I am quite excited. There are at least two interesting products that can add something fresh to the GUIs this year. Windows Vista and Office 12. Vista promises to revolutionize the way we will develop UIs, with all new APIs and graphic accelerators support. New Office will bring some completely fresh concepts in controling an application. Many people are looking forward to it, although many are scepticals. Myself – I trust the Microsoft’s research effort.
Vista is supposed to bring fewer changes than it seemed at first and some are unhappy about it. I think the black Glass UI is nice and does not distract user’s attention from the work space, although probably the default theme will be more vivid, or will be easily customizable to satisfy the tastes of the color hungry. The fonts themselves will probably make it a real beautie and some will probably clutter their sidebar with plenty of gadgets. Myself – I will rather stick to my two dozens of shortcuts in the quicklaunch area.
Office 12 will bring the “ribbon”. I think it might become a new standard of interaction styles bringing synergy of toolbars and menus. And even more direct manipulation with the “floatie”. The world seems to start taking full advantage of all GUI concepts at last. It is becoming harder to come up with new and original functionality, so usability and user experience are the things that make a difference.
The recent most important UI breakthroughs for me? Skype with its well designed context menus, Google Earth – the first in its kind and finally AJAX, which will make the web look more like GUI. It is a completely new thing, which shouldn’t be treated as a classical web interface (hence the Web 2.0 term) and rather tries to immitate GUIs. Personally – I would rather make some use of the shdocvw.dll and build these things using a client side program rather than a web browser, which works faster and enables better and more flexible interaction. Obviously some people find it harder to design, although with .NET Windows Forms it is actually easier. Although you limit yourself to a few latest versions of Windows – you don’t have to rely on the browsers compatibility. Maybe with Vista shipped – we will see more interesting attempts here.
Maybe my interests in these areas will finally find some use? We’ll see.
I think it is time to make another UI.