Albert Shum

MIX10 Thoughts: Design, Windows Phone and Bill Buxton

by Joey deVilla on March 23, 2010

Joey deVilla and Bill Buxton posing on the dance floor at LAX nightclub in Las VegasMe and Bill Buxton at the MIX10 Attendee Party last Tuesday night.

There’s one reason I’m particularly excited about Windows Phone 7 Series. The radically reworked look and feel is the surest sign that the company is really beginning to understand design and is willing to start from scratch (a risky and pricey proposition) to get it right. It would appear from Microsoft’s Principal Researcher Bill Buxton’s interview in The Register that I’m not the only one who thinks this:

"We kinda changed the water that we drink, in the sense that all through the design community within the company we talk, and we have a common goal in terms of trying to bring a certain change of sensibility," he said.

"For me it’s not even about the phone, but what’s interesting is that it’s the first product in the company with critical mass that’s embraced this … it will have an impact on other parts of the company."

If (or better still, when) you start building Windows Phone applications – or hey, any kind of application — I hope that you’ll follow the spirit of “Metro” (the codename for the design philosophy behind Windows Phone 7) and keep it in mind. Yes, it’s absolutely important to know the Silverlight and XNA APIs as well as how to read the touch sensors, GPS, accelerometers and so on, but it’s just as important to design your applications around the people who’ll use them. That means understanding your users, how they’ll use what you’re making, knowing how to give them what they need as quickly and unobtrusively as possible and delighting them. Yes, “a pretty interface” is included in all that – and there’s research to suggest that beautiful interfaces work better –but looks are merely part of the design equation.

Some Design Sessions from MIX10

Want some interesting lunchtime viewing on design? Look no farther than these two videos.

The first is Bill Buxton’s MIX10 session, simply titled An Hour with Bill Buxton, a conversation about design:

Get Microsoft Silverlight
Don’t have Silverlight? Get it here or download the video in
WMV, WMV (High) or MP4 format.

If you haven’t the time to watch the video of Buxton’s presentation, check out this hit list of metaphors complied by Sharon Chan at Microsoft Pri0.

If you’re planning on getting into Windows Phone 7 design, you’re going to want to learn the “design language” – not a programming language, but the guiding principles and philosophies behind the new user experience – behind it. Here’s the MIX10 presentation on that topic, Designing Windows Phone 7 Series with Albert Shum, Michael Smuga and Chad Roberts:

Get Microsoft Silverlight
Don’t have Silverlight? Get it here or download the video in
WMV, WMV (High) or MP4 format.

A World Without Design

Here’s a little something extra for those of you who like to think about design and user experience:

"A World Without Design": The same rock, described as a hammer, doorstop, paperweight and so on.

I whipped up this graphic, modelling it after a poster I remember seeing many years ago. I can’t remember what it was for – a museum, art gallery or exhibit, perhaps? – but I remember thinking that it was right on the money. If you remember the original poster and what it was for, please let me know, either via email or the comments!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Albert Shum on Windows Phone 7

by Joey deVilla on February 17, 2010

Albert Shum

"Counting Down to Seven" badgeWhenever Microsoft needs to make a radical change in the way they do things, they bring in a hip Asian guy. That’s why they’ve got me shaking things up on Microsoft Canada’s Tech Evangelism Team, and it’s also why Albert Shum is redefining the way Microsoft does mobile phones in his role as the Director of Microsoft’s Mobile Experience Design Team. True to my earlier statement that Canadian techies have been punching well above their weight class since Alexander Graham Bell, Albert studied engineering and architecture at the University of Waterloo.

Here’s a video featuring Albert talking about the design philosophies behind the completely reworked from-the-ground-up Windows Phone 7. It’s featured in the Microsoft News Centre article Windows Phone Designer Seeks the Right Balance.

I like what he says at the end of the video:

What will our users see first? I think hopefully they’ll see themselves in the phone. I think that’s a really key part of how we designed it. It’s really focused on making this phone your phone. We took the idea of making it personal, so that when you look at the start experience, it’s about your content. It’s about your people, it’s your pictures, it’s your music, it’s presented way up there.

My phone is going to be different than your phone, and I think that’s a really key part: that personalized way of navigating the thing that you care about, the things that you want to share, the things you want to listen to, and those are the key moments where we first present that it’s your phone.

If you’re thinking up ideas for applications to write for Windows Phone, keep what Albert says in mind: it’s not about feature lists; it’s all about the user and the user experience.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.