Tag Archives: Microsoft

UX: Flat Design

I’ve grown to become quite opinionated about the recent Flat Design trend. Ironically at this time of writing my blog is using a rather flat design, however it still uses borders, dividers, and background colors which as you will see many flat designs ignore or drop.

Gripe with Flat Design

Microsoft chose grey on light grey on white with their new flat design in MS Office 2013. This is very hard on the eyes and makes finding sections / ideas in the UI take a bit of studying to understand. I won’t even go into Windows 8 start screen or new desktop UI which both have other issues. Apple in iOS7 appears to be choosing border-less white divs with section breaks just being a larger padding between items. There is little to no affordance.

If these are the leaders, I’m concerned.

Some are using Flat Design well

However, in my opinion some companies are pulling off flat design well. For instance AVG 2013, they chose very intuitive layout that makes the UI simple and understandable, I don’t use the product, but I would trust my grandma to run it. Other fine examples are the games OLO, Letterpress – check them out.

Some companies are going for a Almost Flat Design, which I can agree is a good compromise, making things a bit more intuitive and have substance. Examples include LinkedIn app, Google products, Facebook. And now with Google announcing Material Design that becomes even more clear.

What I’m saying?

It’s not about emulating the ‘real world’ as it is giving items a sense of sections, and layers. First sections, A menu bar or sidebar ought to look separate from the content. More specifically, static vs. dynamic content ought to be separate. Second layers, if a menu has a drop down that is going to cover content, there ought to be (even a subtle) hint/shadow that is is currently above the content and has a border to visually show its identity. Users will intuitively know there is content under it and not mistake it being part of the content. And not to say ‘Real world’ is what I’m suggesting, if I were then I would want SPST Push Button or NTE 54-533 Switch Rocker.

Where are we heading?

I could dig in further with some closer examples, but I feel User Experience seems unfortunately been¬†placed on the side in many flat design cases. It seems we are in a UI counter-culture mood swing from our overdose on 3D buttons, and huge drop shadows. I get it. We just have to be careful to consider usability, intuitiveness, learnability, human errors, and other UX items. Maybe it is just poor flat design that I’m not a fan of or haven’t given it a full chance, but I’m concerned.

Thankfully with Google talking about Material Design, perhaps we can start to head in a smarter direction.

Tip: Windows Alt+Tab Order

The revised Windows 7 and Windows 8 Alt+Tab has been bugging me for a couple years now. The Alt+Tab order is (or seems to be) ordered completely randomly. This prevents quickly ALt+Tab switching between two programs.

I finally took the time to find the the fix, Add the following DWORD key to the registry: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\AltTabSettings = 1

This enables the old Alt+Tab behavior. It does remove Aero Peak and thumbnails of each app unfortunately. It’s better to have something functional than shiny.

Note: I noticed a pattern, when you minimize a window, that window goes to the last in the order. I suppose the logic presumed is that you are wanting that application out of the way if you are minimizing it.

Source: SuperUser.com – Getting back the old alt-tab windows switching behavior in Windows 7?

Grouping Mailboxes with PowerShell

Here is a snip-it of PowerShell Code I am using to group and count the number of mailboxes on an Microsoft Exchange Server 2008 using CustomAttribute1.

On our server we have a unique ID stored in the CustomAttribute1 for mailboxes that belong to different groupings. For example in the CustomAttribute1 we store the company ID, in CustomAttribute2 we may store the service level they pay for. We found the need to keep a count of the number of mailboxes belonging to different companies.

$CountMembers = @{}
Get-Mailbox | foreach-object {$CountMembers[$_.CustomAttribute1]++}

Naturally from here we can append the | Out-File Report.txt¬†to save to a txt file. Ideally I would like to export to a csv, however this data format doesn’t support that. I may look further into this in the future.

We can use this method to group mailboxes by any common attribute actually. Say the count the number of mailboxes on each database using $_.Database