Fluent Design

There are quite a few changes coming up with the Fall Creators Update, but none are going to be more noticeable than the Fluent Design being introduced. The look and feel of Windows has evolved significantly over the years, but Microsoft made a substantial change to a more modern design (*cough* Metro *cough) which really moved away from the skeuomorphic look of the physical world into a flatter, sleeker look with Windows 8. Not everyone appreciated the extreme flat design though, and Microsoft has evolved the look especially with Windows 10 which did move back to a few of the layering effects with some drop shadows coming back, and a few other design tweaks, but the overall design language for Windows and the apps kept a similar feel to Windows 8.

With Fluent Design, Microsoft is making as big of a change to the design language as they did when they moved from Windows 7 to Windows 8. That may sound scary to some, but they felt it was important to tackle this now. When the modern look came along, Microsoft was trying to address new device types with touch as a first-class citizen, and although they arguably went too far with touch in Windows 8, Windows 10 has a great balance for touch while keeping the existing keyboard, mouse, or trackpad input methods as equals with touch. But the gamut of devices has grown again. The amount of computing devices has grown from mainly 2D display based products to now include both 3D in mixed reality, along with 0D devices like IoT, body-worn devices, and voice-activated devices like Amazon’s Echo or the just announced Harman Kardon Invoke voice-activated speaker powered by Cortana. Display based devices work with more traditional input methods like touch, keyboard, mouse, and pen, but mixed reality and devices without displays need to work with voice, gaze, and motion, and Fluent Design is going to attempt to allow interaction from all these input methods.

Fluent Design is based on five ideas: light, depth, motion, material, and scale. Although discussion is required, Microsoft did do a promotional video on the new system.

The light is going to be very useful across multiple input types, with mixed reality likely seeing the most benefit of a light-based gaze input. Right now, Windows 10 offers a highlight for selected items in the Start Menu, as an example, but with Fluent Design the experience will be much more immersive. There are some great use cases for light to assist with selection, especially in a grid-based selection like when you sort by alphabet.

Windows 8 went extreme on the flat design look, and Microsoft has pulled back somewhat over the last several releases on this, but with Fluent Design, depth is once again being used as not only an accent, but also for layering for applications so the actionable information is layered to the top. The depth is much more than just drop shadows, with parallax scrolling available for backgrounds, and more.

Motion is going to be highly leveraged for moving into and out of applications, as well as inside of applications, in order to provide some perspective on where you are. Perhaps as you drill into an app, you’ll see inward movement, but then as you go back, the app will show outward movement, so there is an instant connection to the user on where they are going. Microsoft is also looking to use movement to improve the transitions between different applications, and within Windows itself. They need to be careful they don’t add too much delay, or allow adjustment for the end user, but it should help with some of the jarring experiences seen now.

Material is going to be a large part of Fluent Design, and although this is Aero 2.0, it’s also much more than just Aero effects of blurring and glass type looks. Instead of just background colors and blur, they will be doing multiple layers with Gaussian blur, exclusion blend, color and tint overlays, and tiled noise texture. The acrylic material look can be used for layering in addition to depth, and the materials are going to add a lot more texture to the look of Windows.

Scale is becoming much more important as well, when you consider how Windows can be adapted to so many different device types. Fluent Design can be used to scale an app all the way from a 10-foot UI for the Xbox, down to a mobile device or tablet.

Fluent Design is not going to be just a Fall Creators Update feature either. This is just the first wave of an overhaul which will be ongoing for some time. As with anything in Windows now, with a relatively fast update cadence, it makes sense to release these types of updates in waves for several reasons. You don’t want to overwhelm people with massive changes, so by doing it in waves you can allow them to get used to the new changes in smaller bites. Also, you can use the wave approach to fine tune and adjust the idea through real world use. Perhaps some of the acrylic blur is going to cause contrast issue with text, so it may have to be adjusted, as an example.

Although to some it may seem that this is just eye candy, it’s important to keep the interface fresh and modern looking. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of keeping something that works ok just because people are familiar with it, but not using the interface as something that can be adjusted and improved over time.

Microsoft also made the point that Fluent Design can have effects turn on or off on the fly based on events. For instance, when running an app in a full-screen view, it may not make sense to have some of the background coming through. Effects can also be disabled based on the system power state, so if you need to eke out the maximum battery life on a long stint away from power, it may not make sense to have some of these effects available.

