Windows 7 user experience guidelines and Messenger
One aspect of software development that I’m quite keen about is user interface design (or user experience depending on who you’re talking to). The art of designing an interface which is both intuitive to new users, powerful and familiar to experienced users, but yet still maintains a clean look varies from difficult to downright impossible. Microsoft publishes user experience guidelines for Windows to maintain application consistency and to [try to] keep developers as sane as possible. I’ve always enjoyed reading through the guidelines, not just for educational purposes but because they frequently use Messenger to show the “incorrect” interface implementations.
Lucky for us, they didn’t fail to disappoint in the Windows 7 version of the guidelines. Suspiciously the name Jonathan is used in a majority of these screenshots, but I promise it’s not me! Please note that these images are mainly mock-ups and will never be seen in the actual Messenger application.
Take this example of using Windows 7’s thumbnail toolbars incorrectly. If this were real, it would certainly be a bit difficult to find and unnecessary. However, being able to sign into another account in this way would be nice:
Another incorrect example using the same button to represent some sort of ‘Remember me’ feature:
Thumbnail toolbars are supposed to be instant, one-click affairs and this example shows that being implemented incorrectly with a menu right above:
This shows the correct way Messenger uses an overlay icon on the new taskbar to show your current status:
…and this shows the wrong way:
Mind you, if the icon changed to this on my birthday, I wouldn’t complain.
The mail icon here is noted as being for “chat”, but I suspect Joe (I guess it was Jonathan’s day off) would think otherwise:
The options screen gets an appearance as an example of the correct reasoning to use vertical tabs:
Here’s a balloon I’m sure most people have seen before. This is an example of an incorrect warning notification as it serves little purpose besides to worry and distract the user:
Messenger even makes a star appearance with the correct example of several other dialogs:
According to the guidelines you are not to put your own controls (buttons) in the window frame, but instead leave them in the application window itself. This is an example of it being done incorrectly:
An old version of the Live Messenger setup is used to show the correct way of allowing users to opt-in. Sadly none of these options exist in the latest installer: