Overcoming the New Visual Studio UI


In a blog post last week, Monty Hammontree, the Director of User Experience for Visual Studio, announced the UI refresh for Visual Studio. This is a project that I had some involvement in (mostly as a reviewer) while still at Microsoft, and have been waiting patiently for this announcement so that I could talk about it.

iconRefreshPersonally I love the new UI. Sure, its not perfect, but it is a huge improvement over where Visual Studio has been for the past ten years. What is surprising to me is the amount of negative reaction the blog post has gotten. Some of my favorite comments from the blog post are:

Okay, i get wanting to reduce distraction and “lighten” the UIs feel… but GEEZ! Why do good ideas always get taken too far? This UI is SO bland and SO dead, I’d be afraid of it putting me to sleep on the job as opposed to reducing distractions. ICH! – Aaron – 23 Feb 2012 10:20 AM

Is it a desktop app?  Is it a metro app?  Decide and stop mangling the two UIs together.  The capitalized titles hurt my eyes.  They’re distracting and out of place. – Mike – 23 Feb 2012 10:26 AM

…While I do like introducing simplicity, I won’t be installing this if there is no option to replace these very low contrast lay-outs. And I’m pretty sure other people will don’t want to upgrade to this either, which will cost you some Metro developers in the long term… – Tom Wijsman – 23 Feb 2012 10:31 AM

Windows 3.1 is back? – Andrey – 23 Feb 2012 10:52 AM

The monochromatic color scheme is so bad it is distracting.  Instead of staying out of the way, my eyes are drawn to just how bad it really is…It is so bad and so distracting that a new word should be created to describe how bad and distracting it is…like baddistracting or bastracting.  The monochromatic scheme is bastracting and should be stopped. – jparramore – 23 Feb 2012 11:38 AM

Anyway, you get the point. There is a lot of negative reaction to the new UI. But is the new UI really that bad. Is it possible that it is actually a significant improvement, and we, the develoeprs who use and love Visual Studio, are just not ready to accept change?

A Bit on Metro

The Metro design echoes the visual language of an airport or metro system signage in both its design and typeface. The goal of the Metro design style is to create contextual relevance through content – primarily icons. Icons should be clear and understandable, and leverage real-world metaphors that are familiar to users. They should have simple geometry and limit the amount of fine detail.

Simplicity is the key. Every icon should be as simple as it can be (and no simpler). The primary purpose of the action the icon enables should be clearly and cleanly represented by the icon.

420.xamlLook all around your life and you will find these icons. They are not only on airport and metro signs, they are on your electronics, your clothing tags, and the dashboard of your car. You are so used to seeing Metro style icons, that you have developed an ability to quickly understand instructions and information based on a simple icon.

Metro style’s main goal is to make understanding information and instructions at a glance easy. The challenge is always balancing what you need to know with how much you can consume. For example, look at the laundering instructions on a piece of clothing. There could be 5 or 6 icons there, some of which you may not understand. That is likely because they are not within your domain, or context. I guarantee you that anyone working in a dry cleaning facility understands them all at a glance.

A Good Metro Implementation Focuses on Content

I think of the dashboard of my car, an Audi A6, as a great Metro style implementation. It provides me easy access to the information that I need in context, and easy way to switch context (e.g. between audio entertainment and navigation), and draws my focus and attention to the content that matters (speed, RPMs).

IMG_0087-2

Most command buttons have an easy to understand icon (seat heaters, parking brake, fans, etc.). Some things use text (On/Off, Nav, CD/Aux, etc.) instead of icons. In either case it is easy to quickly infer the meaning and intent of the button. All of the command buttons and interfaces are the same color – white icons and text (redish backlight if its dark) on a black button. Essentially a monochromatic UI that makes finding and using the commands easy, but focuses my attention on the important stuff – warnings and content.

    • Warning information is indicated with a different color than the rest of the UI. For example the “Passenger Air Bag Off” warning and the check engine icon are both yellow.
    • Content that requires my focus and attention is white, such as the speedometer and tachometer, and the navigation screen (which includes a small set of other colors to indicate route, landmarks and warnings).

I can’t imaging how distracting it would be to drive my car if every icon and button were a colorized button. It would make finding and focusing on the important content much more difficult. As it is, I know to focus on the white content, and pay extra attention to any yellow content.
The new Visual Studio UI is attempting to do exactly what my Audi dashboard does. Make it easy for you to find information and commands, but draw your focus and attention to the content that matters most (aka your code).

Resisting Change

The fact of human psychology is that we tend to resist change before we embrace it. This seems to be the tone of many of the comments on Monty’s blog post. Many people are likely going through the stages of grief – Shock, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

    Many people seems to be in the first four or five stages.

Shocked by the change.

WO WO WO. Let’s get one thing straight. There had better be a GIANT button in there to “MAKE IT LOOK LIKE IT USE TO.” – Don’t “Windows 8″ me! – 27 Feb 2012 3:07 AM

Denying the change.

Why not keep the current GUI? it seems that your vs11 will be the worst design ever… please, see all these post, reconsider your transition… – ammin – 26 Feb 2012 5:15 AM

Anger toward Microsoft for the change.

I assume these god damn awful UI changes are meant to hide the lack of real changes over VS2010? – Steve – 27 Feb 2012 10:56 AM

Bargaining with Microsoft regarding the change.

Folks, we need to organize & mobilize to fight this: talk to your co-workers, give them link to this page, ask them to comment here. – Dee – 25 Feb 2012 9:32 AM

Depressed about the change.

Don’t care.  It is what it is and nothing anyone says here can change that. – Not Anal – 27 Feb 2012 12:12 AM

Its not clear to me that the mass of Visual Studio developers will reach acceptance of the new UI, nor is it clear to me if the bargaining will result in change. I like to believe that both will happen.

The Path Ahead

My opinion is that this is a step in the right direction. Of course, its near impossible to actually tell if its an improvement with out extended usage of the new UI, to see if it improves my productivity or not. This means that for many people there is likely a step of “testing” that must occur prior to acceptance. The testing may be challenging at first because we have to unlearn a few old things in order to learn some new things. Like the Audi dashboard example above, this happens almost anytime you buy a new car as well. Basically things work the same – there is a speedometer and tachometer, although they may be in reverse positions from what you are used to; there is a console for controlling audio, heat and AC and possibly navigation; and there are warning indicators, but possibly different ones, or they are in different positions. Testing the change requires a little patience in order to fully determine if the change is manageable – that is to say, you may not be able to affect the change, but you can determine your acceptance of the change.I encourage everyone to withhold judgment until you’ve had a chance to try the new Visual Studio UI. Once you’ve given it a fair chance, provide actionable feedback to the team via Monty’s blog (e.g. “There had better be a GIANT button in there to “MAKE IT LOOK LIKE IT USE TO.” isn’t really actionable).

