Beyond Windows 8: A Start Screen concept
The more I've got familiar with Windows 8, the more I'm convinced that it needs some serious tweaking. Don't get me wrong - I definitely believe that Eight is playing a big role in the future of computing - but there are some annoying quirks and even missing features that keep me from fully loving it. That's why I'd like to introduce you my vision of an improved start screen, and I really look forward to seeing something similar in the next iteration of windows - were it 9, Blue or something in between.
It's not that different when compared to the current start screen, but it may seem a bit more cluttered. It's not my point to make the screen less clean, but I'd like to have the opportunity to make it cluttered, if I want to. Windows 8's start screen is limited in way too many ways, and customization is not even close to the level of Android's home screen customization. My concept shows what Microsoft should do in the way of making Windows a really competitive tablet OS (and make it a good, or at least better, launcher for desktops, too). I'll explain my changes one by one.
1. The Icons and organizing them
Have you seen how ugly the desktop app icons are in the start screen? They pale in comparison with gorgeous, colorful tablet app icons. (It's now possible to manually make good-looking desktop app shortcuts to start screen with OblyTile. Check it out!) Also, it should be possible to make them smaller, as in Windows phone 8 or 7.8. Another story is how to move icons around in start screen. Currently it's like stacking Windows phones side by side: one row must be full of icons before the one in the right can be even started. That's insane, and it's really frustrating to even get those four office app icons at a row, like in the picture above. And this: Empty space can't be created between tiles without using a 2x1 tile below it. It doesn't make any sense. I want to organize my start screen without such stupid, unjustified limitations.
What about folders? It's not an essential ability to create folders in the start screen, but then again, why not give the possibility? My folder design is heavily influenced by Android 4.0's default folder icons. I have actually two ideas: an opened folder could be either just one row of icons or a conventional folder, just like in Android.
2. Real widgets, not just small tiles
Current live tiles are fairly simple. They are also quite small and don't give much information, either. Something like these weather and calendar widgets reduce the need to open applications and see everything you need at a glance. As some may recognize, the calendar widget is actually calendar app's mini version. It's interactive and makes it possible to browse calendar right in the start screen. Weather widget is just a screen capture from the weather app. It's not something a final product would look like, but at least it shows more than the current weather tile.
3. Some visual changes
Why does there read "Start" at the top left corner? Because people need to be convinced that this is the start menu? I believe this won't be necessary in the next version as people get more familiar with start screen, so instead there could be something useful, like a clock and small icons for battery life and signal strength. I copied them from the charms menu, because why not show them always in the start screen?
And what about background? Currently it's just a solid color with some random patterns designed by Microsoft. I'd prefer to have for example a blurred desktop wallpaper as start screen background. (It's also possible to do at the time with application called Decor8.) I think having a full-fledged wallpaper in the start screen could make it too distracting, but certainly it should be possible to have.
5. What about notifications?
Here's my final change: Drop the damn useless 'Devices' charm and make it a notification center. Connected devices could still be shown in 'Notifications' charm, as you can see. Live tiles just can't be used as an excuse not to include a real place to show all notifications. What if I don't have a tile for email app? What if I have tons of notifying apps? I want to have a center to see if there's anything new, at one glance. Notifications charm can be seen below. The image also includes the aforementioned folder opened.
I think these changes aren't conflicting with Microsoft's idea of Modern UI. Windows 8 isn't a disappointment for me, it just isn't ready yet. Hopefully some improvements like these will be found in the next version of Redmond's OS (summer 2013, right?).
Or not? Tell your opinions about my concept! Was it pointless? Was it awesome? Have I completely forgotten something crucial?