Hey, Windows 8! Take a Hint from your Mobile Forbears!
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It probably wouldn't be an exaggeration to guess that many users of today's technology are on mobile platforms (tablets, smart phones, etc.) as often as they're on more traditional desktop machines or even laptops, if not more often. Mobile platforms are driving user experiences, and interface designs across the board can learn a lot from what's working on mobile devices.
With that in mind we turn to Shawn Wildermuth, who has had some time to tinker with Windows 8 development and has some ideas about what the new operating system can learn from successful design implementation on Windows Phone 7.
For one, navigation needs to be easier, and the simple yet powerful back button deserves some more attention. Think about it. How often do use the back button on your phone, not to mention your web browser? But the back button's functionality in Windows 8 is lacking:
In Windows 8, you can swipe back but that doesn’t take you back to the last page in an application, it takes you to the last Metro-style app. I know you can swipe up to show the ‘ApplicationBar’ and it can have a back button, but I think this is a mistake. The phone learned that users want a single back button that works everywhere…it’s more intuitive.
A back button that takes you backwards within your current operational context. Intuitive, indeed. Not that I've experienced this myself on a Windows phone, but I like the way the back button works on my Droid X. It takes me back through the currently open app until it can't go any further, then takes me to the Home screen.
On the other hand, one of the most efficient uses of a button is to have it do different things depending on whether it's being held or simply pressed. From Shawn's report it doesn't sound like the back button is doing anything right now when it's held. What if holding the back button showed a list of all the apps that you've recently used and allowed you to pick one? As far as I can tell, holding down the back button on my Droid doesn't do anything!
Perhaps the biggest hole that Shawn calls attention to is the lack of any contextual keyboards. The fancy term for this is "InputScope," and it just means that keyboards in different apps present me with different keys to help me get the symbols I need more quickly. This is an extremely useful feature, and that it's missing in Windows 8 is driving Shawn crazy!
Anyone who knows me knows that a Windows Phone app that doesn’t use good InputScopes makes me crazy. The same is true for Win8. My problem is that there don’t seem to be any contextual keyboards (so far) on Windows 8. The layout of the default keyboard hides too many keys I want. And if they would embrace InputScope so that keys would appear that are contextually important – I’d be a lot happier with text input.
Win8 isn't totally bust, though. At the end of his post, Shawn takes aim at the Windows Phone platform and cites "contracts" as an example of what the next phone can learn from the new OS:
One of the things that I think Win8 gets right are “Contracts”. Contracts are the ability for system-wide verbs to be implemented by producers and consumers. A good example of this is Search. You can implement the “You can search my app’s data” contract so that the search bar in Win8 includes your application in the list of apps to search...On Windows Phone we get some of this through Tasks and Choosers, but that really means that our applications can consume OS-level verbs (e.g. take a picture, get me an address). But contracts are what we really should have.
Check out the full post for more about contracts in Windows 8 as well as tile management and AutoCorrect in Win8.
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