As someone who leads product development, I can tell you that there is nothing more important than hearing from customers. It is the challenge of the product development team to determine actionable, real feedback from shock, denial, anger and depression driven feedback. A good product development team will be innovative and creative, and it may not immediately resonate with the customer, but if they’ve done their job right, the customer will accept and embrace the change in the long run, and have a better product experience as a result.

My favorite Henry Ford quote:

If I asked my customers what they want, they simply would have said a faster horse.

Henry Ford went on to introduce a radical change and innovation, that was met with both immediate acceptance and criticism. Can you imagine if that change had not been widely accepted?

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Comments

  1. At least your audi “metro” dashboard has colors… I like the idea of metro for phones, but as a developer group, we don’t like changes (ms should know that). At least give the opportunity to choose the old style in vs11. In vs12, if metro is still the way to go, force it.

  2. Doug, there are many differences between the dashboard and VS. The dashboard is mostly about read-only icons that don’t move. The eye is trained to look for them in a certain place while in VS things show/hide and move around based on the mode you’re in (design time, debug time) and context (right click menu, toolbar, tree hierarchy, etc.). The issue is with beign able to find them quickly.

    Metro signs typically have only a few icons on them. The Windows Phone 7 homescreen has 8 visible icons. Visual studio by default has dozens of them, and we need all the help we can get in locating them. Most of the time we just use keyboard shortcuts, so when we go to the toolbar it’s for thigns that we don’t usually use, or don’t use very often. We need visual cues. Flat and simple doesn’t help here.

    • I appreciate your comment, and like we were discussing the other night, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head – its about how we train ourselves to use the interface. As you mention, the command buttons in my Audi are read-only, as are nearly all command buttons in the VS IDE (e.g. tool bar buttons, etc.). The real issue is in how complicated the UI is. I often get in my car and imaging what Henry Ford would think if he were sitting in my car. If you aren’t used to it, it appears on the surface to be very, very complicated. When I step back from it, it can easily look like an airplane cockpit. However, for a regular user, like (who uses the Audi interface daily), it is very intuitive. I can use many of the buttons without looking at them (I imagine a pilot has the same intuitive familiarity with a cockpit).

      In fact, my Audio has many commands that hide and show based on context. The screen that shows navigation in the photo is a multipurpose screen, with an associated dial wheel, joystick, and multiple command buttons. It is, in its own right, very complex. Yet, again, as a daily user, it is very intuitive to me and can be used without looking (in some instances).

      This is how I view the VS IDE. It is different than what we are used to (I saw it months ago, so I am not as jarred by it as most). The reality is that we don’t need full color icons to help in discoverability – its just what we are used to. All of us will be just as, if not more efficient with the new UI in a very short amount of time. The content-focus is likely to help us (there is lots of color there) in ways we don’t even imagine yet. Pretty soon VS 2010 will look old and tired, and we’ll wonder how we were productive with it.

  3. Interesting comments, the look is certainly growing on me, however the only part that isn’t is the ALL CAPS tabs.

    • The ALL CAPS thing seems to be a big issue for folks. I’m on the fence with it. Not sure If i prefer it or not (need some real time with it). I will say that in my Audi, nearly all of the buttons are ALL CAPS, while most of the on-screen UI uses “proper” capitalization rules. I don’t ever feel like my car is yelling at me.

      • To me, the ALL CAPS distracts from the visual elements around it.

        Specifically I’m speaking about the Solution Explorer in the screen shot. That is so confusing and distracting to me. I don’t think what was needed here was APP CAPS.

        I think what was need was the philosophy of “less is more” instead.

      • And by APP CAPS, of course I do mean ALL CAPS ;)

  4. My first reaction to the new interface was. WHAT THE …? But after thinking about the philosophy about the UI-Change, I wondered about the reaction of my clients when I suggest an UI-Change in my applications of which I think would be a great and significant change. They always react the same way. WHY WHY we do we have to relearn what we already know. And usually I answer, ‘because your first request was faster input, so I give you faster input’. And with that answer in mind, I realized that the first time I had the same reaction as my customers, but now I see that indeed, my first request would be, to code faster and that VS would be faster. And If that means a UI-change, you won’t hear me complain.

  5. The problem I am seeing all to often is that people associate minimalism as “easy” given well you’ve scraped back the UI to its absolute-must-have only screen allocation. That works for situations like mobile devices or even in some use-cases on the desktop. It’s only when you layer in complexity or practical “feature density” that the concept starts to buckle under UX pressure. That is to say, Microsoft have yet to really sit down and produce a solution that as high feature density in products such as VS, Office or insert your non-kiosk application.

    They aren’t delivering that just yet as they are working through the problem and D7 you and I know that at the core of Microsoft’s development pipeline UX often loses the battle when it comes to “light up” engineering features (new Metro kool-aid aside).

    In this case, the Visual Studio team really did minimal amount of work, its really just a new coat of flat grey paint over the VS shell simply due to them not having budget/time to do this properly (given the Windows 8 Shipping lanes are probably crowded right now). I’m not saying that’s necessary a bad thing although its increasingly growing to be a tired excuse that often gets repeated over the years, what I am saying is don’t half-do it.

    If Monty and the UX team are serious about doing a VisualStudio shell overhaul, then sit down and do it properly not half or quarter-measured band aid filled with a lot of bogus rationale around how “1 in 10 house wives think Grey is the new you” weak research.

    Grey is a color one can use (i’ve outlined my thoughts about principles of grey here http://www.riagenic.com/archives/858) but ultimately their current approach is not of worth.

    • I’d caution you not to confuse a difference in opinion or quality of execution with how much work was done by people at Microsoft who really do care deeply. Monty and the UX team have done an incredible amount of work on the UX refresh of Visual Studio. Out of a weird protection mechanism built inside me, I’d ask you not to accuse them of not doing the work, or being lazy. If you disagree focus on your perception of their poor ability to execute an idea.

      I agree with you that grey can be done well, and Adobe has proven it can be done well. I think the visual refresh of VS is a step in the right direction, but I have never said it is perfection. I think it has a long way to go, and, you’re right, it’s not as appealing as many of the Adobe UIs. My commentary is more to do with this visual refresh being a step in the right direction, and encouraging the developer community to move more quickly through the stages of grief and get to a mindset where we can focus on actionable feedback for the VS UX team.

      I would rather see them take this step toward an improved UI, and continue to improve it in the next release, rather than doing nothing.

      I would rather see the developer community provide actionable feedback, instead of throwing a collective tantrum.

      I am very appreciative of the comments in your blog regarding the use of gradients/providing depth. This is something that, or the surface (no pun intended) appears to be missing. That is good actionable feedback the team can use, but I fear it will be tuned out be people, who by their very human nature, will be focused on being accused of being “lazy” or not working. The truth is that the UX refresh was (and is) a core tenet of the VS11 work (such that it is part of every executive review of product development), and DevDiv is taking it seriously.

