lu­ent es­ign is Mi­crosoft s strong­est atte pt to a e indo s loo good

t’s heavy on the feels, too.

HWM (Singapore) - - Feature - By Ng Chong Seng

At the Build de­vel­oper con­fer­ence in May, Mi­crosoft o cially un­veiled its Flu­ent De­sign Sys­tem, a bold new de­sign lan­guage for an in­creas­ingly com­plex world.

Now, it’s no se­cret that Mi­crosoft has been test­ing new ways to im­prove the user in­ter­face and user ex­pe­ri­ence of Win­dows 10. Co­de­named ‘Pro­ject Neon’, Flu­ent builds on the com­pany’s Metro de­sign lan­guage that was rst in­tro­duced with Win­dows Phone. Cur­rently, we’re see­ing mostly sub­tle blur and translu­cency e ects in a few rst-party apps (e.g., Win­dows Store, Movies & TV, Groove Mu­sic, Mi­crosoft Photos, Paint 3D) in re­cent Win­dows 10 In­sider test builds, but more will ar­rive, in both fre­quency and ag­gres­sive­ness, as Mi­crosoft builds out the Fall Cre­ators Up­date and fu­ture Win­dows 10 re­leases. “It’s go­ing to be a jour­ney,” says Mi­crosoft.

To be clear, de­spite its mo­bile ori­gins and the fact that most of us will ex­pe­ri­ence the new de­sign lan­guage on Win­dows on the desk­top, Flu­ent is any­thing but a PC-ex­clu­sive. Be­cause Win­dows 10 is de­signed to run on all sorts of de­vices, Flu­ent has to be adapt­able and scal­able, too. PCs, tablets, phones, game con­soles, even dis­play-less de­vices - they will all be in uenced by Flu­ent in time to come. And when you fac­tor in vir­tual and aug­mented re­al­ity sys­tems, and in­put meth­ods such as key­boards, mice, sty­luses, touch, voice, ges­tures, mo­tion con­trollers, and even pres­ence, Flu­ent be­comes not just about ap­pear­ance, but in­ter­ac­tiv­ity as well. There’s good rea­son why Mi­crosoft calls Flu­ent a “de­sign sys­tem” and not a “de­sign lan­guage”.

In essence, there are ve build­ing blocks to Flu­ent: light, depth, mo­tion, ma­te­rial, and scale. “Light” is easy to un­der­stand: it’s used to cre­ate at­mos­phere and illuminate in­for­ma­tion, so you’ll al­ways know where to look and where to click or tap. An ex­am­ple that il­lus­trates this is the HoloLens mixed re­al­ity head­set, where your gaze di­rects a spot of light in­stead of a mouse pointer.

“Depth” is all about lay­er­ing and how things such as win­dows and con­trols not on the same plane re­late to one an­other. “Mo­tion”, on the other hand, is about us­ing e ects like tran­si­tions and an­i­ma­tions to es­tab­lish re­la­tion­ships be­tween two apps or pieces of con­tent.

For in­stance, Win­dows Story Remix, a new cre­ative app due for the Fall Cre­ators Up­date that lets you cre­ate sto­ries from your photos and videos, uses a good dose of an­i­ma­tions to pre­vent you from get­ting loss in what’s ar­guably a busy app.

With “Ma­te­rial”, Mi­crosoft wants de­vel­op­ers to bring real-world ma­te­rial physics to the dig­i­tal en­vi­ron­ments, and make them invit­ing so that users want to reach out and in­ter­act with them. The rst stan­dard­ized ma­te­rial in­tro­duced un­der the new sys­tem is “Acrylic”, but more are on their way. And nally, “Scale” is about build­ing in­ter­faces that span from 0D to 3D.

I don’t know about you, but even at this early stage where the stan­dards are still in ux (the sys­tem is con­stantly be­ing up­dated based on com­mu­nity feedback), Flu­ent is al­ready look­ing to be more well-thought-out and more am­bi­tious than the mostly-at and con­tent-rst Metro de­sign lan­guage ever was. In fact, with the Fall Cre­ators Up­date, Mi­crosoft is only ship­ping “wave 1” of its Flu­ent De­sign Sys­tem. Wave 2 is said to ex­plore con­cepts such as 360 me­dia play­back for apps, “con­scious head­ers” (akin to the dy­namic head­ers in the Groove Mu­sic app), speech, and spa­tial sound, the lat­ter of which is es­pe­cially im­por­tant for mixed re­al­ity ap­pli­ca­tions where things of­ten hap­pen out of view.

Once again, it’s hard to know how all this will pan out. Con­cepts like spa­tial sound for ex­am­ple may be over­taken by oth­ers in Mi­crosoft’s list of pri­or­i­ties if MR and HoloLens never take o . But one thing’s for sure: Win­dows it­self is about to look a whole lot bet­ter.

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