With months to go, what Microsoft still did not fix in Windows 10 mobile

windows-10-mobile-17 A few days ago, Microsoft released a new Windows 10 mobile build to Windows insiders. It is a good build; quite usable and ready to be on a daily driver device. It is far from finished, though. Of course there are bugs – some more and some less disturbing – but that should be clear to everyone who wants to install the preview. There is one thing, however, which makes me a little worried, and it is the design. The last updates only included minor design changes. That might be a sign that the design language is mostly finished already and only tweaks need to be made, but… What design language? The software – still – is full of inconsistency, and I am not talking about the hamburger menu. In fact, the way the hamburger menu is implementedin the MSN apps is a great way to make use of it. It is very usable and the hamburger menu needs to be accessed only sometimes but not often. Navigating through these apps is easy to understand and fluent. There are pivots for all the sections and the hamburger menu for all the different sites inside the app. Thanks to the option to bring down the upper half of the screen with a long press on the windows button, the hamburger button can even be accessed with one hand only even on a Lumia 1520. I found the workflow to be very smooth. However, the design is very inconsistent across the whole OS. The MSN apps are a great example of how it should be, but the rest is not. Let’s start with some minor things first. (First of all, let’s clarify something for our readers who are not that technophile: The hamburger button is what you press to access the hamburger menu.)

  • Sometimes the pivots are in capital letters (like in the people app) and sometimes they are not (like in the MSN apps); sometimes the pivots have icons, sometimes they are text only
  • Why do the Office apps have different context menus than the rest of the operating system?
  • The alphabet draw to quickly jump to a certain letter in a long list is always different
  • Sometimes the animation of the hamburger menu slides the content to the right and sometimes it slides to be above the content, hiding it
  • Copy and paste: Sometimes I need to double tap to select a word and press and hold to copy or paste, and then I need to simply tap and press the copy button on the keyboard
These are things which I found to be weird but not disturbing. Much worse, however, is the fact that the settings button is very random! Sometimes it is hidden in the hamburger, then either on top or at the bottom, in old apps it is inside the ellipsis menu and in new apps without hamburger it is also inside the ellipsis menu. Way too often I was just searching for the settings button in all kinds of pages of an app, often having to look for quite a long time to find it. Now that I use these apps every day I rarely have to access it and when I have to, I know where it is, but especially for new users this can be very annoying and confusing. Let’s stay with the hamburger menu for now. Often, when pivots would be a much better solution, the hamburger is used, like in the pictures or in the music apps. Then there are also apps, like named MSN apps or Cortana, which make a good use of the hamburger button. Microsoft really needs to find a consistent way to use them. Really weird is the fact, that the desktop version of the Windows store uses pivots, but the mobile version has a hamburger. The other way around would make a lot more sense.

Good - Pivots and hamburger menu
Good – hamburger menu and…
Bad - only hamburger
Bad – only hamburger menu; here pivots would make sense

Additionally, the hamburger behavior in landscape is very random as well. Some apps go full screen (the notification bar with the time, battery status etc. is hidden) and display either a small bar with the sections of the hamburger menu as icons (the button only needs to be pressed to see the details of these icons) or the full menu. They make use of the rest of the screen to display a separated view of the content, e.g. all the emails on the left and the opened email on the right for the mail app. Then there are apps which do a very similar thing, but without hiding the notification bar. Lastly, there are also apps which do none of these things. They simply turn around but the hamburger button still has to be pressed to navigate through the pages and the content is not separated. Of course it does not always make sense to separate the content but the hamburger menu should always expand when the phone is in landscape mode. The email and MSN apps are an example of how it should be done, whereas the music and store applications are an example of how it should not. Oh, and some apps do not support the landscape view at all (e.g. the Xbox app).

Good - small expanded menu on the left and seperated content
Good – small expanded menu on the left and seperated content; app is fullscreen
Good - full screen and small expanded hamburger menu on the left...
Good – full screen and small expanded hamburger menu on the left; …
...needs to be expanded only to see the details
…hamburger button needs to be pressed for details only; app is fullscreen
Okay - not fullscreen but seperated view
Okay – not fullscreen but seperated view
Bad - no advantage over portrait view
Bad – no advantage over portrait view: Seperated content would not make sense but the hamburger menu could be expanded

Let’s get to the navigation bar now. In the very beginning of the windows insiders program for Windows 10 mobile it was often criticized that it is on the top of the screen instead of on the bottom. Microsoft did some huge steps forward here and fixed a lot, for example the navigation bar of Microsoft Edge now is on the bottom, just as in the mail and calendar apps. However, it is still far from perfect. First, the search button has gotten a quite consistent placement (yey!) on the top (booo!). Of course it is better to have it always in the same spot, but the top is a very unsatisfying placement for me. Holding the Windows key makes it easy to access the upper edge of the screen with one hand quite easily, but in my honest opinion it is still a very weird placement of the search button. Anyhow, a lot worse is the fact that still not all buttons are on the bottom. In the Xbox app for example all the important navigation buttons are still on the top. Navigation bar top That is everything I found so far. Of course the software is not finished yet and a lot of things might still change, Microsoft even said that they are considering several design tweaks and that it is not finished yet. The thing that worries me, however, is that there was no progress over a quite long time now and the release is coming closer and closer every minute. If Microsoft wants to get back in the race, they have to deliver a high quality product, which it so far is not. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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