      The question isn’t are they lazy? or are they even working? it’s how well are they executing at creating a delightful product to use?

      • Changing context menus(where’s the undo changes? oh there it is, buried in a submenu now!), to changing icons for command buttons (where’s the comment line button? oh there it is, now it’s a conversation balloon with an X!), is NOT the way to improve productivity.

        I get that it’s your job to defend this worthless pile of a UI, but get some f’n realism.

  6. I think that overall they are headed in the right direction (so that what people create is what catches the eye instead of flashy UI in the tool) but I think there is a LONG way to go before this looks good.

    Therefore: good approach, bad execution thus far.

  7. You said, “Metro style’s main goal is to make understanding information and instructions at a glance easy.” How long do I have to squint at those “Comment” and “Uncomment” glyphs before their shapes translate to meaning? I’ve really tried, and it hasn’t happened yet.

    You tout the Audi dashboard as a great style implementation. The FIRST THING I noticed about it is all the red. That red is like having text in ALL CAPS. It screams at me. You said that the warnings are yellow. Yellow is a step down in alert level from red. The warnings should be red. Too much red constantly in front of my face makes me want to gouge my eyes out. Normal things like the ring around a button or the “which gear am I in” indicators should be in an “easy on the eyes” color, not a color that screams at me. If you think that this is good design, its no wonder you keep insisting that the new VS design is a good one.

    But what’s really irritating is the “Father knows best” attitude. Your message says, “You don’t really know what’s good for you. The only reason that you don’t embrace the new design is that you’re resistant to change. Buck up, get used to it, and you’ll soon see the light.” The fact that it’s butt ugly and the icons are harder to use couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the pushback from developers. You just keep insisting that it’s a step in the right direction. THEY’RE TELLING YOU THAT IT’S BUTT UGLY AND THE ICONS ARE HARDER TO USE, and you’re not listening. You say that “there is nothing more important than hearing from customers”. You’re mistaken if you think that the shock, denial, and anger are attributable to resistance to change. They’ll happen every time when you push bad design changes, and they’ll amplify when you blame the customer for not embracing those changes.

    • I used to own a Lexus IS300. I was a huge fan of that car. When the new IS350 came out, I was going to buy it. At least I thought so until I saw it. It was a big departure from the design of the one I had, and I felt like it lost a lot of its style/image/moxy that it had. I refused to buy it (even though I had been a huge fan). Lexus lost me as a customer.

      That is the risk the VS team is taking. Will they lose customers because the change is undesirable?

      I look at the IS350 now and wonder why I didn’t like it. The IS300 I had looks so old and out dated now and the IS350 looks stylish and modern. I just had to work through the stages.

      I am not trying to be parental, I am simply observing. Many of the comments on the blog are clearly lashing out in shock, anger and denial. I get the need to vent, but those comments do little to affect a change – DevDiv is not going to rollback to the VS201 UI. I encourage you to have an opinion and share that opinion with the UX team. All I am asking is to process the change before lashing out – it may not be as bad as your initial reaction to something unexpected.

      Give it a chance, then be constructive. Telling the UX team (or me for that matter) that they have bad taste isn’t going to help. Telling the UX team that the comment and uncomment icons aren’t intuitive, and make understanding the UI harder is useful feedback.

      • Months later, the general opinion hasn’t changed — if anything, it’s worse now that the RC has shown just how little MS was willing to change in response to developers’ comments. If the sustained negative feedback isn’t enough to convince DevDiv to reconsider these changes, perhaps a drop-off in sales will be.

  8. Sir, thank you, but please — I know what works better for me.

    First you guys add more color (VS2010), nobody complains (or not too many), then you remove colors (VS11 Beta).

    Obviously, the truth is in the eye of beholder, so please don’t tell me what’s better for me.

    Give us option to use existing (VS2010) icons and look & feel. And everyone will be fine.

    You say that DevDiv is not going back: of course, we know that, that is because we have nowhere to go really and they know it. It is sad but I have no one to blame except myself for getting myself tied to MS tools & technologies like this..

    P.S.
    You don’t like colorful icons? Hide Solution Explorer. You don’t like colorful toolbars? Close them and use main menu.

    Or simply switch to full screen view in VS2010: now code/designer is in your face, no distractions.

    There, I just solved this problem of yours (“distracted by colorful icons”) without going monochrome on everything.
    :(

  9. Well, first of all mono displays in cars are there bc they are cheaper. New high end cars have all glass displays instead of analog dials and they are in color. BMW heads up display now in full color, it was mono before. Second, white glyph on plastic are cheap too. My car has like 6 buttons on a stalk that controls wipers and i would really prefer them to be in color so i could easily tell one mode from another. And third, no offense, but Audi is not a big seller in US so i dont think it is a good example.

  10. Doug, thanks for this whole explanation.

    But before I go through that, I’d like to know the basis of the decision:
    Who actually asks these changes: the Light theme that introduce a lot of gray background, colors removed from icons, and the use of ALL CAPS?
    Could you point me any links to such requests, or even a research, user study, survey, etc. which results showing that MAJORITY USERS, or even minority, demand such changes to be made? I might miss them, but I’ve never seen such requests, not in Connect nor in UserVoice.

    > I can’t imaging how distracting it would be to drive my car if every icon and button were a colorized button. It would make finding and focusing on the important content much more difficult. As it is, I know to focus on the white content, and pay extra attention to any yellow content.

    > The new Visual Studio UI is attempting to do exactly what my Audi dashboard does. Make it easy for you to find information and commands, but draw your focus and attention to the content that matters most (aka your code).

    Now that you said that, imagine yourself that your favorite car manufacturer, out of nowhere, suddenly changes the new dashboard visual of your favorite car so that it uses more color than you expected. To make it analogus, the manufacturer did a limited user survey, but unfortunately it didn’t involve you in the survey. Now that the car had been released, you’re surprised why such changes are made without you never asked for it. Now I wonder how would you respond to such situation? Will you be shocked, denying, anger, bargaining, depressed, and/or just agree about it?

    My point here remains who asks for that change. What has happened to “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” principle here? Specifically, what has broken?

    With all due respect, I have no intention of limiting any innovation nor improvement here, but I think what VS team does is making significant changes to VS11 UI here. Then, why didn’t they “test the water” first here? Why didn’t they provide two UI theme as an option: original UI theme and Metro style UI theme? And then, let users choose what suit them better. Moreover, based on CEIP or any feedback mechanisms, they could see the FACT itself on who has preference over this and over that, and then learn from it.

    For now, I can’t see such approach being made with VS11. Even with Windows 8, Windows team still keeps the desktop mode apps (although they’re trying to call it “traditional”), while introducing the new Metro style apps.

