Nine Billion Flies Can’t Be Wrong…

A couple of months ago I wrote a post “Metro – Murdered By Microsoft?” in which I expressed my concern that it appeared as though Microsoft was dropping many of the elements of the Metro design language. As I said:

Frankly, if I’d wanted an Android phone, I would have bought one. One of the key reasons why I went with a Windows Phone was the UI design. I like it a lot, and I am at ease with it. To have a key Microsoft team turn their back on it and introduce Android elements is a shock, to say the least.

A few days ago, we got confirmation that Microsoft has indeed stuck a dagger in the back of Metro. The confirmation came in the form of an AMA (Ask Me Anything) discussion on Reddit by an ex-Microsoft Windows Phone designer, Jon Bell. It’s clear that he doesn’t care for the Pivot design element that is a key part of the design language:

Swiping sucks. It hides content. Let’s say you’re in Format and you want to get to something 5 tabs away. Five swipes is an unacceptable series of interactions. The carousel model has been disproven repeatedly, every single decade, for several decades. We have the data. It’s a dumb interaction model, full stop.

It clearly doesn’t matter that I (and presumably many others) happen to like the Pivot and its swiping action very much indeed. Microsoft has the data that “proves” it’s a dumb interaction model. And as an ex-Microsoft designer explains:

So on the day of the Meeting, the PM [Project Manager] will go on and on about how the Decision benefits the User. They come up with facts that support the Decision. We don’t want to confuse the User with too many options. Only 3% of people used it that way, so clearly it’s okay to remove. Consistency is good for Microsoft, so it must be good for the User. Everybody smiles and nods and agrees this is the best way. The newest to the team, because it just makes so much sense. The veterans, possibly because they secretly know it’s about the engineers and not about the User, but more likely because engineers are inherently lazy. The meeting ends and the Feature has a new direction. It’s a little bit farther from the vision, and maybe little bit worse user experience, but writing software is about compromise. This was a good compromise. It’s not that bad, anyway. It was the best option available. If only the User was there to see it, they’d understand that.

Probably more to the point, the Metro design language is radically different to those of iOS and Android, and Microsoft wants to attract those users across to Windows Phone if it can. Having a distinct design language acts as a barrier, so Microsoft appears to have made the decision that nine billion flies can’t be wrong, and moved to a similar design language. I think that’s a pity, I like Metro, but at the end of the day, Microsoft wants to make money.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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