Android's User Experience Director takes jabs at Microsoft's Metro UI

We mentioned Google's User Experience Director for Android, Matias Duarte, earlier as he had just showed of 'Roboto', the new design-language for Android 4.0 which will hopefully make it less geeky. A noble challenge.

Not too surprisingly, he has some choice words both for Apple and Microsoft in terms of UI design. We were under the impression that Microsoft's approach was unique, stunning and generally pleasing. And you folks certainly go critical if an app we cover is not authentically Metro enough. But not for Duarte, he's no fan. In an interview with This is My Next/Verge, he had the following pot shots at Metro:

“There’s this thing that’s happening right now in user interface design that I find kind of shackling. The faux wood paneling trend, and the airport lavatory signage trend.” He laughs when he says this and pulls up a slide on his computer, a split screen of an Atari 2600 and… airport lavatory signage. It’s an obvious dig at both Apple and Microsoft.

But what about Microsoft and their “authentically digital” design? “The problem with going too starkly systematic, forcing everything into this completely constrained, modernist palette, for both of them, you’re not leaving any room for the content to express itself.”

“Instead, I offer the web. Here there’s beautiful examples of very customized, very different feeling websites.” Matias flips through slides in his deck, a variety of websites, some news-focused, others which are services or shopping sites. “These look completely unlike each other, but people understand how to use them because the right things are standard conventions, and other things are flexible.”

Of course, we beg to differ. With Metro, all we get is straight content with no unnecessary and distracting flare aka "chrome". That's the best part of Windows Phone: straight information, video, photos, without cartoony graphics or something that looks like it came from a cheesy 80s sci-fi movie. Because sorry, but that's what Android looks like.

Source: This is My Next



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1jaxstate1 says:

The android fans and WP7 fans should just meet up and have a fist fight. LOL. Steve Balmer took a shot at Android in his interview. Things are getting a little testy!

lumic says:

That's okay, I think his UX looks like an novice's attempt at making something look futuristic. Neon glows are the kind of thing you get over halfway through your secondary education.

markiz says:

My thought exactly, even ICS looks like an attempt of an apprentice who tries to hard to distinguish itself from the master. Whoever the master at metro unit down at ms is. that guy/lady should get some spotlight.

drokkon says:

@lumic...as a graphic designer, I totally agree! :)Honestly, it sure doesn't help little WP7 who had its UI going for it. Not that ICS is anywhere near as pretty, but it may be "pretty enough" for the masses.The silver lining here is that Android came out trying to be the iPhone. Now they're trying to be WP7, and imitation is the highest form of flattery! Maybe the analysts who predicted that Windows Phone will be #2 behind Android within a few years were right!

markiz says:

More than anything, they need low cost, entry point devices. Has nothing to do with people liking it. They do. Almost everyone who tried my omnia liked it very much, but they were not in the market for an "expansive" device. Not when they can get something not as good, but satisfactory for half/third of the price.Metro itself is in my opinion by far the most enjoyable computer UI i have ever seen.

lumic says:

They should hit the market where the entry-level Androids are, and the launch hardware can certainly go for that kind of price. Android can't hold a candle to Windows Phone at the lower end.Microsoft has two choices with the high-end: start establishing a really great Marketplace that proves there is no compromise by sticking with weaker hardware, or go crazy and match Android.

Odog4ever says:

"More than anything, they need low cost, entry point devices. "Totally agree. I was in target the other day and say small group of customers hovering around pay-as-you-go phones in blister packs. They were all Android, with the exception of one Blackberry Unit. There should have been at least on Windows phone on that shelf too It not hard to see how Android dominated the low end of the market, they are the only choice if you don't want a dumb flip phone.

markiz says:

Exactly. These cheap androids make up the bulk of sales, no matter that they get almost no attention in tech blogs.I think nokia will try to do this. Their first phones are not going to compare good to the Galaxy Nexus'es, but they will to Galaxy 3's.Plus, ms and OEM's have managed to halve production costs of windows phones.I hope, for my sake, they make it. I'm invested in WP and would hate having to go android in few years.