    So, my points in summary are:
    – What is the basis of the decision? Who asks for it?
    – If this is a matter of innovation and/nor improvement, why didn’t provide two UI theme as an option: original UI theme and Metro style UI theme, to “test the water” here?

    • I would liken it to a car manufacturer deciding to replace all of the rotary dials with a group of nondescript vertical bar gauges in the middle of the dash. Gauges for speed, temperature, oil pressure, engine RPMs, etc. are all just sitting next to each other, evenly spaced, and uniform in color.

      You can tell which one is which because there is a small bit of capitalized text below each telling you what it does. For example, you can tell apart speed and outside temperature because the speed gauge has “SPD” below it, while the temperature gauge sitting next to it says “TEMP”. The temperature gauge also starts at -20 and goes to +120, while the speed gauge goes from 0 to +140.

      Eventually it would become second nature where exactly the speed gauge is located, and you would no longer make the mistake of mixing it up with the temperature gauge next to it. But why should you have to go through that learning process when the speedometer was better than the speed gauge in every way as far as usability and aesthetics are concerned?

  11. My guess is that it will be slow anyway…. I usually work with large projects on top of the shelf machine. VS 2010 is sluggish here and I don’t have many addons.
    I don’t really care how it looks like. The editor will still be a big white window with code. Make it run faster.

  12. I just read you blog post again and have to comment again.

    You are basically saying that it is impossible that you guys made a mistake.

    Who is in denial here actually?

    • I hope that’s not really what you got from my post. While I did say “Personally I love the new UI” I also said, “Sure, its not perfect…” I’m not trying to say that DevDiv or Microsoft is incapable of mistakes. I am saying two things:
      1. My personal feeling is that this UI refresh is a huge improvement over where Visual Studio has been for the past ten years, and…
      2. Is the new UI really that bad? Is it possible that it is actually a significant improvement, and we, the develoeprs who use and love Visual Studio, are just not ready to accept change?

      I don’t claim to know the answer to #2. Its entirely possible I am too close to it to see it. Perhaps a huge mistake was made. WHat I am saying is that we,the developer community (me included), need to get past the shock, anger, and denial and channel our energy into useful, actionable feedback to the DevDiv UX team.

      As I said originally, the new VS UI is not perfect. For my part, I am compiling a list of feedback I intend to provide. The more useful and actionable we can be, the more likely our voice will be heard.

  13. “There is a lot of negative reaction to the new UI. But is the new UI really that bad. Is it possible that it is actually a significant improvement, and we, the develoeprs who use and love Visual Studio, are just not ready to accept change?”

    This is exactly the kind of response that I was afraid of. I know that you no longer officially speak for Microsoft, but it seems that the entire DevDiv has started repeating the Stephen Sinofsky “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it” mantra. AL is absolutely right: it IS parental, condescending, and insulting, and it upsets me just as much as the poor UI itself does.

    Is it possible that the new UI really IS as unbelievable horrible as the comments are making it out to be? Is it possible that the “bold steps” taken by the VS team were actually in the wrong direction, that they have created a UI that the vast majority of their users don’t want and will actually reduce productivity through the removal of important design elements such as color and lines?

    You quoted some of the more extreme comments from the blog post, but did you notice all of the thoughtful, reasoned, articulate comments as well? Did you bother to read them, to consider all of the arguments against this design and the rebuttals of the attempts made in the post to justify it? Or did you just look at the mountain of negative feedback, take it personally, and try to write it all off as a visceral reaction to change?

    I notice in your About page that you listed 10 things that you think Microsoft in particular needs to do. Some of them are:
    1. Know your customer
    4. Socialize ideas frequently
    5. When in doubt, error on the side of the customer
    6. Seek feedback, and course correct as needed

    None of these things are being done with this UI. Rather than previewing the new color scheme and asking for feedback early, the VS team has waited until the Beta release; and those of us who have been using Microsoft products (and particularly Visual Studio) for a long time know that by the time the product gets to Beta, it is pretty much locked down. There is no more time for usability studies and research, so the most that can be done is tweaking here or there. Which means the likelihood is that, despite reassurances that the VS team is listening and considering our feedback, nothing substantial will change between now and RTM. And that may be the most frustrating thing of all.

    • David – I am in your camp. I wish Microsoft had released the UI refresh a long time ago for the exact purpose of getting user feedback earlier in the product development cycle. I truly believe in developing products WITH your customer, not TO your customer. For all I know a HUGE mistake has been made, and the new UI is unbelievably horrible. My personal opinion is that this is a step in the right direction, but its not there yet. I’d rather see them make progress than stagnate.

      Yes, I did read through all of the posts (at the time I was writing this). I wasn’t trying to comment on the entirety of the post nor the body of comments. I was only pointing out some reactions and providing my opinion on why the people that were lashing out were doing so. I too am human and go through the same resistance to change all the time. Its simple human nature. Now lets do our part and provide useful feedback.

  14. This is how it should look:

  15. It’s dull as dishwater….in fact it’s depressing. Coupled with that they’ve changed the toolbox windows so that when in auto-hide mode you have to click to show them, whereas before you could hover over them and they would popout…more clicks…more RSI…thanx.

  16. Oh and please tell me….when I’m in the Options dialog….why can’t I have a “Search” box that I can use there and then to find an option, rather than having to come out to find it through the toolbar.

  17. Serena Yeoh says:

    You don’t sit in your car for 12 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week, but some developers will need to deal with the monochrome lifeless grey theme of VS 11 for that long. One thing I dislike is that, most of the supporting arguments talks about the change and then immediately lament the people who dislike the theme as “resistant to change”. It is almost that there was no consideration of the impact of the change at all.

    I understand that VS 11 would like to target new generation developers who many want to build apps and sell them for 0.99 and now would care less for the 10 million veteran developers who have been loyal with VS. But did anyone realized that those 0.99 app developers will not spend so much money on a tool like Visual Studio and those who are willing to spend the money, would not like their tool looking like a notepad?

  18. This UI was difficult to swallow for me as well. I believe the core of the issue is that when I was using the Dev Preview I truly enjoyed the experience and my expectations were that Beta would, you know, improve on the basic foundation that 11 provided.

    Here is my feedback to Microsoft and of course to anyone that is listening. There was a clear failure when it comes to setting expectations.

  19. I believe the purpose of having an icon anywhere in an application is to allow the user to quickly identify the feature it represents, without having to resort to searching through and reading the text describing the item.

    The human eye is quick to recognize different colors, but with everything in the new Visual Studio being gray with gray icons the icons can no longer quickly be recognized, instead I have to look closely at them to see what they actually represent. This becomes the most evident in the Solution Explorer where now we not only have files and folders but also classes and methods. All with icons that are merely a grey blob at first sight. No way to easily recognize the C# icon or the purple method icon.

