Sunday, November 17, 2013

What Windows Phone Start screen should learn/inherit from Windows 8.1

    Last week I did a session on live tiles and it got me thinking on how Microsoft and the Windows Phone team could actually improve the Start screen experience and also the application list that, in my opinion, lacks design and more important it is not very practical to use. Please consider that i am not a designer and i did not have time to invest in doing the screenshots (did cut and paste using Paint.Net). I am doing this post just to illustrate my ideas.
    Let me start with the start screen. The live tiles are an awesome feature and really differentiate Windows and Windows Phone from their competitors.  I think that, for certain functionality,the Windows 8.1/8 start screen is better than the Windows Phone one. First of all (and the most important) the Scroll Direction. The windows phone have the start screen in vertical compared to Windows 8 which is horizontal. Horizontal scrolling would be better and here are some reasons why I think this:
  • the main reason why you scroll is because you did not find what you were looking for so you would like to reach the part you are interested as fast as possible. All Windows Phone have the height > width in Pixels so scrolling horizontally you actually scroll MORE information than scrolling vertically 
  • If scrolling would be horizontal it would be possible to implement grouping just like Windows 8 and enable a functionality similar to semantic zoom or jump list to easily reach the tile/tiles you need
  • It would be also more familiar to people coming from other platforms (like Android or iOs) where the scrolling is horizontal
  • Different from Windows 8 or tablet UI I think that this scroll should be Paged and not continuous similar to what you have on iOS e Android. This is because the user would be faster to search what he needs (if it is not on the page I see now better scroll a whole page and not a part of it). This won't minimize in any way the live tiles functionality but would give better speed in seeing all I am interested in. 
  • If the user gives titles to the various pages then in the JumpList/SemanticZoom he would see those names otherwise he sees the number of pages and he can easily reach any page (even the last one) without scrolling and scrolling and scrolling.
  • The last page of the start screen that is not full would have the arrow orientated down just to give the hint to the user that the Application full list is "under" the start screen just like in Windows 8.1
Other aspect where Windows 8.1 start screen is better is the tile templates. Windows 8.1, in comparison with windows Phone, has much more templates that fit better the needs of the developers. In Windows Phone you can actually build your own images with everything on it but it would be better to have more standard templates. The current templates when used "as is" are pretty limited:
  • The flip template is "slow" to change from one side to the other and this way not everything you need to see is right in front of you. You should actually put secondary informations on the back and expect that 70% of the time the user would not wait for the tile to flip
  • The iconic template in small and medium sizes have the same informations so it is a "waste" of space to keep the iconic tiles in medium size when you could have them little 
  • The cyclic template is more decorative then functional. Even if you build the images I am curious how many people will actually wait for the images to finish a cycle instead of launching the application. For something like photos app it is ok if the user just want to add decorative items to your start screen
If the Start Screen would be horizontal in this case the application list should be accessed by scrolling vertically just like in the Windows 8.1. The current design of the application list is not optimal it doesn't take advantage of the space it has and because of that you would have to scroll a lot. Even with the Jumplist it is a lot of scrolling. It would be actually better (in my opinion) a paged grid + Jumplist/semantic zoom to easily jump the pages+ Search to easily find an app. Grid design it would even scale better on higher resolutions as it could have more columns. Here is a small comparison (I repeat I am not a designer). Again paged scrolling would give you better speed than continuous scrolling.

Near the search there could actually be a button that enables the user to change the grouping  (alphabetical, most used, recently downloaded,...).

If you read this post and have observations (maybe I am missing something) or ideas please let me know. There is always room to improve the user experience and my only wish is that Windows Phone get better and better each year.

UPDATE: And the most important when implementing horizontal scrolling, new templates apart from better functionality is better transition and familiarity (don't really find the right word) between desktop and phone


1 comment:

  1. This is pretty good post, although I never use Windows 8 on any device such as computer, phone, tablet etc. I feel that this windows looks good and I should move from 7 to 8.
    iPhone app Development