Thinking about UX and not UI

12 May 2006

So I spent a little while this morning reading through the Windows Vista User Experience Guidelines. You may have noticed that we, Developer Express, do a lot of user interface controls, and we have to understand where UI is going and how it's changing.

In the old days I used to have a book on my shelf called "The Windows Interface Guidelines for Software Design: An Application Design Guide" (it's now somewhere in the bomb site that is my basement, sigh). It tried to teach you the ins and outs of designing a user interface. Well, it seems that nowadays UI is passé, and we should welcome the User Experience or UX.

Actually, jesting apart, the Aero platform for Windows Vista is going to extremely pretty and functional, despite the fact that for the best experience you should have something like a freon-cooled video adapter. The designers at Microsoft have attempted, much as Apple did with OS X, to lay down a set of rules for standardization, consistency, and quality, as well as provide support in the operating system for much if not all of it.

So we'll be getting a new system font, Segoe UI, that is sans serif and optimized for ClearType. It's a modern, friendly and very legible font. The guidelines even recommend the default font size to be 9 points (ahhhh! lovely). There's also a monospaced font called Consolas that we developers will enjoy (and already do). It also has been optimized for ClearType for better on-screen legibility.

(In fact, there are a total of seven new non-system fonts for Vista, all of which have been designed for continuous on-screen reading, although they also look good printed. They are: Calibri, Cambria, Candara, Constantia, Corbel, as well as the aforementioned Consolas, and Meiryo, a Japanese font.)

But the screen font is not the only thing being stressed in the Vista UX. If I can summarize several pages of text in one sentence, Vista UX is about having a restful user interface. Oh, yes, there are all the fabby-dabby transitions and animations, the 3D effects, the fades, and so on, that come with the new integrated video and DirectX APIs, but for me the interesting things are the subtleties.

So, for instance, there are all the translucency and transparency effects. Bold brash colors are out and more muted ones are in. (In fact, bold and brash is out, period.) The gentle and subtle transitions as you hover with the mouse.

The new task dialog object has lots of restful whitespace and is nicely divided, with the new Segoe font acting for both the main text and the heading. Backgrounds are understated and help divide up the dialog.

Small things like the high-quality, high-resolution icons, the translucent window borders, the notifications from the system tray, and so on, provide a better, more restful experience.

The guidelines also talk about the text and the tone you use in your application's UX. Again the way you "talk" to the user can help promote a more restful, engaging experience. This advice on your application's tone, by the way, is not specific to Vista by any means; you can use it now in applications for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

1 comment(s)
James Hancock
Ok... so when do we get Dx controls that give us Office 2007 interface controls, or even some of the stuff in Vs.net 2005 for toolbars, docking containers, and menus?
12 May, 2006

Please login or register to post comments.