    Try working with a solution with a couple of hundred projects. Frequently we unload several of them during our work. But now, unloaded projects have the same color as loaded ones, making it much more difficult to identify them in a crowded solution explorer.

    The same problem of course applies to toolbars, menues and other dialog boxes. For example, when I want to create a new project. A separate modal dialog opens. From what is color or anything else supposedly drawing my attention? My attention pretty much has to be at the dialog. Use whatever features available to make it as easy to use as possible. To me, this includes color! And as others have stated before me, the new start screen of windows 8 is not exactly monochrome either.

    For those of you who feel like me, go to https://connect.microsoft.com/VisualStudio/feedback/details/727704/ and vote.

  20. Yes, the new UI is as bad as it is depicted here.

    Repeating the ergonomic importance of colors would be futile, it was written so many times already. So I’ll aim at one thing, the all caps. Anybody seems to approach this from a Net perspective where caps, by convention, means shouting. This has got nothing to do with it. I find it rather strange that for something as important as a sweeping UI change, nobody was on the team with at least a minimal understanding of typography.

    Caps are not shouting, that’s not important. They are hard to read. We know that from the time of Gutenberg and before and the reason is quite simple and easy to understand: capitals letters lack the distinctive characteristics of lowercase letters, the descenders and ascenders. They are much more uniform in appearance, hence, much less easy to differentiate during reading. Any longer run of all caps was always considered an atrocity against the reader throughout the whole history of the printing.

  21. I have to agree that you are in denial. The message is loud and clear. No amount of telling your customers that they are Luddites and that Microsoft knows what’s good for them will fix your problem.

  22. Matthew says:
  23. I’ve been using the Beta since it came out and I believe I’ve given it a fair chance. Ignoring the issues which are likely to be fixed before RTM (Crashes, Broken “Defaults” for the dark theme, sluggish UI performance,, etc), here are my thoughts

    There are a lot of things I like – The “Start in ” option, the minified toolbars & dividers, the atmosphere of the dark theme and the compile no longer seems to happen on the UI thread (Yes!)

    But for all that, I still find that I like it a little less.

    The low contrast UI is harder to use at a glance. Compare to your Audi – The most visually important pieces of information are brightly lit – Your speed, Satnav, etc… The less important areas (A/C, buttons) are still visible but not so intrusive and finally, the areas you look at least are allowed to fade into the background (air vents, glove box).

    The coloured icons in the old solution explorer helped me differentiate between the web.config and global.asax without having to stop and read. Now the icons are so hard to see, I find myself scanning the file list repeatedly. When I’ve got 6 projects open – all with numerous subdirectories and resources – it’s very difficult to keep track of, especially if you like having “Show All Files” on (as I do).

    The same applies to the toolbars – I have to hunt for the “Save all files” button. I’m glad you’ve cleared out superfluous buttons (and I can always add some back) but why not make the ones you’ve left behind easy to use?

    Another issue I have is with the checkboxes (eg in the “add reference” pane). Why hide them when unchecked and the mouse isn’t on that row? Now, not only do I have to be a sniper to hit the tiny checkbox, I have to guess at where it’s going to appear. What was Move->Click is now Move->Wait->Move->Click – Why not make the whole area clickable or leave a darkened outline or _something_ ?

    While I don’t feel either of the new themes is as good as the VS2010 one _yet_, With some light touches, more coloured highlights and a little more usability testing, they could be stellar.

    The bottom line for me is that I value function over form – make it quick and easy for me to use. If you can make it look stunning at the same time, then it will be a very impressive piece of software.

  24. Its important to realize, the VS2011 UI isn’t a revolutionary technology change. It should not be compared to Henry Ford’s inventions. This is an aesthetic issue that affects our ability to use features.

    This UI is NOT a game changer, it is not a “new” technology. It is something that has been done 10 years ago ( I’ve seen some comparisons of year 2000 GUI that are strikingly similar ). A very large portion of developers have seen this before and don’t want it. We want an upgrade of the visual studio technology, not a repainting of the UI.

    We can use this new UI, it will change nothing about how we work, it will just make things a bit more difficult to find, and it will look ugly (at least in my opinion).

  25. I don’t have a problem with the UI at all. Most of the boxes are in the same place that they have always been, and having spent 5 days on the job, I’m pretty much up to speed on the changes. the low contrast thing is a blessing, as i will no longer have to fiddle around with the settings to reduce blocks of strong colour.

    What gets me is:

    1) The UI update is very _very_ sluggish. I’m hoping that this will change as the final product comes out.

    2) The default ‘line has a breakpoint event on it’ is still a big block of red. I have never liked this (since 2008 when it came, or was it 2010).

  26. Methinks thou dost protest too much! While simple easy to understand graphics are appreciated, in many cases (particularly in the examples you cited such as automotive), those graphic icons have been developed over a period of years, even decades, to achive the level of instant recognition many now achive. For me, the new interface is just brutal with the lack of contrast (definition) between panels. Sorry, it goes against everything we have learned about grapic interfaces over the past few years on visual cues. The commenters above who pointed out that this is a tool with history are correct, we are looking for functionality that makes our job quicker and easier, not fighting thru a new interface.

  27. JL Sardinas says:

    I can’t understand why is MS in one side moving all it’s UI paradigm to ribbons and nice colored menus, toolbars and windows, and for us developers they’re behaving differently… Is there a difference between “normal” users and developers? Which one is “best”? Since you love this UI so much then you hate Win8 ribbon-oriented UI? Why not just LET US CHOOSE for gods sake???

  28. Look the UI is OK but the menus etc in CAPS is a terrible distraction.

  29. You really can’t compare the change to the horse and Henry Ford; that was a complete and drastic change in technology. What has been done to Visual Studio is more like taking the the 2010 horse and having a bunch of children paint it so that the 2012 horse is totally butt ugly! The high and low contrast options are seizure inducing! It’s time to code now so it’s time to go have some seizures!

  30. the visual studio 2012 UI is UGLY… plain and simple….. first thing i did when i opened it up was look for a way to re-skin it…. YIKES!!!!

  31. Metro uses color. The VS 2012 UI leaves out the third pillar in Metro BIG time – http://kellabyte.com/2011/12/19/when-metro-design-falls-off-the-tracks/

  32. Is it us your customers that are in denial, or could it possibly be you? Surely when a large majority of your customers do not like something, maybe you should consider it’s not an improvement

  33. There are two obvious and severe problems with the UI: extremely poor use of color and lack of contrast.

    The icon achieves it’s purpose via two key properties: shape and color. This UI has nearly completely forsaken the latter, leaving the icons *hard to distinguish*, which was the whole point of icons in the first place: to be quickly distinguishable. It only takes a short glance between a new project’s solution explorer in each of VS2010 and VS2012 to see how relatively poorly one can distinguish the different parts of the tree in VS2012. I can’t imagine that even non-developers would choose a nearly monochrome tree (seriously try a survey comparing the two). In VS2010 I can tell loosely how the tree is composed with my *peripheral vision*!! In VS2012, it takes effort to distinguish the elements when I *stare straight at them* (and forget identifying anything peripherally).

