luent esign is Microsoft s strongest atte pt to a e indo s loo good
t’s heavy on the feels, too.
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.