User interface (UI) has changed considerably since .NET hit the scene. When comparing Windows applications to those running on a Macintosh, it was pretty clear that Microsoft development leaned a lot further to the right on the form-function scale. But if you look at products like Windows 7 and “Ribbon” UI that shipped with Office 2007, it is clear that Microsoft is putting quite a bit more thought into user experience than it once did.
Andrew Flick, product unit manager of all line of business tools at Infragistics, says this focus on user experience comes from a rise in metrics-based UIs. Infragistics builds tools that help .NET shops shape the user experience of their applications.
Metrics-based UIs, he said, are where a specialist will study various aspects of how easily a user can execute his or her will through an application.
“This can be something as simple as text boxes looking the same,” said Flick, “to how many clicks does it take to get from point A to point B.” For instance in the MS Office Ribbon UI, most standard actions take a user only two clicks. By the time Office 2007 came around, Flick said, Microsoft probably realized the program had pretty much all of the tools it needed, but people would have trouble finding them.
Probably the most interesting technology Microsoft has released in recent years, from a UI perspective, is the Microsoft Surface. In the realm of touch computing, single touch has been the standard while a few companies have begun releasing multi-touch products, where the number of fingers on a control surface decides the action performed. The Surface, while not widely deployed just yet, uses multi-user-multi-touch computing.
This general rise in consideration for the user experience is where Infragistics has staked its business. Last month the company announced Quince Pro, a new SaaS product for collaborating user experience patterns across teams. Developers can use Quince Pro to create libraries of documented UI patterns accessed through Silverlight 3-based collaboration tools. The product is available on a trial basis and the company says it will be released at the end of Q1.