The whole point of WP7 is UI consistency so his argument really holds no water. I like having apps that actually look the same UI wise. It makes it easier for me to navigate apps.

podsnap says:

“The problem with going too starkly systematic, forcing everything into this completely constrained, modernist palette, for both of them, you’re not leaving any room for the content to express itself.”Actually, it's quite the reverse. By having a clean interface you allow the content to be the priority rather than a visually cluttered interface that crowds out the content.

redtalon says:

As a developer, I choose to use the UI for my apps because not only is it consistant and easy to use BUT bloody nice to boot.Its Silverlight or XNA, so basically I can do what I like, the fact that I choose Pivot or Metro speaks volumes.This article is more about attacking WP7 because of its impact than actual real issue with it.

markiz says:

Jesus christ, this is the guy who designed honeycomb, and he says metro does not allow content to express itself? AND he is AGAINST "wood paneling/chrome"? Again, hellooo, android?Plus, android is now heavily borrowing from metro, so, wtf?Sure, i'm a subjective metro fanboi, but still..

Irdial says:

Says the guy who made...."Ice Cream Sandwich".I agree about Apple though - i love Mac OS interface, but i can't stand this wood-panelling in iBooks, or leather-imitating iCal. It looks silly to say the least...wonder when Apple will realize that.And Metro ? Obviously it's not for everyone. No eye-candy but eye-pleasuring esthetics. Information, and nothing else. That's what i like about it - whether Google likes it or not.Oh and BTW...mr. Google guy, instead of criticizing other UIs, try to make yours a little more snappier, like iOS or WP7, because - let's not kid ourselves - Android UI is extremely sluggish.

jbrandonf says:

Except that it's not. Which phone are you referring to? The pure android experience even on a G2 with an 800mhz processor is extremely responsive.

jalb says:

Airport lavatory signage trend? Seriously, does this actually conjure up a visual for anyone? They're trying too hard.

Honkie McGee says:

That comment did remind me of the WP7 game Occupied.http://www.wpcentral.com/occupied-app-spotlight

mojomarc says:

“The problem with going too starkly systematic, forcing everything into this completely constrained, modernist palette, for both of them, you’re not leaving any room for the content to express itself.”Which completely explains why Google's homepage has a wide variety of chrome elements on it to help content "express itself." Oh wait....This does, however, serve well as a demarcation line between what Apple and WP7 are doing and what Google is trying to do. Google is about horsepower and customization, about the phone itself as an end. It's a great device if you want to constantly be aware you're working on a device and tweaking a device and cusotmizing a device. WP7 is about the experience as the end, and it is about blurring away as much of the "device-iness" away as possible and to leave you with the experience of interacting with your information, friends and coworkers. Focusing on surface bits, like he does, just shows how in over their heads Google really is when they try to step out of their "engineer-first" mentality.

Tansen says:

I really like how you put that about WP7, how you blur away the "device-iness". I kind of agree, using my WP7 is effortless. Things just happen smoothly and quickly, with no concern for app crashes, lag, animation skipping, or anything of the sort. Maybe Ice cream Sandwich will change things, but even then I feel like it will be quite a while for a significant portion of android phones have it. Just think of all the low/mid-range phones that probably don't meet the minimum requirements. And I feel sorry for anybody who just bought a GSII, since it really is now considered outdated as far as resolution, UI, and OS is concerned.

jbrandonf says:

You made several great points but this is one of the lead guys who developed webOS, which has itself a beautifully designed interface.

hardrock1a says:

I was in the Navy for a lot of years, and in the service, forms are all refered to by codes. For instance, the form for submitting info about your dependents is a "page 2", and other forms are called varying things. This guy needs an ID10t (idiot) form.

joex2 says:

The new Android market is a copy of Metro Style.

bt66 says:

Their contacts is now called "People" Their slogan now is a copy of WP7. Damn Android...can't you come up with your own stuff anymore...Quit stealing others ideas & pretend it's yours...

rocketboy says:

I remember reading a very good quote from "About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design" which I'll para-phrase as:No matter how good/cool your user interface is the less people see of it the better.