What is Modern UI? Or, more specifically, why is it important?
Let’s rewind back to the fifties when the Swiss, in their ever-practical wisdom, dreamed up a graphic design style that would become globally known as (wait for it) – Swiss Style. The principles of Swiss Style were all around simple, clean lines and readability, and are still widely used today. In a computing context, we started seeing what Microsoft called ‘Metro’ in the mid-nineties, which was their version of a typography-based design language, based on those classic Swiss principles.
Today, the brightly-coloured, live tile interfaces we see in products like Windows 8 are the modern evolution of this design and what we Win 8refer to as Modern User Interface (UI). The guiding thought behind Modern UI is that by minimising graphics and focusing on short, sharp content and large tiles, the user enjoys a more simplified, responsive interaction with a site.
While the above is a very broad strokes overview, we wanted to provide some context around what Microsoft were trying to achieve with Modern UI, so we can explain why we believe this design is the future of all intranet, internet and extranet sites.
Cloud computing with products like Office 365 is no longer the future, it is here and now, and delivering businesses a reliable, cost-saving alternative to traditional IT infrastructures. Enhancements like mobility and multiple device channels are also becoming commonplace and will soon be expected, at minimum, by users. (We’ve talked in previous blogs about how SharePoint 2013 delivers to these needs with its new capability set – please read if you wish to get up to speed).
The next step in the digital workplace revolution is BYOD, or bring your own device, which refers to employees bringing their own device such as smartphones, laptops and tablets to work and connecting to their corporate network. (A sure sign that the user is in the driver’s seat from an ‘access to information’ perspective).
Taking all this into account, it appears that users are starting to outgrow traditional communications channels and standard websites. Enter the Modern UI intranet. Sleek, familiar, fast and with the ability to surface user-specific content within 1-2 touches or clicks. An optimised experience across every device channel means a better user experience, which leads to higher user adoption levels, reductions in administration and training costs, and productivity increases.
As an example, we recently embarked on an exciting project with our sister company, OSC, and Microsoft Global, which involved us designing a new Office 365 communications portal tailored to the needs of the retail industry. (Feel free to read about this innovation on page 22 of the current edition of Microsoft’s Speak magazine here).
Why is this solution a potential game-changer? Because we’ve taken the standard communications platform – in this case an intranet – and totally flipped the user experience by introducing Modern UI. And, by considering the most common interactions and information needs a group of users has on a daily basis, and representing this in a scrollable, convenient format, we are delivering information straight into their hands, in a manner that is familiar to them. Further, with the introduction of dynamic news and social feeds, we are giving users the ability to contribute re-usable knowledge back to their organisation.
For some businesses, this kind of leap might be too far down the track to really consider, for others, maybe it’s the next logical step. Regardless of where you’re at, we don’t believe in one-size-fits-all solutions and would therefore evaluate your business on its current state fully before recommending Modern UI as an option. But we hope you found this blog useful in terms of understanding Modern UI principles and potential.