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

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.


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