BUILD 2012 Notes – The Microsoft Design Language – Tschumy

BUILD 2012, Redmond, Day 1, 30 Oct 2012, 2:15PM – 3:15PM

Will Tschumy

Principal user Experience Advisor




Why I joined Microsoft

  • In 2003, Microsoft made strategic investment in design
  • User experience thinking, re-design of Microsoft Word
  • Results: Office 2007 was fastest selling, most critically acclaimed version of Office
  • $20 billion / year bet on design


Next: Launch of Windows Phone 7


In 2007, same design language on XBox

  • Single consistent design language across all screens: phone, desktop, XBox


For Microsoft, our design principles are the language for our experiences

  • For customers–confidence, comfort & familiarity
  • Brings us together


Windows 8 start screen:


Weather app:


No chrome, edge to edge, all about content


The core idea

  • Content before chrome


Windows 8, did a lot of research

  • Asked Windows & OS X users what they remembered about using Windows
  • They drew the chrome
  • Then play with Win 8 prototype
    • Drew content in rectangles
  • With Windows 8, main thing users remembered was the content
  • Get OS out of the way of the users so that content can come through


Edges are important


Easy to get to edges, so we put controls there (charm bar, application bar)

  • Helps get chrome out of the way


Started thinking about monitors being sold

  • Most are widescreen
  • So flow content horizontally
  • Semantic zoom–no extra navigation for user


Five principles of Microsoft design

  • Pride in craftsmanship
  • Be fast and fluid
  • Authentically digital
  • Do more with less
  • Win as one


Pride in craftsmanship

  • Attention to detail: Every pixel counts
  • Safe/reliable – behave properly on other devices
  • Balance, symmetry, hierarchy
    • Built on 20×20 pixel grid
    • Skeleton on which to hang content
    • Placement on grid shows hierarchy
    • App will scale properly, no sub-pixel rendering
  • Tiles don’t need to be uniform
  • Doesn’t have to be rectangles
  • Can cheat margins, but do it deliberately
  • Sample apps  (Hulu Plus pushes off margins)



Be fast and fluid

  • Design for touch – touch first
  • Responsive – important when touching, must be responsive
  • Intuitive interaction – because of touch
    • Drag things in, drag things out
  • Immersive and compelling
  • Delight with motion
  • Life is mobile


Demo – Start experience, Netflix, Photos


  • Start Screen is very responsive; stuck to finger



  • Animation library – lots of little subtle gestures
  • Arrow drops down menu


Photos app

  • Very responsive
  • Pinch out, get to larger view, see more photos
  • Ghost effect
  • Sense of quality, elegance


Authentically digital

  • Embrace the medium
    • What is the role of design?
    • What is the role of the designer?
    • Is design inherent, or surface?
  • Modern
    • High Modernism, or International Style
    • Bauhaus
    • Designer should be offered no refuge in the past but should be equipped for modern world in its various aspects, artistic, technical, social, …
    • Icons – what value is there in having icons look like real objects, or shaded
    • E.g. Windows Explorer – most stuff in there is chrome
    • Semantic zoom in file explorer in Modern
    • Genesis of live tiles & semantic zoom
  • Cloud connected
  • Bold, vibrant colors
  • Motion


Do more with less

  • Be great at something
    • App fantastic at one specific thing
  • Focused and direct
    • Help users focus on what matters
  • Content before chrome
    • Only show secondary stuff (e.g. photo info) on swipe
    • E.g. Web browser, everything other than content is off screen
    • You see a bunch of widgets on each element, for discoverability.  Remove them and only show when relevant
  • Inspire confidence


Win as one

  • Work together to complete scenarios
    • ~45 separate contracts
  • Fit into the user experience model
  • Leverage the platform


Demo – Search, All recipes and People, IE and Wikipedia



  • Don’t need search charm; just start typing
  • Good example of contracts
  • Allows: surfacing your app in other contexts
  • App that you search most often will bubble up to the top



  • E.g. allrecipes
  • Share, People app, Facebook (from allrecipes app)
  • You avoid APIs to all these other services (e.g. Facebook)
  • “Catching” application worries about its API



  • From News app, select text, Share to Wikipedia–looks up that topic in Wikipedia


Think about how your app gets embedded in the user’s broader workflow


Windows reimagined

  • “The beginning is a delicate time…” –David Lynch, Dune, 1984
  • Asking us to reimagine our apps


How will your apps be reimagined?

