Designing Windows Phone 8

We sat down with Albert Shum, the general manager of Windows Phone studio design at Microsoft, to find out how the OS was designed

Page 1 of 2Designing Windows Phone 8

Whatever your thoughts might be on Windows Phone 8, there's no denying that its Live Tile interface is completely different from that used on other mobile OS. Launched with Windows Phone 7, this interface has also become the basis of Microsoft's biggest products, the Xbox 360 and Windows 8. We sat down with Albert Shum, the general manager of Windows Phone studio design at Microsoft to talk about the new OS and the design changes.


When you first look at Windows Phone 8, it looks incredibly similar to the previous version. From our point of view, this was the right decision, as the slick interface is incredibly easy to use and provides helpful status updates from apps via the Live Tiles. For Windows Phone 8, then, it was more about taking the hard work that was done before and improving it.

"With the new Start experience we wanted to make it more customisable," said Shum. "We tried to make it more useful."

Part of this came from giving a wider choice of Live Tile size, with three choices of size. The small tiles are well suited to apps that don't need live updates, such as shortcut to settings, while the two other sizes are better for live information. The extra tile spaces are also there, as Shum explained, to give "more space".

Designing Windows Phone 8

The new Start experience was about fitting more on the screen and making it more customisable


Key to the whole Windows Phone 8 experience are Live Tiles, which show you up-to-date information from the related apps. To make the most of the OS, it's important that all of the apps can use this system and give users a reason to pin them to their Start Screens. To this end, it was important for Microsoft to make it easy for app developers to use Live Tiles, or as Microsoft calls it, making apps 'more live'.

"We added more features, so developers can integrate their apps and make them feel more live," said Shum.

Microsoft also ran workshops with developers to explain how its system works. While most smartphone platforms simply have one type of flat user interface with icons, Windows Phone 8 is a little different and has two design frameworks, Pivots and Panoramas.

Pivots give users a quick way of filtering information, quickly moving between different views or pages. For example, when viewing email, you can Pivot to an Unread Mail view.

Designing Windows Phone 8 Pivot

Pivots are a quick way to filter information

Panoramas are like a giant canvas and let developers show a lot more on screen. For example, the Store is a Panorama where you can move to different groups of app, such as Games, Office and so on.

Designing Windows Phone 8 panorama

Panoramas let developers put a lot of information on screen and make it easy for users to scroll round

Microsoft believes that its way of doing things, makes it simpler to put more information on screen and, crucially, to show just the information that's important at that particular point in time.

"What's tough about apps at the present is that there's so much info to present," said Shum. "The best UI presents what you need."

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