I‘m out at Tech Days today to participate in Microsoft’s panel debate on future trends, I thought it could be nice to revisit a blog post I wrote last year in Redmond about my first thoughts on Microsoft’s new design language Metro.
Since writing that post I’ve gotten some more hands on time with my Lumia 800 and Window’s Phone 7. As I’ve written about before, my new Lumia never got me hooked since it forced me to reinvest in an all new batch of apps (or live without them as they don’t exist on the Windows platform yet). Design-wise however Window’s and Metro struck a note with me early on since I saw it as an unusually strong statement from Microsoft compared to earlier products.
Metro delivers on being true to a philosophy of clarity and function and clearly takes a “data first” approach to it’s design and let’s digital be digital without any analogue references to alien materials like wood or paper. There is only one problem – is this philosophy really the right one?
And that is a difficult question to answer. As I wrote back in that post, Window’s Phone 7 are Metro is in many ways more sophisticated and evolved than iOS. You can slice your data in more ways than only in the “app”-dimension (like for example in the “person”-dimension). But this also makes it more complex, and complexity is a tough route to take when challenging the dead simple.
Metro as a design language of it’s own less complex than the more eclectic mix of analogue references that iOS incorporates, but this also makes it less intuitive on a basic human level. I think a 3-year old with a Windows phone will take longer to get going than with an iPhone, partly because the lack of real world references and partly because the more complex data representation capabilities. (And partly because it looks less like candy. No joke).
And why does it matter what at 3-year old thinks? It comes down to intuition. 3-year olds use their intuition in a way that is much like how prospective customers use theirs when evaluating an alternative to something they already own and love. And given the iPhone-penetration, this is exactly the situation Windows Phone often finds itself in when presenting itself to the market.
For the marketing of the Windows Phone, this is super important to take into account. Two concrete ways to deal with the situations would be to:
1. Focus on the product and how it functions in a very specific way in the communication for the phone to help intuition along the day people actually pick up the product for the first time. Keep it simple, fun , concrete and inspiring.
2. Have a simple, disarmingly fun and inspiring little tutorial the first time you fire up your Windows Phone (like the ones you often see in iPhone apps). Also in the service of helping intuition along.
3. Rinse and repeat for the app developer community.