Metro: It's Not Just all Bright Boxes and Text
Dear members of the Tribe and assembled trolls,
I think it is time we had a nice long discussion on the nature of Metro. It seems as of late a lot of people have been planting poles in the ground declaring things are Metro, aren't Metro, or that Metro is boring. After this lovely post on Metro styled applications paling in comparison to their iOS and Android counterparts, I thought it would be nice to open up a more constructive dialogue on the style we STILL call Metro.
Let me concede a few things, applications in Metro can be boring (if the developer didn't put any work into it). Just sticking to the guidelines and not thinking about how you present content will do that to you. Metro also isn't as graphically rich and skeumorpic as iOS or Android; but that's because Metro isn't about making things pretty for the sake of it.
Now let me say something else, Metro is an evolving interface and people should not expect it to stay the same or be interpreted the same by different groups with Multiple goals. It is important to understand that Metro was a set of guidelines the Developers at Microsoft created to remind themselves of what they were doing when making an application. We need to get beyond saying Metro is just about square boxes, bright colors, and fonts; that is the aesthetics (and not all of them).
Metrois not about any particular school of design. Some designers look at Metroas a style guide. Using beautiful typography, negative space and grids should be a given. It is not simply getting rid of gradients, limited use of color, san-serifs, placing squares, cutting off text, and presto, you have XXXXX! The original intended use of Metrowas a set of principles that helped us not lose focus on what our goals are when designing a product. On a philosophical level, Metrois ultimately about making and doing things better.
Can you have gradients, shadows, 3d effects, and skeumorphs and still be Metro, Yes. At no time has anyone from Microsoft said developers couldn't do them. The thing that needs to be remembered is that content is central to Metro applications; Content over Chrome. To me if an application is Metro if it emphasizes the content; if all the graphical elements are their to meet that end. I mean if you want to judge if an app is "Metro" go ahead; but if you do then the important things are the USE of color, imagery, typography, and animation. How well does the developer or designer think about the layout?
See this is the thing that sets apart Metro from everything else. Its not minimalism for its own sake; Its about taking the content and making it truly interactive. Its about making information beautiful. On iOS a lot of developers spend a lot of time recreating analogs and that's fine. That's how its been done. With Metro the designers assume you know you are handling a digital device; so why not experiment with that.
A lot of developers just do enough to get the look of a Metro application, without thinking about what the application is for. And when they get it wrong we can see with Metro because they can't hide their mistakes with extra pixels.
Lastly, Microsoft isn't alone in rethinking applications; think about Android ICS or Firefox's Mozilla UX; read their reasoning's behind their guidelines.