How to Make Windows 8 Prettier


PREAMBLE

  • Before I start, I'd like to give credit to smileyctp for the Xbox music tile. I simply added the scrubbing circle and playing times.
  • I'd also like to give credit to prompt for many of the icons I used here. I thought many of his redesigned tiles looked nicer than the official Microsoft ones.
  • Finally, I'd like to give credit to jonathonpm for the idea of 3x2 size tile and for the use of the 3x2 size Simply Weather tile.

Without further ado:

My GIF

So I'm just going to say this outright.

WINDOWS 8 IS UGLY

at least in my opinion.

Ignoring the Windows 8 website, which seems to rely entirely too much on pea soup green with things like this:

Crbagsy_medium

and this:

Lpksu9y_medium

all over the place.

Anyway, I spent a little time trying to take Windows 8 and what's been leaked of Windows 8.1 and make it do 2 things:

  1. Look prettier.
  2. Be closer in design to Windows phone 8 for coherency.

So let's start (no pun intended) with the

START SCREEN

So one of the biggest thing that bugs me about the start screen is the mismash of colors on the default apps. Purple, Green, Orange, Red, Etc. None of these in the shades chosen really work together well, and they really make look Windows 8 look less professional than it should. Therefore, following the design of Windows Phone, I've changed the color of most apps to cohere to the user chosen accent color, with a few natives apps (like Xbox) and 3rd party apps having differing colors.

The second biggest gripe I have with the start screen is the gradients and outlines that are present on the tiles. Personally, gradients just look gross in metro, and they need to be gotten rid of. Secondly, metro is all about content over chrome, so outlines just for the sake of outlines when they're not calling out content that's different from the rest should be removed.

Thirdly, and this really should have been in Windows 8 from the start, is the ability to place tiles almost anywhere you want. Currently in Windows 8 you're regulated to fill out a column before continuing on, and that should stop. Larger tiles should be able to cross over spaces, just like they can in Windows Phone.

Fourth, the user should be able to choose the backgrounds. Every time I see an ad for Windows 8 with that nauseating purple background with mountains along the top and bottom I just cringe. If a Mom wants to put a picture of their kids at soccer as their background, let them. Do what Facebook, Google+ and Twitter do with their header image and say "This image is too small to be used as a background picture" to prevent pixelation. Let them choose which section they want to show on their screen so as to prevent stretching. All the problems with ordinary desktop backgrounds have been solved by social media sites. Microsoft needs to follow this trend and learn from it.

Fifth, Windows 8 already has a tutorial; tell the user that the Start Screen is called the Start Screen there. After that, there does not need to be a big ol' "Start" at the top of the screen for forever. Replace it with the time so users don't have to swipe and close the charms just to check the time. An idea I thought of but did not implement would be to have the battery life and power options pop up if you clicked the time (another thing that could be covered in the tutorial)

Sixth, Windows 8.1 is set to introduce new extra-large 4x4 size tiles. Apps should not have this size tile unless they have something to warrant the extra space. Basically, these need to be Windows' "widgets", or interactive live tiles if you cringe at the mention of Android. Before you start whining about "This is Windows, we don't need widgets! That's Android!"

Do this:

My GIF

Especially on a desktop, tiles that big need to do something more. News apps can show multiple stories, music apps can add playback controls, Reminders apps can have tickable checkboxes. Microsoft's mantra is not having to open every app to do something, so interactive live tiles fit in perfectly.

Speaking of the desktop, the desktop apps on Metro are gross looking. That needs to be fixed. Using a consistent tile color and simply placing the desktop app on top makes the whole experience look so much more consistent. Also, any Microsoft made apps need to have icons that fit in perfectly. I'm looking at you Office programs.

Finally, the scroll bar at the bottom of the start screen is horrid looking. Yuck. How Microsoft manages to put such beautiful design into software like the Zune, then put scroll bars like these in Windows 8 is beyond me. Let the user move across the start screen by scrolling the mouse wheel, dragging the scroll bar, and finally clicking and dragging the start screen itself. It makes so much intuitive sense, especially if you're coming from a tablet to a desktop. Grab an empty spot and drag.

So this is what I ended up with. It was fairly difficult to do mainly because I didn't have anything running Windows 8 to customize before hand, so I had to base sizes on online screenshots, and ended up with more tiles than I would have preferred.

L3mkhuq_medium

Yes I realize some of these apps are not on Windows 8, I don't care.

This is still fairly messy, but it's also on a 1920 by 1080 display, so this is obviously not what you'll be seeing on a tablet, but rather a full desktop (as can be seen by the mouse cursor.)

Speaking of which, let's move on.

DESKTOP

I'm a senior in High school and my school district just put Windows 7 on our computers either this year or last year. the problem is, they disabled the ability to pin items to the taskbar, or unpin them, or basically almost anything else that actually makes Windows 7 enjoyable. However, the worst thing they did in my opinion was slap it with a Windows 98 block grey skin. It's hideous. So when I saw Windows 8's new "metro" desktop windows, I was disappointed. It doesn't look "modern", it looks like a massive step backwards. Metro is about chromeless software, so why is Windows the only operating system that still has chrome on the bottom and sides of the windows? Even Chrome OS doesn't have that chrome. Bezel-less things are great and look great, and borderless windows look clean and futuristic.

The taskbar does not need to be colored. I played with using a solid accent color as well as no color at all, but the solid color looked too ostentatious, and no color looked weird with a full screen program up (like Mac OS looks like, ew). So I ended up deciding on a dark, semitransparent black for the taskbar and out of focus windows, and a solid accent color for the active windows, allowing it to quickly stand out. Also, that effect aero had with the fuzzy border around the text needs to go, it has no place in Metro when you can just use white text.

Suuutlq_medium

I didn't spend as much time polishing the desktop because I think it will end up going away anyway, so it's kind of a moot point in the end anyway.

Windows' drop down menus also need to get a lot more metro. Less blue bubble highlights and more flat, clean design.

Fe9chml_medium

here's the quick actions menu or whatever it's called

C53b2jc_medium

And here's the little preview you get when you hover your mouse over an icon.

Thanks for reading. Thoughts and opinions appreciated, but this wasn't as big of a project for me as the Windows Phone 8.1 Concept was.

See ya later.

My GIF