Windows Phones: The Metro UI
Metro is an internal code name for a typography-based design language created by Microsoft, originally for use in Windows Phone 7. Early uses of the Metro principles, such as the typography, began as early as Microsoft Encarta 95, and later evolved into products such as Windows Media Center and Zune.
Zune HD was a Portable Touch Screen Media Player launched by Microsoft back in 2009 with Nvidia Tegra APX 2600 chip to compete with Apple iPod and probably was the first instance of Microsoft’s typography-based design language in a portable device, whose evolution would ultimately spread to Windows Phone and the short-lived Kin phones. It uses a font family called "Zegoe", which is a modified version of Microsoft’s font family, Segoe.
Coming back to Metro, "Metro" is based on the design principles of classic Swiss graphic design. Microsoft’s design team says that the Metro UI is partly inspired by signs commonly found at public transport systems and places a large focus on typography and has large text that catches the eye. Microsoft says that Metro is designed to be "sleek, quick, modern" and a "refresh" from the icon-based interfaces of Windows, Android and iOS. The innovation here is the fluidity of experience and focus on the data, without using tradition user interface conventions of windows and frames. Data becomes the visual elements and controls. Simple gestures and transitions guide the user deeper into content. A truly elegant and unique experience.
In simple words,
Metro UI means a UI stressing more on Text rather than involving conventional icons/graphics/windows etc. Text here is the data itself that feels alive due to smooth and natural animations and looks beautiful due to a specifically designed Font family and uneven sizes of Text. It was a very fresh approach considering the interfaces we seen lately and so was a breath of fresh Air for the Smart Phone world. Even the basics like making a phone call or sending a text message does feel like a futuristic experience.
Going Metro was kind of very interesting move by Microsoft after earlier versions of Windows Mobile. Like I said, at first, it was a departure from icons\graphics based, secondly and most importantly, it was the end of fragmentation in Windows Ecosystem.
The people, who been watching Smartphones and multiple ecosystems closely, will find it most interesting that how beautifully Microsoft managed to do an Apple, an Android and a Nokia just together.
A minimum and strict standard for hardware to ensure seamless performance on each device coming out
and independence in software updates from Operatorsjust like Apple (It seems that Microsoft giving up against carriers now), multiple vendors on board competing each other & offering cutting edge hardware just like Android and expertise of Nokia in durability and market reach. These all comes together with only one platform that is Windows Phone.
Just think how beautifully Microsoft managed to keep away their OS from being skinned from multiple vendors which keeps almost all the Windows Phone devices look and behave alike and so allowing Microsoft to keep update schedules streamlined just like the way they do with their Desktop OS (Actually not like that now, but its on the same path).
Windows Phone is not a slow operating system, there’s no lag in the transitions or scrolling, the manipulation of thumbnails, images, artwork and text flipping, folding and sliding around the screen as you move between applications is seamless.
Windows Phones are unique in the way that this doesn’t feel like a jungle of apps. On other platforms including even Nokia’s Symbian, one needs to know that which app, he/she should look for doing a certain task and if he/she chooses a different alternative app then he/she need to go through a different learning curve for the new app.
But in case of Windows, Microsoft has strictly mentioned the guidelines for developers that ensures that all the apps look and behave like the operating system itself in their appearances, so that a user never feels out of touch, whatever he might be exploring. Like there are a number of twitter apps including the official twitter app with different features, but each and everyone of them looks just the same. A challenge for developers but a delight for n00bs.
In Windows Phone Metro UI, every app shares the same basics; keep away from buttons\graphics, rely on swiping more and more, split the options in panoramic view so that rather than finding a button or text, a user just need to blindly swipe the UI on a side to go through various options. (Isn’t it reminds you MeeGo?)
And all this white, the name of app hub (like Pictures or People) will be shown on top in biggest fonts and then various other headings and text in hierarchy of sizes. Bold usually denotes clickable Text while light and normal Text meant for information. There might be an argument for wasted screen real estate, but as long as it looks beautiful and gives access of all required info to you in an easy way, not many gonna complain on it.