    Contrast is similarly important to be able to subconsciously differentiate the different areas of the UI. Unrelated portions of the UI should not blend together… The Solution Explorer should not appear to blend right into the error window, there should be a sharp line indicating that one element ends and another begins. (Shouldn’t that be UI design 101?)

    The most important thing that seems to have been brushed aside is that I should be able to get around the UI visually using my *peripheral* vision. I shouldn’t have to stare straight at things to understand what I’m looking at; the UI should be giving me enough clear information that can get the gist of the entire screen no matter where I happen to be glancing. The net effect of all of this poor UI design is that we are effectively blinded. Or in other words: the UI is doing its primary job (to clearly present information to the user) BADLY.

  34. The new UI is so horrible it will cause people to leave the whole MS stack, LAMP here I come. If you are a developer and depend on coding for a living you have to not only see the screen but work it all day. It is not a matter of option. My eyes will NOT accept the change. The light blast of whitesmoke burn my eyes in about 10 seconds, the dark I cant see anything and the colored text ends up burning my eyeballs out also. The new technologies and language features are great but a UI fail of this proportion is a show stopper and will be for many. Hope the fix this but doubt it if the fail has made the rd like this.

  35. Whatever happened to ‘the customer is always right’? And HCI principles that suggest that the user should be able to decide how their software should appear and be used? Foisting this massive and radical usability change on the millions who use VS is not the way to go.

    VS is the cornerstone of what I do for around 50-60 hours a week. I can’t look at something that looks like the Vista UAC prompt has kicked in (greyed-out = disabled in most people’s heads) for that length of time. I for one will be sticking with VS2010 until I can get 2012 to look and behave like the application I’ve been using in one form or another since 2001. As a techie I embrace change, novelty and progress, but this is absurd.

  36. I don’t hate the metro style. I hate the fact that quick visual recognition was destroyed. Contrasting/distinct colors+logos were used in the solution explorer were used to distinguish between javascript files, project files, folders. I personally like the dark theme of Blend, but organizing the solution is now very painful.

  37. Yes, the UI is THAT BAD. I absolutely despise it. I hate the new icons and the monochromatic feel. I have been using visual studio for as long as it’s been a product and this is the first UI “evolution” that is CLEARLY a STEP BACK to oh, I don’t know, circa 1980? Ugly Ugly Ugly

  38. I have been working with Windows development since VB 5 and used all versions of VS since the start and I can only speak for my self, but I hate the new UI. I liked all versions of VS so far but I will not use the new 2012 version, it’s to depressing. WHY change something that a lot of developers like, and why defend something that so many people dislike? I can’t understand it. Developers like changes in technolgy but not environment, so please be smarter than this. No one will develope for metro with this horrible tool.

  39. george hardy 4 says:

    resisting change? get your head out, buddy. this UI f**king sux.

  40. Microsoft can justify the rationale behind the 2012 UI blunder until they’re blue in the face. Someone in a powerful position at Pontiac thought the Aztek was a good idea too. I find it interesting that Microsoft seems to not respond to the UI negativity on the forums as if a mandate was sent out to all Microsoft employees not to engage the public on the new UI. It almost seems like it was Monty Hammontree’s wife that came up with the idea, he didn’t have the balls to tell her it was atrocious, and nobody at Microsoft had the balls to tell Monty is was atrocious. Microsoft, Monty: it’s atrocious!

  41. With VS2010 I don’t think about the UI, I just use it. With VS2012 the UI is ALL I can think about as it causes me physical discomfort and eyestrain. Now given that, which one is truly succeeding in “getting out of the way” and allowing me to “concentrate on my code”? VS2012 uninstalled (the first time it has ever happened)

  42. The ‘UI’ is a car is a totally separate issue, the feedback largely comes from the steering wheel, the seat and the noise of the engine. Secondary are the gear box and the pedals. The dials are almost irrelevant to driving experience and certainly ICE is just eye candy most of the time.

    Certainly AUDI’s are generally know for fairly dull lifeless driving experience that disconnects you from the road, so I can see where you went wrong it that is your inspiration.

    People will be using VS2012 for 8-12 hours a day, on laptops and on desktops, and the feedback cues are almost entirely visual, certainly not tactile, its totally different problem.

    You article smacks of you being in denial, UI design is about how people feel about the product and how it functions, its not about what your intellect derives based on theoretical design ideals.

    The fact is the people that do use the product for 8+ hours a day think it feels and functions badly, and its them that will get burnt retinas and RSI.

  43. It took me two days of acclimatization with the new UI (at the first look I also found it horrible) and now I must say I feel very comfortable with it. Also the solution explorer is now much better by default where I used to use plugins before. The subtle use of color and the non caps titles of the toolboxes in the released version makes a big difference.

    It remembered me a bit to Visual Studio.NET but luckily its not comparable in any way :-)

  44. Are you fucking insane !!!!!!

    So its you who is one of the people responsible for the colors going away…. YOu Stupid piece of SHIT!!!!!

  45. Matthew Paul Arnold says:

    At the risk of being so obvious to be labelled dumb, let me ask about Microsoft itself… They are one of the largest software development companies in the world; they invest billions of dollars annually in coders (tens of thousands of them), and develop the worlds most prolific OS’ [server and client], productivity tools, data warehousing/BI software, communications tools, need I go on?

    There are hundreds of developers in the VS department alone, all with a Mensa-level IQ, all of whom collaborated to build this tool, using this tool, knowing the next 3+ years of their life (@60h+ week) will be spent using this tool… Do you really think they would design something that would handicap their own productivity or drive themselves insane? Would Microsoft invest in its own internal failure?

    Maybe some of you should spend less time bashing Microsoft and feeding off each other’s negativity, and actually investigate the rationale that went into these radical changes… Maybe, just maybe, you might learn something that will make you a more effective developer – someone who adds more value to your employer than you currently do… If not, who knows: you might just be replaced by someone who does…

    • “Do you really think they would design something that would handicap their own productivity or drive themselves insane? Would Microsoft invest in its own internal failure?”

      Obviously, yes, because they designed Visual Studio 2012. Are you suggesting that Microsoft’s developers are somehow unaffected by the problems with the VS 2012 user interface that have sparked such a huge backlash from Visual Studio users outside Microsoft?

