Chris Shepherd

The Design of the New Bing Apps for Windows Phone

I managed to get hold of the new Bing apps for Windows Phone 8 this morning. At first glance they seem like simple ports of the Windows 8 versions but I think there are some differences that signal a shift in direction for Windows Phone.

First off, I consider Windows 8 to be Metro 2.0 as I think it builds on what shipped with the first few versions of Windows Phone and corrects some mistakes. It's much less stark due to the use of more imagery and less restrictive styling. It also abandons the concept of light and dark themes in apps along with accent colours. This has encouraged a lot more variation and experimentation in the styling of apps.

Whilst the dark and light themes along with accent colours may have seemed like a good idea when Windows Phone was first introduced I think it has done a lot more harm than good. It has made developers think it's OK to just stick with the defaults and think everything looks fine. Although, most app developers don't even bother to line up the margins on the left-hand side of the page so maybe they don't even care? But, even if developers want to break the mold and go with a custom theme the platform doesn't exactly make it easy. It is possible to replace some of the colours using something like Jeff Wilcox's ThemeManager but it's still a frustrating process when it comes to Application Bars and the like as the built-in themes are so prevalent.

So it was refreshing to see the Bing apps completely eschew the custom themes and bring over the themes and branding from Windows 8. There were also modifications made to the pivots to give them smaller headings and allow for more content. I think this is a welcome change too as they always did seem a bit big to me.

There's been a lot of heat directed at Microsoft recently about the lack of a major update this year for Windows Phone. I believe there is another massive rewrite underway to move the UI/UX of Windows Phone a lot closer to Windows 8 and I think this is the first inkling of that. I expect we'll see an end to the dark and light themes in favour of an experience like Windows 8.1 where a user can customise their Start screen with a pattern/image and colours. However, apps will be free to completely customise their colours without restraint.

There are also other parts to Windows 8 that, if they were carried over to Windows Phone 8, would change it for the better. However, I'll cover my thoughts there another time.