Microsoft Explains Windows 8 UI Goals

The platform was meant for speed, ease of use and enhanced customization options

By Ionut Arghire on May 19th, 2012 10:30 GMT

When released in a final flavor later this year, Windows 8 will bring along a new approach to using the PC by introducing a wide range of touch optimizations.

The platform will arrive with a wide range of changes when compared to what previous versions of Windows had to offer, including an always-on, always-connected approach to the user experience.

In today’s world, users are looking for increased mobility when purchasing a new PC, and are also interested in enjoying access to various services at all times, and Windows 8 was designed with these principles in mind.

The company also provided an insight on some of the main goals that it set when starting the development of Windows 8 and its Metro UI back in 2009, when Windows 7 was still RTM.

Jensen Harris, director of Program Management for Microsoft’s User Experience team, explains in a blog post that one of the main focuses in designing Windows 8 was on making it fast and fluid.

“Fast and fluid represents a few core things to us. It means that the UI is responsive, performant, beautiful, and animated,” Harris explains.

“It means that the most essential scenarios are efficient, and can be accomplished without extra questions or prompts. It means that things you don’t need are out of the way.”

Additionally, this means that the UI has to offer a “feeling of fluidity,” so as to make the use of Windows natural and pleasing, especially when on a tablet PC with touchscreen capabilities.

Additionally, Microsoft focused on ensuring that users will benefit from increased battery life when using a Windows 8 PC, a goal achieved by reducing memory consumption and CPU and GPU usage while maintaining performance levels high.

Windows 8 Metro apps will enter a sleep mode when the focus is not on them, to extend battery life. The use of CPU of memory for an app can be reduced to zero without loss of data. The app will resume exactly in the same place when the user brings it to the front of the screen.

However, in Windows’ multitasking tradition, Microsoft included Snap in Windows 8, so that more than one app can be used simultaneously. Through it, users can run any two WinRT-based apps side-by-side.

Metro apps and Live Tiles

Applications have been also optimized to take advantage of the new approach to user experience, being optimized for a specific set of scenarios that they are great at, rather than offering a wide range of features that are hard to find and use.

Moreover, by taking advantage of the WinRT environment, these applications have been designed to work both with mouse and fingers so that they would prove great on any Windows 8 PC, including touch-enabled tablets.

Another important aspect of the Windows 8 interface is the use of tiles, designed to deliver information in a single place and to offer fast access to apps, services and the like.

Live tiles are shown on the start screen, and users have the possibility to personalize them as needed. In fact, Microsoft claims that user’s entire PC experience will be encapsulated in the one view that the Start screen has to offer.

“Even content from within apps can be pinned to Start: people, mail folders, accounts, websites, books, albums, singers, movies, clients, sports teams, cities, etc. Everything you care about is efficiently available and up-to-date at all times,” Harris notes.

In Window 8, apps can also be linked to work together, making tasks such as sharing content much easier than before. Apps will also be able to pick from, share with or save to other applications in Windows 8, Microsoft explains.

With the upcoming platform, people will also be able to sign it to their PCs using an online account, which will sync all customizations between all of their Windows 8 computers.

Advanced customization options

Microsoft also claims that the forthcoming operating system flavor will keep one of the important features of Windows versions between it: the possibility to tweak almost all aspects of the OS.

Settings in Windows can be easily modified through accessing various control panels or through using command-line tools, as experience users already know. According to Microsoft, this aspect is an asset of Windows.

“Our intention is not to lock down Windows, but to provide a platform that meets consumer expectations for how a device should work,” Harris explains.

Windows 8 will put the most used settings at hand through the new UI, will deliver updates in the background, without affecting the user experience, and will also prevent apps from altering system settings for the most part.

However, those who would like to have increased flexibility and customizability on their Windows 8 devices will be able to find all the features that Windows 7 came with in the upcoming platform as well.

“These settings are still there, and they still work. The Control Panel and gpedit.msc and PowerShell and all of the other places you do expert customization of your PC are still there for you. People who don’t have the knowledge to use these advanced settings effectively can just enjoy their devices,” Harris continues.
Windows 8 Consumer Preview
   Windows 8 Consumer Preview
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