      “Maybe some of you should spend less time bashing Microsoft and feeding off each other’s negativity, and actually investigate the rationale that went into these radical changes…”

      The rationale that Microsoft has put forth (“it lets you focus on the code”) is absurd, and at best can be described as a solution to a problem that didn’t exist. The common speculation is that the real rationale is just corporate branding: the command came from on high that everything has to be “Metro” in preparation for Windows 8, and the Visual Studio team did a particularly bad job of interpreting “Metro”. If you have more to add, why not share it with us?

    • Dave Cousineau says:

      “Microsoft has heard you…”

      sadly, that does nothing for the icons

  46. You’re seriously drinking the kool aid, Doug. MS is going too far with the Metro concept. They’re taking the “clean” concept to literally and not thinking enough about the actual user experience. Seen the new Office interface? I’ve been using Windows 8, VS 2012 and Office 2013 for several weeks now. I have NOT adjusted to them. They’re bland, uninspiring and just plain hard to see. If I have my laptop screen tilted to far one way, I literally can’t see the scroll bar. Ridiculous. This borders on serious usability issues.

  47. I would suggest the idea that the IDE should be optimized to write code is flawed. Sometimes I am in that mode and adjust for as much vertical space as possible. However other times I am in debug mode. The “Show Next Statement” button is now a plain gray arrow. That bright yellow arrow from the old days made it easy to pick out in sea of buttons. Other times I am reviewing my work before checkin. 2010 IDE had “Undo…” as a context menu next to Compare… . Now it is buried under the Source Control context menu. Sometimes I am just going to lunch and want to click “Save All”. That icon looks like a lopsided figure 8 – had to find it in the Flle menu. The design guys forgot that Disks are blue, Folders are Amber, and red X’s mean Delete (remove comments). They also forgot that design approaches for simple applications do not translate well into highly complex ones.

    It is possible that all this new design was done by young wippersnappers with 25 year old eyes. I have seen this anti-pattern before. Applications designed for screen resolutions anyone 45 and older can’t see or use them.

    I am not sure why, but when I activate 2012 in the Light theme mode, my eyes literally hurt. I think it is because there are no Dark borders like in 2010 to soften the look and take down the brightness. The Theme editor available at:

    http://www.hanselman.com/blog/YourColorfulVisualStudio2012WithTheColorThemeEditorVS2010ColorsToo.aspx

    really seems to help. I am using Dark with Light Editor window.

    I think the Icons should be rethought and I think a number of canned Themes should be created (by different designers), including a VS2010 Theme and these themes should be available in the options dialog.

    I actually agree with the guy who wanted to invent a new word, I would suggest “badstracting”. The color problem is fixable, I expect it to be fixed in VS 2014.

    Now if someone would develop the Test View, Test Results, and Pending changes windows from 2010 that would also make a good extension.

    These design guys need to go to VS Live and hopefully talk to some of the design guys like Billy Hollis or David Platt. I suspect they can really put these thoughts into actual design requirements.

    • Its no use reasoning with these guys, they are off in an intellectual fog. They don’t see what you are saying but rather define you for saying something. In this case you are defined as “resistant to change”. Their mentality can seem independent and strong minded, but sadly its disconnected and narcissistic. An isolated intellect can be a dangerous thing. Spurious and ridiculous arguments, defining of anyone out of step. The invention of the car changed the world, it was a technological masterpiece. The hubris to *tell* us they have changed the world says it all really. The emperor has no clothes. Sadly however they have rightly f*cked an otherwise excellent product.

  48. Too little, too late says:

    I like the Henry Ford quote, but I think all this team has done is given us a grey horse. This is actually an improvement on the usual Microsoft practice of trying to stick an engine on a dead horse.

  49. I respectfully disagree with this attitude. Two point that I think are pertinent:
    1. The dashboard of a car – when I drive, I spend nearly all of my time looking *out the window* not at the dash. It’s good that the dashboard is not distracting, because it’s not what one focuses on while driving. It’s also good, as you point out, that it’s easy to find item quickly. However, I have no interest in changing the controls on my car dashboard every 2 years. Every new car, sure. But I don’t switch cars every 2 years. As David points out somewhere in this thread, the car analogy is a poor comparison. “A Good Metro Implementation Focuses on Content” where this may be true, it shouldn’t ignore other principles of good design.
    2. testing takes patience – isn’t that why we test things *before* releasing them? Can it really be called an upgrade when one must have patience to adapt to the change?
    3. “A good product development team will be innovative and creative, and it may not immediately resonate with the customer, but if they’ve done their job right, the customer will accept and embrace the change in the long run”
    how backwards is that? Shouldn’t it be:
    “A good product development team will be innovative and creative, and it may not immediately resonate with the customer, but if they’ve done their job right, the team will make changes to meet the customer’s need.”
    Maybe it’s an American model of business, but good business seem to stick to “the customer is always right” (even if their customer is a stick-in-the-mud) rather than “the customer will learn to adapt”.
    4. If a button to change the UI isn’t actionable, but changing horses into cars is, I remain skeptical of the apologetic attitude of this blog post.

    While VS2012 might have improved features, the UI is still in beta by my standards.

  50. I find that the new icons are hard to distinguish from each other. And I love minimal design. Also, I find that claiming that developers are just resistant to change to be more than a little arrogant and condescending. I also feel that using the Henry Ford quote about faster horses to also be more than a little arrogant and condescending. And BTW, even though every button on the dashboard of your car is not a different color the fact is that different colors are used to group related functionality. I doubt your would have bought the car if the dashboard was made up of dishwater gray and black.

  51. Rich Geldreich says:

    Been using Visual Studio since ’97. I’ve always looked forward to every new version. I use 2010 at work every day, and 2008 at home. I installed VS 2012 a few days ago and was shocked by the horrible UI. It’s amazingly drab looking, like a Soviet-era apartment block. The all caps menu bar is just painful to look at. The overall color scheme makes the UI elements/text difficult to visually parse. Please Microsoft, stack rank whoever came up with this absolute crap UI out of the building and hire some UI designers with some sense.

  52. A actual developer with eyes! says:

    I bought a expensive GPU and fast processor to actually have my programs use them. The new visual studio UI looks like it can run on a CGA card from 1981. It’s ugly and the flat design is a disorganized mess. That goes for the horrible win8 desktop too! I get depressed from looking at VS2012 a whole day. The Win7 dekstop with vs2010 was actually nice to look at. Take a hint from all the complaining and fix it, I never once complained about the look since its only gotten better each version until 2012 which is the most horrible disorganized boring mess to look at!

  53. Don’t kid yourself with this article. It is not that complicated, we know what a mess is as we actually live in this world.

    By the way the human race, has been happy with colour for the last million years so I don’t quite understand where MS gets this idea. They can try and convince us that it is okay but we all know and even the author of this article knows it is a mess – otherwise he would not have written it.