How can you be authentic to the medium

Where will your app become alive?

What do your users need to focus on?

Integrate with the ecosystem?



  • (9 hrs of training)


Q&A  (33:47)


Wikipedia–Share vs. Search

  • Share: lets data get looked up from within the other apps
  • Even within Wikipedia, just start typing to search


How complex is sharing?  Data models passed between apps?

  • Yes, you can pass structured data, data types (e.g. URL, picture, etc)
  • The more esoteric the data, the more reliant you are on the catching app to interpret


Sharing text, interpret as URL, if not URL it fails and have to display to user

  • Probably a better result if you just accept URLs


How should devs refer to “Metro style”?

  • Won’t get into details of why no longer “Metro”
  • “Windows 8 Store Applications”


In what users remembered from Windows 8, were they remembering content?

  • Yes, they remembered images–rectangles were the content


This design language works great for content consumption.  What about creation, wouldn’t we want chrome like toolbars to be there?

  • Take a look at painting apps
  • Evernote Sketch – quick annotations
    • App bars pinned open
    • Users typically doing a lot of interactions
  • At other end of the spectrum, e.g. Sketchbook
    • Almost all canvas
    • Only need app bar when you change tool, which is less often
  • So think about the goal that you’re trying to solve
  • If user will spend a lot of time on the content, then worth focusing on content and get the rest of the stuff out of the way
  • But be very careful about pinning app bars open


Snap and fill view–design rationale for being able to snap out, but not snap in?

  • Keep user in control–risk in going into snap of having it snap unexpectedly
  • Coming out of snap–they know they are already in snap view


Interaction design pattern library for Windows 8?

  • Look at
  • Navigation styles, app bars, commanding
  • Human interface guideline document (280 pgs)
  • Photoshop templates for mocking up
  • Visual Studio 2012 Ultimate installs some prototyping tools in Powerpoint


For HTML, should sites be designed the same way?  Any guidelines?

  • You can use HTML5/JavaScript to build app or to build web experience
  • You’re starting to see tile-like interfaces on web sites


Discoverability–is it a tradeoff, where users don’t know how to do something?  E.g. Mom/Dad

  • We have looked at that
  • Devs should follow patterns that Microsoft is establishing
  • Following these patterns leads to consistency
  • Then users learn this stuff faster


Font size – 42 pts for headlines.  How do you decide how big to make font on various devices?  For largest display, when you’re further away, the font doesn’t look large enough

  • You can use brand fonts, but you should follow “type ramp”
  • Various ratios between font sizes and screen
  • Scaling–two strategies for an app
    • Everything gets bigger proportionately  (e.g. Photos)
    • OR You show more content  (e.g. Maps)
  • Depends on your scenario
  • With bitmap images, you should provide multiple images
    • 140%, 180%
    • Windows 8 will automatically pick appropriate resolution


Recommendations for designing app that does a lot of data input?

  • There are relatively few apps right now that do this
    • E.g. Credit card terminal apps
  • What’s important?  Quick, vs. entering data correctly


What kind of impact will design principles have on desktop applications?

  • You’ll already see this, e.g. Office 2013 preview, animations
  • The animations let you know where on screen to focus
    • Biologically, we notice motion / movement
  • Reader experience in Word–fast/fluid
  • Powerpoint, slide transition
  • Entire company (Microsoft) is behind this, pushing these principles


Difference between Microsoft design principles and Windows store apps?

  • Same thing


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