Microsoft revealed a lot this week at its annual Build developer conference. But to get a better sense of how the company wants to tie all its various apps, platforms, products, services, and devices together, look no further than the newly unveiled Microsoft Fluent Design System.

These design guidelines are supposed to be an evolution of the company’s Metro/Modern UI design language, offering rules for software running on Windows 10. Microsoft says its goal is to help developers build more engaging apps and experiences that work across a variety of devices and inputs, especially as the company moves towards augmented and virtual reality.

Fluent has five elements:

  • Light: Draws your attention, or guides you through an experience
  • Depth: Helps you understand how things relate to one another
  • Motion: Establishes context, shows how different pieces of content are related
  • Material: Adds physicality and texture, maybe even skeuomorphism
  • Scale: Consider and create for 2D and 3D, instead of just the former.

This is — let’s just say it — boring. Microsoft’s promo video tries to get us psyched, but I just can’t be bothered. This is just more of the same, and yet, that is exactly why I’m looking forward to Fluent.


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Here’s the thing: When it comes to redesigning an operating system used by 500 million people and counting, changes should be iterative.

Microsoft says only some Fluent elements will be found in the Windows 10 Creators Update, as the system was (and perhaps is) still being developed. When the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update ships later this year, likely in September, the transition to Fluent won’t yet be complete.

But I won’t be surprised if Microsoft never declares Windows 10 wholly Fluent; the company has not given a target date, saying instead that the transition is a long-term project. “It’s going to be a journey,” said Aaron Woodman, a senior marketing director at Microsoft.

Microsoft is treading lightly here. Fluent looks evolutionary, not revolutionary, and that’s good. Reactions from users should be “oooh, shiny!” — not “uh, how does this work?” and “WTF has Microsoft done?”

I don’t want another Windows 8.

ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.

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