Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

The Evolution of UI Design Standards Toward Metro/Windows 8


One of the hottest topics in software and user experience design right now is a concept formerly called Metro, now known as Windows 8 design. It's a design language popularized by Windows Phone 7 and further developed in, you guessed it, Windows 8. And it's the latest paradigm shift in technology design, which is now all about users being a click away from their most needed information and interacting with content in unique ways.

Windows 8 design differs from traditional user interface (UI) standards, whereby access to content was controlled by keyboard and mouse actions and files could only be organized in folders or subfolders.  The Windows 8 interface is a typography-based design created to speed up usage by eliminating extraneous graphics in favor of large tiles with clean typeface. It's "content as UI." The goal is to allow users to navigate smoothly and intuitively, even on mobile devices.

Prototype of the next arcplan release

Since Microsoft came out with this design standard, arcplan has moved in its direction, favoring tiles, saturated colors without shadows or reflections, and easy-to-use navigation. We've incorporated "Metro" design concepts into our product demos, free trial, and arcplan Mobile BI apps. As we've been influenced by this new UI, many others have as well. It’s offering a fresh approach to software development that is transforming business intelligence dashboard designs, especially those for mobile devices.

The advent of the Windows 8 interface is attributed, in part, to two major developments in technology: 1) the generation of large amounts of data and 2) the need to access that information on mobile devices. We're creating more data than ever and simultaneously have demanded access to this information outside the confines of desktop computers. As a result, design standards have changed significantly over the years and we find ourselves moving toward a mobile-first stance.

Initially, graphics were confined to characters found on our keyboard and access to data was confined to keyboard controls. Then in 1984, the introduction of the Mac OS with its GUI (graphical user interface) and the first personal computer, the Macintosh 128k (which was shipped with a mouse), allowed us to control interactions in a new way.  The release of Windows then made it more popular to organize files in folders and subfolders, beyond the simple controls of the original Macintosh. Then came our ability to interact with individual applications via gadgets or widgets. Today's system designs are intended to keep users in touch with their information with a simple touch or gesture, and this has a significant influence on the new transformation of dashboard designs. As mobility is becoming the norm for workers who need to keep a pulse on business operations 24/7, dashboard design is changing from a laptop-first mentality to a mobile-first one − something we predicted last year. In the business intelligence world, dashboard developers have to make the transition from designing successful desktop dashboards to incorporating principles that are compatible with mobile devices.

Next time, I'll present the Windows 8 principles that should guide BI dashboard designs going forward.

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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