Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

How Metro/Windows 8 Design is Transforming Mobile BI Apps: Part I


Last year on this blog, our SVP of Global Marketing Tiemo Winterkamp said that 2012 would be the year that mobile design standards emerge. In the same article, he predicted that Microsoft would be back in a big way with a new design language called Metro that would make mobile apps friendlier than ever. He was right on both counts, except that now Metro is called "Windows 8 design" or "Modern UI Design," rumored to be because of possible infringement on the name of a company called Metro AG. Either way, Windows 8 is influencing mobile interface design well beyond Microsoft products. In fact, it’s transforming the way we design mobile BI apps − for the better.

Why do mobile apps need special design rules? A parallel is how nearly every company has a mobile version of their website. It's the same content but it adapts to the user's device, incorporating larger buttons, bigger fonts, etc. This idea is known as Responsive Design (depending on the target device, a completely adapted layout will be launched). Mobile traffic is currently only 10% of all global web traffic, yet we've created a set of design standards for experiencing websites on mobile devices. In the same way, mobile BI use is a small percentage of overall business intelligence usage, but it's growing and it demands to be accommodated.

So why does arcplan advocate the Windows 8 design style for mobile apps? Yes, it's new, exciting, and looks great, but it's also built with mobile use in mind. With everything - including BI - moving toward a mobile-first approach, it makes sense to put our weight behind a design style that operates the same way.

One of Windows 8/Metro design's guiding principles is motion, which has applicability to mobile devices. Motion relates to how users interact with and transition through information on their devices. Windows 8 design was created for speed, for getting users to the information they need the fastest, with the least amount of clicks.

There were two motion/navigation functions that were introduced in Windows 7, panorama and pivot, that are no longer part of Windows 8 app design but that doesn't mean you can't still apply these principles in your mobile BI apps if you like them and they work for your users. Both of these functions enabled users to navigate across a wide, horizontal canvas of tiles/information. Panorama was used to organize disparate groups of information (featured reports, new comments, popular dashboards) in lists and group of tiles on the same canvas, while pivot was used to organize, sort, and filter similar information (all financial reports, for example).

There are developers who are retrofitting Windows 8 functions to make panorama work like it did in Windows 7. The good news for arcplan customers is that the arcplan design framework can support panorama and pivoting. This is because it’s a separate development environment from Windows 8.

There's another reason arcplan advocates Windows 8/Metro design for BI apps. I'll assess that in my next article.

For now, leave me your thoughts on this design style. If you don't aesthetically love it right now, you might love it for other reasons after my next post!

Dwight deVera

About Dwight deVera

I'm Senior VP responsible for Solutions Delivery at arcplan in North America. I also present on a lot of arcplan webinars, so you can sign up to hear me - the events listing on our website is located here: You can also follow me on Twitter: @dwightdevera.
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