience. It doesn't matter if you are an iOS developer, Android developer or develop for another platform — there is some great stuff in the Windows 8 Metro guidelines that you will likely find interesting.

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