I think what a lot of people loved about Metro was that it was a defensible design language. It combined rules, structure, typography and physics in a cohesive way that you could follow. I was a huge Mac guy, and Metro blew me away. So much so that I abandoned popular mobile platforms for Windows Phone. Overnight I became a Windows Phone fan boy.
I think what’s happening with Windows 10 is probably a needed step, but it’s not quite hitting the mark. Microsoft is right in thinking that most people found Windows Phone confusing, but they seem to be missing the reasons why. They also seem to be lacking the unified design model. As a person that wants Microsoft to succeed, that makes me sad.
Windows Phone didn’t fail because pivot navigation models were a bad idea. It didn’t fail because menu items were tucked in an app bar instead of a hamburger. If anything, App Bars were ahead of the times. App Bars are so 4+ inch screen friendly. Every time I have to move my thumb to the top of a screen on my iPhone (yup, I had to give up on WP) I want to punch a wall. The same can be said about going “back” in the app stack.
As Windows Phone users, we have all been there before; you want to show someone something on your phone and you hand it to them. POOF, that cute photo of your dog is gone. They accidentally hit hardware back or search. If a person’s very first interaction with the phone is this, how likely do you think they will want to try that phone as their own? From a UX standpoint, these are the things that helped sink Windows Phone.
But I don’t think these are what sunk Windows Phone, and it seems MS is hell bent on trying to solve the wrong problems. I do think Microsoft is in a tough spot. Sit and do nothing and your platform doesn’t grow. Change things and lose your most loyal fanbase.
Moving to a unified development model (again) is a great step in the right direction. In fact, it’s probably the one of the only things they can do at this point. They tried to build a better platform and devs didn’t show up. They tried to pay devs and they didn’t stick around. Now they are coming at devs with another pitch of Universal apps. But this time the apps also work on desktop, for real this time. But what else can they do? That helps entice devs, but what about users?
If Apple has proven anything, it’s that mindshare happens in the US. Sex appeal happens in the US. Apple has also proven that if you go after the 80% person, you are far more likely to move product. Say what you want about the 1530, the 1020, and even the Icon, but they were all niche devices. Going after niche markets doesn’t seem like the brightest idea when you are struggling to find market share. That’s why devices like the 920 and even 900 did so well… they were more of a 80% device. If you want a great every day phone that can fit in your pocket, you’re kind of screwed if you want Windows Phone.