February 28, 2013
This post is not so much about Sitecore, but rather focuses on how Microsoft has gone back to a very utilitarian look with their most recent set of applications. Sitecore has traditionally followed Microsoft's lead on "user-experience" and ease-of-use, which leads me to wonder, will Sitecore again follow suit?
Windows 8 is not much different from its predecessor except for the Metro UI. I don't know at this point if there is a place for that in the Sitecore Desktop but it will probably try to leverage it to some extent. Remember the days when Sitecore didn't use ribbons? Microsoft came out with them and it was a big hit. So, Sitecore redesigned its interface to use ribbons as well. In terms of Sitecore's usefullness, it was one of the best UI features because we can now easily group and give access to specific functionality of the CMS based on roles. I'm sure it was somehow possible before, but having the ribbons made it much easier and cleaner.
I know that Sitecore is redoing most of its UIs to use SPEAK (Sitecore Process Enablement and Acceleration Kit). See Peter Iuvara's discussion on Sitecore's roadmap at http://peteiuvara.com/2012/11/15/sitecore-cms-roadmap-2013 to get an overview of SPEAK and other cool features. This new technology doesn't really tell us what the look and feel is going to be, so I'm not sure if there's anything behind the scenes that mimic anything that Microsoft is doing.
I haven't really mentioned what my gripes are...not on Sitecore but on the new Microsoft UIs. Here are some of the things I've noticed since playing with Windows 8 and Microsoft Office:
- No Start button: Yes, it's by design that the new Start button is the Metro UI...but it's hard to get used to if you don't have a touch display or a touch mouse. Most people use the Search function instead.
- Microsoft Office 2013 limits us to three (3) themes: Guess what they are called --> white, light gray, and dark gray; without an image it's hard to explain that it's painful to the eyes; not a lot of contrast; I've read many forum posts and there doesn't seem to be a way to add new themes; one cool thing though is that you can have spirals or clouds on the frame areas of your Office windows...wow! Most posts I've read have complained about how hard it is on the eyes and I can attest to that.
- Flat and Plain: I do somewhat like the flat and plain approach that you see in the Metro UI and Microsoft sites, but that shouldn't dictate the colors. Seeing the sites and Metro UI, they have nice colors allowing for better contrast and a modern look; with the "squarish" look of the new Windows and Office applications, making the icons be "more monochrome" makes it hard to notice them, and, when you actually do see colors they are muted and not the vibrant colors you used to see.
Those are just some of my observations that I'm still trying to get used to. I know people who switched back to Windows 7 and Office 2010. But, as a technologist, I trust Microsoft on their decision here although the "getting used to" will take a while. It's not all that bad, I just have to adjust my eyes and my instincts for that matter.
In the case of Sitecore, I do hope that if there is any major "redesign" of the interfaces that they put a lot of effort on not just the functionality but also the look and feel. It really does make a difference for business users to gauge its ease-of-use. It's one of the best traits of Sitecore and with many people not really adopting the new Microsoft way immediately, let's not rush into moving towards that direction yet.
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