Question

Peter Vrenken on Thu, 03 May 2012 06:47:03


Hi all,

During a Microsoft Windows 8 camp in the Netherlands we were told that the initial focus will be to deliver great quality consumer applications. For this, Microsoft already provided guideline documents to support development teams with UID/UX matters. Personally, i like such documents a lot. Mostly because it is my personal experience that they greatly improve the dialog between customers, designers and developers on how a application should look and feel and function. Because lots of teams do not solely focus on consumer applications, i was wondering if there also information available from Microsoft that describes how to design Metro Styled Line of Business type applications. For example a tablet application that is going to be used by a field service employee to during inspections. On the Windows 8 camp I got the conclusion that material/guidelines for such applications will also be made available. Is there anyone at Microsoft that can shed some light on this? Is it already available somewhere, or should i tamper my enthousiasm and just wait for a while? 


Peter Vrenken - MCPD: Enterprise Applications Developer - Atos



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Replies

Jeff Sanders on Thu, 03 May 2012 13:56:53


Hi Peter,

Do you have a contact from your Camp?  I would contact that person.  Metro style app design is well documented.  I do not know why or how you would modifiy this for a different class of apps.  The current UX guidelines would still apply.

-Jeff

Peter Vrenken on Thu, 03 May 2012 20:00:19


Hi Jeff,

thanks for the response. I've re-read my initial question and think that I should clarify a bit. My history is mobile based. I have been implementing Windows Mobile applications for quite some years, and made the transition to WP a while back. UI matters where always troublesome, which resulted in internal guidelines/cookbooks on how user mobile interfaces should be designed and implemented. So when I first came into contact with WP8 development, I was really fond about the metro guidelines. Allot of effort has been put in them and think they are a great asset for both application design and development teams.

However, they seem to target consumer specific scenario's, where user input is minimal/low. They do not describe enterprise scenarios in which (field) users need to input (allot) of data. For example, I am unable to find any hints and tips about how to cope with more then a only a few input fields. And I just know that there is a whole world of mobile applications that require the user to input allot of it. Take for example an application that assists a field user during inspections. I've seen some tablet applications that really require the user to input an enormous amount of information.

So to get some insight on how to cope with such scenarios, I started asking around on both the TechDays and Windows 8 camp.

It would be really great if you could point out where in the guidelines I should look for information regarding advanced user input scenarios. This information would clarify a lot.

Greetings and thanks in advance,


Peter Vrenken - MCPD: Enterprise Applications Developer - Atos



Jeff Sanders on Fri, 04 May 2012 20:27:05


Hi Peter,

I am not aware of any guidelines for this that have been published.  I would imagine that there will be some, however I am not sure when.  Is there a tablet based application today that uses a grid with touch?  I would imagine a touch only interface would be quite difficult with a grid like that.  Perhaps a series of pages with fields for input would be the way to go?

You can certainly use the existing UX Metro style guidelines within your application to ensure it is easy to access fields with touch.

Certain types of applications simply would not translate well to a touch only interface in my opinion.

-Jeff

Gael Paquet on Thu, 17 May 2012 16:38:23


Hi,

I agree with Peter, some more guidelines on how to build Line of Business type apps would be great ! We are willing to build a Metro App for sales rep in the field, but mixing horizontal scrolling with a large order entry form is quite a challenge for us so far... More generally, dealing with forms seems not so much covered in guidelines.

Gael


Dan Ruder on Thu, 17 May 2012 21:18:34


Hi Peter,

Thanks for the background and the dialog.  Do you feel the issue is really the UI guidelines (which seem to focus more on individual aspects of UI) or just needing more examples/case studies that give creative ideas about what whole apps could look like?

Having used Metro on a 20" screen and on a 12" laptop screen and on an Acer tablet, the biggest things that still strike me are scale and input method.  I think you will want to match these to the task for your users and whether they have any accessibility needs due to physical ability or due to the environment (noisy factory vs. quiet office). 

What kind of data do your users enter?  If your users are required to enter lots of text, you probably will want to design around a physical keyboard because they can touch-type so much faster.  If they have fewer range of things to enter, then perhaps a touch interface designed around a push-button model makes sense.

If they will sit close to a large screen with mouse & keyboard and will not be easily distracted, they probably will appreciate smaller, but more, elements.  If they are using smaller screens or touch or could be easily distracted by the the environment, they likely will appreciate having fewer or larger elements.

So, if I were writing such an app, I would first start with what my users are doing and what likely would interfere with them doing it.  Then I'd look at what the right kind of input was, what kinds of machines they will be expected to use, etc.  Then think about information size & densitity, and what a logical layout looks like.  Then, I'd look to the Metro UI guidelines to make sure I express it in the design language they will become familiar with. 

Hopefully this will help you balance the guidelines with the needs of your app.  Metro style enterprise apps are relatively new and I expect to see a lot of creativity.  Please let me know if this answers your question.  If you're looking for an example of a specific kind of app (e.g. enter lots of text, or choose from lots of pre-defined options, etc), please let us know more.  We are always looking for what's top of mind.

Sincerely,

Dan Ruder (MSFT)

Dan Ruder on Fri, 18 May 2012 16:50:42


Thanks for your feedback, Gael!

Could you tell me a little more about about what you envision for your app?  I.e. do you plan to scroll vertically, not scroll at all, use page style navigation, etc?  Are there particular things you're interested in besides scrolling and information density?

Sincerely,

Dan Ruder (MSFT)