BT

Visual Studio 11: New Shades of Grey Have Developers Seeing Red

by Jeff Martin on Feb 27, 2012 |

As part of the recent Visual Studio 11 Beta announcement, Microsoft released details and images of the newly redesigned user interface that will be a part of VS11. Presenting a new interface based on a gray-scale palette that also incorporates a redesign of the familiar toolbar icons used in previous versions of Visual Studio, the new look has quickly generated intense controversy.

Visual Studio 11's new User Interface

Monty Hammontree, Director of User Experience in Microsoft's Developer Tools Division, provided an introduction to the new VS11 on his blog. The new style bears little resemblance to VS 2010, the Metro interface coming in Windows 8, or the ribbon-style toolbars utilized by Microsoft Office. Hammontree explained that his team identified three main hurdles to developer efficiency:

  1. Coping with tool overload
  2. Comprehending and navigating complex codebases and related artifacts
  3. Dealing with large numbers of documents

These items hurdles were based on research conducted both inside and outside Microsoft. Interestingly, Hammontree references a paper of an outside study that uses Eclipse as one example of the problems his team is trying to solve. While the palette and graphical design changes are only part of the solution devised by his team, they are the area generating the most controversy amongst the developer community. Hammontree explains the rationale behind the color reduction as follows:

Allowing for the use of color within content to take center stage is increasing in importance as developers target Metro style clients such as Xbox, Windows Phone 7, and Windows 8. In targeting these platforms developers are creating user experiences that involve the use of bolder and more vibrant colors. These color palettes showcase much more effectively in a more monochromatic tool setting.

Despite the research and well-intentioned explanation provided by Hammontree, developers have been quick to voice their opinion of the upcoming changes. Over 600 developers to date have provided their feedback to date-- to put this in perspective, a cursory review of the Visual Studio blog shows that the typical post receives a number of comments in the low double-digits. The Visual Studio section on Microsoft's User Voice website has seen an entry related to the color-change enter the top ten in popularity after only 4 days.

To Microsoft's credit, they have provided an updated message asking for developers to continue providing feedback and state they are reading all comments- both good and bad. Developers interested in the new appearance should make sure that they provide their feedback to Microsoft as they explore the VS11 Beta that is launching Wednesday, February 29.

 

Hello stranger!

You need to Register an InfoQ account or or login to post comments. But there's so much more behind being registered.

Get the most out of the InfoQ experience.

Tell us what you think

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p

Email me replies to any of my messages in this thread

use of color within content to take center stage by William Louth

We re-designed our management console early last year with such concerns in mind and it has been proven to be very successful though we did add some light shades of blue.

www.jinspired.com/solutions/gallery

Not consistent with the rest of Windows by JOHN W

While I can appreciate how less can be more, the inconsistency at Microsoft is revealing. Windows Explorer gets the ribbon and colorful icons and at the same time Visual Studio goes the other direction and opts for glyphs and a Mac-like approach.

Re: Not consistent with the rest of Windows by Joshua Ewer

Regardless of my opinion of the new UX, I don't know if your argument is all that valid. Windows Explorer's audience is, well, everyone. Visual Studio targets an extremely specific technical audience. Extremely different *user* base, so why couldn't the *user* experience be completely different between the two?

Developers Designing Experiences in VS? by Steven Pena

Hammontree's statement of "Allowing for the use of color within content to take center stage is increasing in importance as developers target Metro style clients such as Xbox, Windows Phone 7, and Windows 8. In targeting these platforms developers are creating user experiences that involve the use of bolder and more vibrant colors. These color palettes showcase much more effectively in a more monochromatic tool setting." has too many assumptions baked in.

I have yet to come across *developers* *designing* anything in VS or "creating experiences". After 14 years in the industry I haven't seen any shift in the production workflow: designers designing something in Adobe tools (Illustrator, Fireworks, Photoshop) and handing off design assets for development. And user experiences are not created in a development tool. It's as if he believes that designers and developers are the same person and that VS will be the sole tool to use in that production workflow.

There are a few UX individuals who understand code and development and excel using something like Blend (which is already monochromatic and supports Hammontree's statement). But there is already a tool like that to focus on designers - let that be the tool. Developers dragging and dropping from a toolbox aren't really designing. Nor are they designing anything if they are developing towards a comp. As a designer and developer myself, I don't want an development IDE muddied with concerns around design. Let tools be focused on the task at hand. I'll continue to use my Adobe tools, pull them into Blend to fine tune the translation of design assets to XAML and deal with animations and state transitions and all beauty that is in Blend. Then I'll use VS for code development.

Re: Not consistent with the rest of Windows by JOHN W

I agree that developers use a UI somewhat differently than other users, such as they're more likely to use keyboard shortcuts, but it's irrelevant to this discussion. There's nothing specific about programmers that makes glyphs and color reduction more applicable to a developer tool.

In the blog post, the Visual Studio team says that the choices being made are "thoughtful reductions" to the problem of tool overload. If tool overload is a problem in Visual Studio, then it's an outright nightmare in the Office products. But you don't see the Office team doing "thoughtful reductions". (maybe they should)

If there is a UI best practice that Microsoft believes in, then it seems logical to me that it would be applied everywhere and different UX engineers on different teams wouldn't be allowed to come up with their own choices in isolation.

And if Visual Studio 2016 comes out and the glyphs are gone and replaced by the ribbon, because CEO Sinofsky says so, I won't be surprised.

Just got working with VS11 Beta by Faisal Waris

I like the 'Black' theme not the default 'Gray' one.

VS now looks like an old 3270 terminal but it seems easier on the eyes - less fatiguing. I don't miss color that much although I had thought that I would.

I think the key is "multiple themes". Today there are only gray and black but in future color themes may be added.

Does colour really matter by Rob Addis

Whatever the colour I think Visual Studio 10 has a massive amount of legacy code for backward compatability which if you're writing VS add-ins, wizards or templates makes the developing for the environment absolutely 'orrible. Saying that you can achieve most of what you want. But I'd like them to throw away or the backward compatability stuff and start fresh and for god sakes get XAML out of the Visual Studio code base. VS takes ages to load the XAML UI development envrionment. The hurdles they have identified tackling are worthwhile ones.

Re: Developers Designing Experiences in VS? by David Czereszka

Your experience may not be the norm. I have worked at over 10 companies (huge, large, medium and small) in 5 different states in the US. I have never been in a situation where designers hand something off to developers. Developers had to do it all. I have built enterprise applications and commercial software. I only got luckily during one consulting job where I lead a team and we had a very young developer who also happened to be an artist. He was an amazing GUI guy. But that was more of an accident then planned.

Bringing more design ability into Visual Studio would be very welcome. I find tools like Illustrator and Photoshop to be overly confusing, especially when it comes to simple things like making an image with a transparent background. It was much easier inside Blend. But I would be jumping for joy if they ever added that ability to VS. I would never need to use Blend.

I envy you thou. You must have created some very pleasant looking software. Currently, I'm mostly making enterprise software at my company, so I just copy the look of SharePoint. Since that is what our intranet is based on. Easy enough.

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p

Email me replies to any of my messages in this thread

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p

Email me replies to any of my messages in this thread

8 Discuss

Educational Content

General Feedback
Bugs
Advertising
Editorial
InfoQ.com and all content copyright © 2006-2014 C4Media Inc. InfoQ.com hosted at Contegix, the best ISP we've ever worked with.
Privacy policy
BT