Development of Windows Store applications is quite an intricate process, since Microsoft Corp. has quite strict standards for design of the user interface. Compliance with these standards and guidelines influences how soon you will be able to add your Windows 8 application to Windows Store, start marketing it and getting profit.
Here is the complete list of UX guidelines for Windows Store apps: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/apps/hh465424.aspx
Microsoft Corp. tried to provide detailed instructions on how the application canvas should look like, how to layout app elements, describe use cases for the UI interface controls, list dos and don’ts, guidelines for touch interface, navigation, etc. In other words they tried to foresee all issues that may arise while developing the true Windows Store application.
There are quite clear instructions for how to adapt the application for touch interface: they specify basics of the Windows 8 touch language, description of how the application should respond to the user actions (taping, swiping, sliding, pinching and stretching, turning), define optimal size of the control elements to ensure convenient and accurate manipulation with the application content.
As to commands, navigation and user interface guidelines, they are quite detailed and informative, but still leave many indefinite issues when it is unclear how to implement the described functionality.
If the application is intended for content consumption it will have quite simple user interface, since content is in focus and minimum manipulations are required; in this case the guidelines will be enough to implement it.
But Microsoft Corp. positions Windows 8 as a professional operating system intended for both content consumers and business users. When it comes to much more complicated business applications that need to offer rich content manipulation options, developers can’t find clear instructions on how to organize user interface to make it address requirements for Windows Store apps and still be convenient and intuitive for end users. This is what developers need to take care of by themselves.
Let’s review some of the guidelines for the user interface controls.
- Guidelines for sliders
The guideline is detailed: states situations when the use of slider is necessary, how to orient it, what mistakes to avoid. Slider can be used in both content consumption and business applications: to manage some common things (volume, brightness) as well as to filter the data in big lists (when the ranged level is used).
- Guidelines for rating controls
Rating control adds the ability to rate something and get users’ feedback on the extent to which they like or are satisfied with some content or services. Mostly used in non-business applications.
- Guidelines for TimePickers
Time picker adds the ability to select time intervals. This is an intuitive and easy-to-implement user interface control that can be used to set hours and minutes in home and professional applications.
- Guidelines for DatePickers
Date picker adds convenient date selection option to the Windows 8 applications. The control is quite simple and the guideline is quite easy-to-address.
- Guidelines for Flyouts
Flyout is an absolutely new user interface element, similar to the popup control. It is used to show some information that shouldn’t be displayed on the screen all the time and that requires some user’s action. It can show some additional information, questions, confirmations, menu of options, etc. This is where developers need to decide what content to insert in flyouts and what commands to leave for the menus, how to position it to make the user understand what application element or content it relates to. And don’t forget that Flyouts shouldn’t be overloaded with text and interaction functionality.
It becomes even more difficult when it comes to implementation of context and plain menus. How to implement a big hierarchical menu with multiple commands and options when the menu shouldn’t take too much screen space and hide the content? There are only technical instructions on how to add simple menus, not how to arrange complex ones that are usually used in business applications. Such commands should be easy-to-find and select with any input device (keyboard, mouse, stylus or touch interface).
So, not all of the guidelines provided by Microsoft Corp. are clear enough and easy-to-follow.
Sometimes it’s wiser not to try to develop such things from scratch since it may require much time and effort, but to use pre-designed UI controls from the third-party vendors.
There is a number of Windows 8 UI Control packs: RAD Controls for Windows 8, Net Advantage for Windows UI, Studio for WinRT, Perpetuum UI Controls for Windows 8, and some others. Use of such libraries extremely decreases development cycle and helps start marketing of your Windows 8 application faster.