Metro is the interface used by the Windows Phone, Windows 8 (the next version of Windows, currently in the preview phase), and the Xbox 360 (pictured below).

Microsoft said at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show that Windows 8 will be released on various devices throughout the year.  The Windows 8 public beta is due out for the computer in February and it is speculated that the final release will be in October (three years after the release of Windows 7).

Microsoft gives five guiding principles of metro design.  These principles govern not only Microsoft’s own Metro apps, but should govern applications that independent developers create as well.

The principles are:

  • Clean, Light, Open, Fast.  Unlike previous incarnations of the Windows interface where stuffing everything on one screen and making maximum use of your screen real estate was considered a good thing, Microsoft’s new direction is that interfaces should be very simple and have a good deal of white space.  Focus the user on the primary tasks and reduce clutter.
  • Celebrate Typography. The Metro interface reduces the focus on pretty icons and is much more text-driven.  Typeface is, according to this design principle, beautiful in its own right.
  • Motion.  Consistent animations, such as transitions between screens, give an application a polished look and feel and, in some cases, can be used to give the illusion of a better performance.  If you perform a calculation that takes one second and you display an hour glass during that time, the impression left with the user is different than if you have an animation to open the results window, even if both operations take the same amount of time.
  • Content not chrome.  Part of me wonders if this is a subtle jab at one of Microsoft’s chief competitors in the Smartphone and browser markets – Google.  In this principle, Microsoft is referring to elements of an interface that don’t really add anything – they just look nice, similar to chrome rims on a car.
  • Authentically digital.  Sometimes, this principle is simply called “honesty”.  The key here is to know what you are.  Don’t hold the user to real-world limitations or waste space on design elements that don’t relate to the function you are looking to accomplish.

Stay tuned to the JASE blog for more information on Microsoft’s Metro and other breaking technologies. Be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed or email newsletter to make sure you don’t miss further cool announcements.

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