Tag Archives: UI

Microsoft Says Farewell to Aero Glass in Windows 8

When I first booted up into Windows 8 with my beloved Samsung Focus mobile phone at my side, I was appalled by the jarring visual differences when switching back and forth from the Metro start screen to the traditional Windows desktop view.

On one hand, there was this amazingly simple Start screen with a bold interface daring to standout from the crowd. On the other, an ancient and tacky faux-glass-themed, cluttered, and – quite frankly – ugly desktop interface.

I found it incredible that after putting so much thought into the Metro UI’s design, Microsoft seemed to forget about the desktop altogether. I thought they changed. I thought they cared about details, the user experience, and beauty! My disenchantment became so bad that up until a week ago I had given up on ever experiencing a truly simple and beautifully designed version of Windows.

What changed? Microsoft is getting rid of Aero Glass in Windows 8, baby!

First introduced with the debut of the ill-fated Vista, the Aero desktop design has outlived its relevancy. The days of transparency, gradients, and shadows are long behind us and especially do not belong in a modern interface like Metro that relies on flat icons and bold colors to garner attention. According to Microsoft, they also see the drawbacks of their current design and promise to start “flattening surfaces, removing reflections, and scaling back distracting gradients.”

Microsoft doesn’t see the desktop as a mode, but rather “a paradigm for working that suits some people and specific apps.” But Microsoft isn’t willing to forfeit compatibility with existing programs by drastically changing the desktop UI. To preserve their existing user base, Windows 8 will continue to use black text on a light-colored background as opposed to the white-on-saturated-color look of Metro.

In short, Microsoft gave their desktop UI a mini Metro makeover. The default color that surrounds the windows is white, rounded corners on icons and windows are now squared, and the taskbar blends even more into the desktop wallpaper. Even the ribbon will see some changes with icons treated to the same squared-off edges and stripped of all gradients to “make them feel more modern and neutral.”

Unfortunately, the Release Preview hasn’t fully abandoned the Aero theme and it won’t be fully replaced until the final release of Windows 8. We would have liked to see what it looked like in action, but it just wasn’t in the cards.

If you’ve ever wanted to read a comprehensive history of Windows design over the years, then hit up this post from the Building Windows 8 blog.

Progress Bars use Optical Illusions to Appear Faster

I’d rather not think about how many hours I’ve spent staring at progress bars in my life. They’re a lot faster than the used to be because of better processors and internet connections, but we still have to wait patiently while transferring large files, downloading video games on Steam, or streaming videos online.

Have you ever wondered why modern progress bars have become so much more animated than they were in the “old days”? Part of it might be that user interfaces are more aesthetically pleasing than they used to be, but the biggest reason is because they want to deceive you.

That’s right, your harmless little progress bar is lying to you.

Studies have shown that the animations used in progress bars can make them seem to go up to 11% faster, as shown in the New Scientist video below. Using tricks like ripples and pulses of light are a simple way to make you feel like things are happening quicker than they really are.

The next time you’re waiting for your computer to transfer a large file to your USB flash drive, I expect you to point an accusing finger and yell “LIES!”.

Image courtesy: D’Arcy Norman