Microsoft Details Design Inspirations For Windows Phone 8 Start Screen

There's a story behind every champion, and every upstart has a tale to tell as well. While Windows may own the lion's share of the market when it comes to the desktop operating system, Windows Phone is lagging behind two highly capable rivals. But Windows Phone 8 is the most promising version yet, and Microsoft has even taken the time to outline the story behind what makes it so unique: the Start screen.

The core idea is the desire for a Start screen to be more than just static. Microsoft's "Live Tiles" actually present data in real time, so even if you only glance at your Start screen -- without ever opening an app -- you're blasted with information that's useful to you. As the engineering and design teams began to discuss what made the original Start what it was, and in a search to improve further in WP8, a few themes began to creep in. According to Microsoft, the team wanted to squeeze even more Live Tiles onto the Start screen, and it also wanted to make it "more distinctive." Here's a bit of elaboration on that:

"Set a Windows Phone down next to an iPhone or an Android device and one thing you’ll probably notice is how much more empty, or “negative,” space we use. Compared to other smartphones, there are also fewer visual frills like borders, shadows, or glassy reflections. This isn’t an accident. Our goal is a more balanced, uncluttered look that puts the focus on your stuff, not our stuff.

In Windows Phone 8, we wanted to shave away even more user interface “chrome” to make room for your content on Start. So you’ll notice the arrow that formerly pointed to the App list has been relocated, while the column of space (or “gutter” in design speak) down the right side of the screen is also now gone. These changes created room for both more and bigger tiles, so you can see even more of what a loved one has to show or say. I also can’t wait to see what app developers do with this expanded canvas.

That arrow, by the way, was a tricky little guy—and provides some insight into how the software design process typically works.

Initially we figured we could safely remove it. But when we began bringing real people into our usability labs to play with the redesigned Start screen—something we always do as part of the design process to double check our hunches—we saw that quite a few of them weren’t finding the App list, which requires a quick left swipe to see."

The Via link below includes lots more on the thought process behind the decisions, and it's actually quite an interesting read, even if you aren't a WP user.