Fragmentation within Microsoft design
I’m exhausting myself trying to use the “Metro” version of Windows. There’s something fresh and exciting about its vision of UI interaction that’s more appealing to me than Apple’s adherence to skeuomorphic dogma. It’s a testament to Metro’s appeal that it has me bending over backward to find excuses leave my iPhone behind and buy a Windows Phone, even if I know in the back of my head I’ll probably regret it. And that’s exactly how I felt last night staying up until 3am attempting to install the Windows 8 Developer Preview on my Macbook.
Even if I littered my opinions with the big grain of salt that should accompany any criticism of incomplete software, I could still predict that Windows 8, on its current course of development, is a clusterfuck. I could waste a few thousand words describing every bewildering detail of this clusterfuck but I can talk about one thing that will sum it all up for you: The Windows logo.
On the image above, you should be able to identify 3 different depictions of the Windows logo. Visit the Windows Phone website and you’ll find another. Microsoft decided Windows 8 shall have its own logo as well. That’s 5 different logos, all depicting a single ecosystem of software. Variations of a logo aren’t necessarily bad. As Juan Perez demonstrates in his own Windows rebranding experiment, there are way of branding individual services in a way that let them stand out while reminding the user “they belong to a common umbrella”. But there’s no single unifying design umbrella to Windows branding as it stands today. Or rather, there is an umbrella (the window graphic), but it’s one made up from the parts of various other umbrellas lying around the offices in Redmond. How effective could such a patchwork logo ever be? Like parents with their children, Microsoft seems to have a difficult time saying no to its designers the way it allows any and all logo designs appear on its products. You could become furious thinking about all the issues inherent with such an approach to design, even for something as minimally interactive as a logo. Now imagine the frustration you might feel when the actual product is treated the same way Microsoft treats its own logo.
There’s no use exhausting myself for an umbrella with a golden handle when the rest of it is made of paper and barbed wire.
There are, just scratching the surface, three main issues with this title: standardization of vaginal softness, the cutting out of the whole female body to focus only on their vaginas, and the awkward half-sexualization of the product.
Important confrontation of gender issues in design? Check.
Unbelievable yet real product you can’t believe anyone ever pitched straight faced? Check.
Scathing wit to tie the whole thing together into an engrossing read? Check.
Ben Brooks launched a redesign of his website today, with a noticeably unorthodox omission: his logo.
The truth is that I dropped the logo on accident when I was designing the new site (forgot to paste back in the relevant code) and I kept designing without it. Then I realized it was missing and added it back in, hated it, and I removed it again — this time on purpose.
Unlike the Verge design, I’ve got nothing but praise - save maybe for the strange indentation of his Fusion ad - for the new Brooks Review. Logos on text driven websites serve almost no purpose and the new Brooks Review is significantly improved without one. The focus is now squarely on Brook’s writing, where it should be. That is precisely why the recent redesign of Smarterbits did away with it’s entire header beginning last week.
Brook’s may have stumbled onto this idea by happenstance, but removing the header and logo from my site was entirely intentional. As someone fancying themselves a writer, the Smarterbits brand should be the voice and quality of my writing, not my fantastic vector imaging skills. Besides, as many other tech writers can probably attest to, a large portion of my audience reaches my content not by navigating to my site, but through an intermediary like Reeder or Instapaper. Having proper branding on those intermidiaries is essential because that’s the easiest way for users to identify my content from among the many other authors in their RSS feeds or reading lists. If you follow a link to a new article on my site from my Twitter feed, its own branding is already alerting you to precisely who’s site you are being taken to. What’s the use for a giant banner on the top of my website to remind you what you already know?
Paying attention to reading habits and web design reveals exactly how wasteful a header can actually be. After adapting Frédéric Filloux’s study on advertisement’s effect on desktop web design, I realized that my own header was taking up half the screen real-estate on my iPhone, plausibly making it unclear to visitors exactly what they had landed on. Never mind advertising, my own branding was negatively affecting the functionality and purpose of my site. Considering that mobile web browsing is - I’ve read - rather popular these days, it felt rather uncouth that my site should render so poorly in that particular area. Rather than reducing its size, I simply decided to be done with it entirely. In doing so, it became impossible to justify its presence on any other version of my site. Now, anyone visiting Smarterbits, from any device, is greeted first and foremost with legible content and clear links to additional information from an un-intrusive navigation bar.
Having people know that I’m the author behind the content is a secondary objective; it’s something that occurs organically over time. Someone who finds my site but doesn’t enjoy the content or must waste time finding it isn’t likely to bother caring who’s behind it , other than to complain perhaps, no matter how beautiful the branding may be. And they certainly won’t come back or follow a link back to my site. On the other hand, someone who does enjoy reading what I have to say and has a pleasurable experience doing so is more likely to come back regularly, read more content, and share it with others - regardless of whether there is a logo or not to greet them.
I rather spend my time ensuring the latter scenario.
This focus, by removing unnecessary fluff and cruft to fit in the constraints of both the device real estate as well as network limitations, helps craft a better and more useful user experience. I think it’s a really interesting way to approach design and maybe we need more of that in higher ed.
Need not apply solely to designing for mobile. You can always benefit from the removal of unnecessary fluff and cruft.
(via Luke Wroblewski’s Mobile First )