Microsoft: Make the “Metro/Zune” look a standard. Publish it. Push it. Now.

Apple makes user experience inroads every day on Windows when a developer follows Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines for design for a Windows Application.

This post was inspired when imageI installed Miro this morning on my desktop PC. (Don’t get me started that it opts-in a bunch of changes and a toolbar for the browser. Convince me that I want to to do it because it’s the “right” thing – let me opt-in!)

In Miro’s words, it’s an “amazing open-source, non-profit video player.” (See previous annoyance about toolbars and other default-opt-in things the installer attempts).

In any case, it installed. The installer UI had a few cross platform oddities, including not being sized correctly, and worse, showing up too high on one of my monitors.

Here’s the default look:

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Hey! It’s iTunes! Great. (iTunes, below as a reference).

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On the left side (in both applications), is located a Source List (see “Source Lists” in the Apple Human Interface Guidelines). They flipped the play bar to the bottom and tweaked the general look and feel of the buttons, but it’s basically the same UI.

At first, you might think that there’s only so many ways to present that type of UI. I give you the Zune Player (4.7).

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It’s so different I won’t even start listing the differences. I thought about other applications that I have on my Windows PC that follow this style. Admittedly, it’s not very many right now. MetroTwit generally follows the Metro style.

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Windows Live Mail (somewhat) (along with the other Windows Live applications):

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Actually, there’s not a formal guide for this style. The closet you might come today is the Windows Phone 7 UI Design and Interaction Guide. That’s a poor substitute though.

There is of course, the Windows User Experience Interaction Guidelines. Oh wow. It’s amazing the amount of bad examples that are sourced from earlier versions of Windows. There are so many (too many). Furthermore, it’s not free from errors itself:

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Microsoft doesn’t bother following it, so it’s not too surprising that many Windows applications do not.

From the Guidelines:

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From Word 2010:

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My point isn’t to blast this document. What’s missing from the document is how to build an application that is smooth and modern. It’s an 882 page document currently, that helps you build a nice Windows 95 application. What? Seriously. If you look through the document, it’s really about fixing the problems of Windows 95 through Windows Vista. It doesn’t innovate anything new. It’s about putting up better error messages, being more consistent, etc. All of these things are great. But, can we move beyond that? Can we build something slick and modern that is more than just gas glass?

That’s why I’m pushing for anything more modern now. If the Zune/Metro isn’t it, then create something new for us to follow.

Applications for developers/designers that are released like WebMatrix are a sign that there’s an opportunity to think beyond just glass and better wording. In WebMatrix, I noticed that they’ve done away with standard Modal dialogs. They’re modal – but they float with the main application window (even when they’re showing), much like if they were a web page. Slick. The application is clean and modern. I like it.

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Why can’t we have more of this:

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instead of this:

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So, this was just a rant really. But, an important one. Will Windows 8 finally solve this and introduce a awesome and modern User Experience, one that is easily replicated by developers, without the use of dozens of third party components and questionable code from the Internet, and …. Please Microsoft. Do it. Do it for all of us. I don’t care if it’s the Metro/Zune theme or something else. You can do better than Apple.

It’s time for you to innovate again. You’ve got some super app creation platforms (like Silverlight and WPF) and you’ve got awesome development tools (Visual Studio and .NET 4), and you’ve got a lot of great developers ready to rock and roll. Help us build UX that are killer awesome. Build the components – ship them in V1. Do it!

(Oh, and by the way, could you please create a 10 hour battery life Windows 8 tablet? Pretty please?! I’ll buy one!)