The key point though is that Microsoft is using this UI overhaul as a way to make improvements in device types that are not just typical laptops or desktops. The light and gaze features coming should make mixed reality control much easier, and input with keyboard, mouse, trackpad, pen, touch, voice, sight, and gesture, all need to be addressed. So far Microsoft has shown off several apps that have already been updated to the new design language, and it looks great. This is certainly going to be one of the key features coming in the Fall Creators Update.

Build and the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update Cortana and Microsoft Graph
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  • Gothmoth - Friday, May 19, 2017 - link

    they should do proper testing of updates... one of the last updates messes with my audio system. :-( Reply
  • close - Friday, May 19, 2017 - link

    The thing with "proper testing" is that unlike Macs for example Windows runs on thousands and thousands of different hardware and software (drivers especially) combinations. Proper testing on all of them is possible only theoretically.

    So MS figured out what they think is a way to get proper, real data from real computers to aid with troubleshooting and debugging (to which they added another level of data to aid their bottom line :D). They called it telemetry and we all know how people reacted to it.

    Thing is if you want *your* system to be more reliable you have to send some reliability data to MS. Don't expect any magic though. There's a chance you have a uniquely non-standard setup.
    Reply
  • raiden1213 - Friday, May 19, 2017 - link

    How about the ability to NOT install certain updates. You know, like back in the windows 7 and 8 days?

    Forced updates are never a good idea for an operating system that runs on "Thousands and Thousands of different hardware"
    Reply
  • close - Saturday, May 20, 2017 - link

    Sure, then you get thousands and thousands of different update configurations. How does it help with testing when you have for example 200 updates available for an OS and everybody has a different combination applied? How do you make sure that every future update works for your combination? Reply
  • sallgeud - Monday, May 22, 2017 - link

    That's how you end up with WannaCrypt, fool. Reply
  • mominusa - Saturday, May 20, 2017 - link

    Well, five minutes on the internet would have let them find the "lose wifi on wake from sleep" bug that has driven me nuts. Another five minutes on the internet could have told them that the anniversary edition update brought it back and the workaround that solved it previously no longer works. I am sure they much have had thousands of feedback comments on it as well, and I personally sent several. They dont need "more data", they just need to resolve known issues. Reply
  • close - Saturday, May 20, 2017 - link

    I hope you realize that's not how software development and debugging is done. Googling for a generic error that may or may not be a Windows issue or a driver issue. And I hope you realize that the people affected by this are a small fraction of the total number of Windows users. Everybody thinks their bug is critical because it shows up on the first page of Google but it's not.

    To prove a point, I searched for "Windows is great" and found plenty of happy people.

    And reintroducing bugs is exceptionally common in software development. It's down to reusing old code. If you tell me what you do for a living I can find a problem that affects lots of people. And I'm pretty sure your work doesn't cover 80% of a market.
    Reply
  • close - Saturday, May 20, 2017 - link

    Anyway, how many such serious/obvious problems did you have with updates in the past 2 years? No software is perfect and if 1 or 2 bugs is all that you've encountered when updating such a complex piece of software like Windows, with all its dependencies on other software and drivers I'd say it's not that bad, is it?

    It's no different than any other OS, even those that run in very standardized configurations.
    Reply
  • emn13 - Friday, May 19, 2017 - link

    Same here - motherboard integrated realtek audio required a driver reinstall to work. The same driver that was already installed worked; so I'm guessing it was a config corruption issue.

    It's not the first time I've had issues with updates, but it's pretty rare all around, IMHO. I can remember maybe a handful of cases the past decade or so - not too bad, right?
    Reply
  • Samus - Sunday, May 21, 2017 - link

    I've come across a reproducible wifi bug in the Creators Update across different hardware: failure to "reconnect' when resuming from sleep, even though the connection shows you are connected to the wireless network, there is botched network connectivity; some works, some doesn't.

    Going back to sleep and resuming, or disconnecting and reconnecting, solves the problem in each case. Driver updates didn't fix the issue. All laptops with this issue had various Intel controllers, 7260's, 8260's, N's, AC's...could be an Intel issue, but it didn't happen before creators update.
    Reply

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