Microsoft unveiled a preview release of their upcoming Windows 8 during their BUILD developer conference this week.Among updates the usual performance and security updates that usually accompany a new Windows release, Microsoft presented their new Metro user interface. METRO is a new way to interface with your windows computer that is optimized for touch-screens. This new interface is Microsoft’s response to the popularity of the iPad and tablet-style devices.The new METRO interface will be amended to the new Windows 8 which is a bit similar to what most people are used to seeing. It resembles Windows 7 in look and feel. Users, can then decide if they prefer to use the METRO solution or the more familiar Windows experience.
The new touch interface is a drastic departure from the Windows desktop environment we are all used to. Where we had previously relied on desktop icons, the METRO user interface provides tiles that contain information for each application. This information can be dynamic or pull content from your computer’s user profile. Weather tiles for instance, will pull real-time data from the web and show you a dashboard summery without having to open the application at all.
In addition to a low barrier-to-entry for programmers and developers, the METRO interface represents a unique shift in the way that Microsoft believes we will interface with our computers moving forward. Much like the convenience of an iPad, the new desktop model is more about managing the user’s life and curiously than treating the environment like a workstation. Easily customizable, the interface has the potential to change the way most people interact with their computers.
The concept of the dashboard is nothing new. Windows Vista introduced widgets, a simple, single focus application that ran on the desktop or taskbar for easy reference. The METRO interface begins with a single focus of providing flash information and moving the user into a task. Each tile represents an chance to optimize the user’s time and eliminate the need to open an application for a quick-glance.
These tiles also represent a tremendous new channel for market’s to move their brand to a user’s desktop experience. An allergy brand that can present real-time allergen data to users. Emails should be designed to take advantage of inbox previews which will make their way to the display tiles.
Windows 8 is far from release, with an expected release to the consumer market in early 2012. It’s not so far off that developers and marketers should not begin planning what the new user experience will be on this platform and how it will shape the user’s habits online.
The last decade has brought in a complete evolution in web design and user experience. From proliferation in browser usage to the wide adoption of standards-based web development and code.
- Location Based Services With the growth of smart phones and internet enabled feature-phones, location based services will explode this year. The massive growth will result from the growing popularity of social media applications, but more so from service-oriented applications. What smart phones and location-aware phones offer users are safe ways to identify themselves and their locations and to quickly locate people or services convenient to their position without using a text entry interface. Businesses, services and other providers can use this information to make relevant communications in real-time response.From the perspective of a marketer, a location-driven application or service can be used to inform customers to potential offers or relevant information about who they are or how easily they can be reached. This can range from locating a pharmacy in the area that stocks a special prescription or a discount latte for the caffeine-addict in your circle of friends.Comfort with these new services will come from social media adoption of location services. There are already some fantastic applications and tools in the space: FourSquare and Gowalla are the most popular. These companies encourage users to “check-in” and offer status rewards for frequent visits and also exploring new areas. Both of these services (and their like), post status updates to larger social networks like Facebook and Twitter. The more places you go, the higher your ranking in the network goes. You can also follow your friends and vice-verse. This allows you to find friends around you and meet-up.For web designers, location services create a huge opportunity for customized interfaces that are relevant to a user’s location and activity. It can also allow users to tailor an interface to their needs and tasks. By identifying a user in a cold region, you can present a cold-weather theme or contextual advertising for snow-boots or a coat. The possibilities are endless and extend the options for a personalized experience beyond what cookies and referring URL data can provide. Location services can extend beyond the phone or gps device with support in the new HTML 5 spec for location or “geolocation” services.
- IE6 Will Die (Standards based browser will prevail) Internet Explorer 6 was originally developed in 2001. It was a decent browser when it was new. It had several short-comings: not complete support for CSS or DOM, but it was serviceable for its day. In the past 9 years, the web has changed completely and recognizing this, Microsoft has introduced several offerings that recognize the needs of modern users. IE 6 has held strong. IE 6 is still the dominant browser for enterprise. As someone who still designs and develops interfaces for people working for large institutions and businesses, this has been a persistent problem. 2010 Will be the year of change. The Microsoft sunsetting of Windows XP and the persistent security issues with IE 6 combined with the cost of supporting the increased expense of web application and site designers building support for this aging browser will require that companies invest in evolving their initiatives to a standards-based model.As someone who has worked with large clients, I realize that expecting organizations to invest what will be significant costs into redesigning and developing applications to work in browser other than IE 6 is idealistic, I also realize that there is opportunity. The opportunity is in creating an opportunity for organizations, big and small, to be platform agnostic. Rather than having a large group of employees work with a specific operating system and browser, employers who invest in a standards-based solution can offer a solution that will grow and be more extensible. In some cases, this can allow employees and customers to interface with their infrastructure at home or even on mobile devices. There are further advantages such as support for the more secure 64 bit versions of the windows products and the growing mac audience, but the argument of longevity and extensibility is strong enough to not look past the next 12 months to make an upgrade and say goodbye to IE 6.
I’m looking forward to 2010. Web design and development move very quickly and a year is a very long time. I would like to think of myself as a student of life and the opportunity to participate in the challenge that this industry presents is inspiring. I hope this year is as exciting as the last.