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Vista UX details starting to arrive

As part of Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference 2005, the company has released more information on how to design user experiences for Windows Vista. I was the UX architect on Vista for a number of years, so it's good to see this information finally starting to coming into the light of day.

(As it turns out, Microsoft has created a remarkably poor user experience for reading their guidelines on user experience. You have to go to a section on Microsoft's MSDN developers site for the Windows Vista UX Guidelines. You need to go through some Windows verification foolishness, although I'm baffled why it matters what platform you're using to read the guidelines. You then need to download a ZIP file. This ZIP file turns out to contain... wait for it... a copy of a web site that describes how to design good user experiences. Oh, the irony. The byzantine reasons behind Microsoft's web site production process are not worth delving into. Let's just say I'm glad I now work at a tiny startup.)

Some of the Vista work I'm most excited to see deals with an effort to bring clarity to muddled dialog boxes and wizard pages. Vista offers OS support for a new "task dialog" style. This style—and the accompanying guidelines—call out a dialog's main question or instruction as a single sentence in clear, natural language. (The blurry example JPEG images below come straight from the guidelines; too bad they didn't offer lossless PNGs.)


This same task style is reflected in the new standard wizard template:


This wizard style is, in fact, an operating system feature designed specifically to make every piece of text count. Gone are the big pointless graphics that took up a third of the page, and a single piece of instruction text replaces the old stack of redundant headings. Hallelujah. It's gratifying to see the evolution of direct OS support for the inductive UI style I developed way back in the late 90s for Microsoft Money.

Some Vista UX guidelines are specific to Vista development, but many of them make just as much sense for products that ship on Windows XP, OS/X, or Linux. Worth a look.