    The only idiot in this is Microsoft and it is sad that they are fooling themselves.

  54. One of the main reasons Microsoft is no longer dominating is that they keep making such major changes to their product line, and folks in general do NOT want to keep learning how to use something over and over and over again (Microsoft Office anyone?).

    Instead of thinking they know what is best for the consumer they should LISTEN to what the consumer is saying.

    Apple has more or less kept the same UI for a long time now, and that is why they continue to increase usership.

    And on that note – Windows 8??? I couldn’t even figure out how to shut the damn thing down! I can’t image my Mom or anyone over the age of 50 using it! It’s totally UN-intuitive!

  55. I’m not resisting change. I’m always ready to try new things. The VS2012 interface is just absolutely UGLY. It looks like something out of Windows-3.1 or even something from the early MS-DOS UI interfaces. Is this VS2012 or VS1995 ???

    MS should stop re-doing UI from scratch at every f***ing release.

  56. I am surprised that anybody would allow the new Visual Studio 2012 GUI to go through like that..it is definitely a eyesore..Somebody higher up the chain must have pushed it without paying attention to team responses

  57. DOUG SEVEN, what are you smoking?

  58. Yeah, really it is incredibly ugly. I don’t recall ever installing an application before and thinking “Wow, this is so ugly I honestly don’t think I can use it”. Somebody, somewhere got a really bad idea and somehow managed to convince a whole team to go with it.

  59. Michael J. McGillick says:

    How did you get the UI to have rounded corners? Mine comes up as a square box.

  60. THE VS2012 UI IS ABSOLUTELY UGLY.
    WE HAVE RETURNED BACK TO WINDOWS 3.1 AND MONOCHROME LIFE. MICROSOFT DIDNT NEED TO WORK ON VS 2012 UI. WE COULD SET COLOR VALUE TO ZERO ON OUR GRAPHIC CARD SETTINGS. IT IS VERY EASY.

  61. Michael J. McGillick says:

    How did you get the rounded Window border for the IDE shown in your first screen shot? When I install, I get a square window with no option to change the borders.

  62. Wow, it really is UGLEEEE. Henry Ford’s change, the introduction of the automobile, was accepted because it worked. This isn’t accepted because it doesn’t work. Duh.

  63. I’m sure the director of user interface for visual studio, is a MARKETING GUY that never used any visual studio for 10 hours at least five days a week, so Microsoft dump all these marketing guys and let engineers do it right!

  64. Its sooo ugly and it makes my head hurt.

  65. At least Doug is aggreeing that VS 2012 GUI was a GRIEF that we must all accept at the end.

  66. In truth it was a wonderful detailed article nevertheless as with every fantastic copy writers there are many factors that is proved helpful about. Yet never ever the actual much less it was intriguing.

  67. If you had any involvement as a reviewer you have failed miserably or just told them what they wanted to hear. This is the most hideous UI i have used, words can’t describe how badly Microsoft have failed with VS 2012. Honestly, how could you look at that 9-5 at work all day?There is no way in hell i will use it and luckily my work place agreed with me too.

    Personally I loved VS 2010 and will continue to use it, it has a extremely nice UI design. Such a shame, i always looked forward to new releases of VS as the interface always got better and better. Until some absolute moron/s decided a bland looking Windows 3.11 interface would look great.

  68. The default VS2012 color scheme is pretty bad. The reason why it’s bad is not because it’s different, but because it requires a lot more effort than it should to differentiate between different UI elements.

    With no easily distinguishable lines to separate different areas of the screen, it may require several seconds of scrutiny to determine whether, for example, the last line of visible text in a pane is actually the last line, or if the text is cut off by the bottom of the pane, and you should scroll to see more. With the old UI, such things were obvious, and therefore much easier to read and use. It was also much easier to tell the difference between buttons, tabs, and plain text, and to identify groupings of UI elements that probably apply to similar things.

    Fortunately, the theme editor is fairly robust, and it was not too difficult for me to create a color theme that acceptably rectifies the problem. I can add contrast, and the UI becomes relatively easy to read again.

    Now the main problems I’m facing are the crashing and slow find-in-files Unfortunately I don’t know of such easy workarounds for those.

  69. Allow the developers to change the UI. VS2008 / VS2010 or VS2012 or change it to suit your own requirements. Provide a few themes and allow developers to share themes that they have created. When designing the UI (Microsoft!!) did you guys not think a little further in case those developers that did not like the theme could change it. Come on, MS!!! You have so many supporters out there.

  70. OW–My Eyes!

    Ergonomics anyone? Does Microsoft have some hidden angle in forcing developers to visit their local optometrist? I don’t mind the look–if I jumped out of my skin every time Microsoft did something ridiculous…(well, I don’t know what I’d do.)

  71. When I’m navigating a tree in VS2012 and I can’t tell which icons are files and which icons are folders because they are all inscrutable black lines I have a lot of trouble.

    This is not me being afraid of change, this is me being afraid of the morons that have taken over Microsoft.

  72. comparing the invention of the car with a shit dull UI, now I have heard it all. You guys are beyond reason.

    And quit pretending to know that everyone is resistant to change, its not something you can know, its just bullying.

  73. The human brain is designed to perceive 3d objects. Windows 3.0 capitalized on this by using the same light and shadow that the brain uses to recognize 3d objects. By removing any semblance of dimensionality, the Visual Studio UI is forcing the brain to find patterns in a way it was never designed to do. The human brain also perceives the world in color. Some photographers use this to advantage by creating black and white images that force the brain to spend more time to perceive the image — not something you want a UI to do. Visual Studio’s use of 2D and lack of color works against the way the brain normally perceives our world, forcing the brain to work harder to recognize what it is seeing.

    The 2012 UI was designed by people who don’t understand how the brain processes visual information, and as a result they have created a UI that forces the brain to work harder in order to recognize the components of the UI. I don’t think it’s completely a coincidence that Windows didn’t start to become popular until Microsoft replaced the 2d black and white UI of Windows 2 with the 3d color UI of Windows 3. An effective UI utilizes the brain’s inherent abilities of visual perception — something the Visual Studio designers have lost sight of.

  74. Referee2000 says:

    I am very sad to see Microsoft and its new direction – I have uninstalled Windows 8 and VS2012. Shaking my head I see these as child-like UI. I hate them, tried them, and went back to beauty in Windows 7 and VS2010. I have also found myself installing Linux, (now have multiple distributions) and I intend to continue down that route. I also found myself buying an Apple – why? I am tired of the major changes each few years. I think its time, for me at least, to investigate other choices. Why you may ask? Not because I drink the other koolaid, but if I have to go through the pains or relearning where things are, how they function and those horrible, bland crappy screens, I might as well learn it on other platforms and MAKE A CHOICE.

    I was extremely comfortable with XP, resented VS6 to VS.Net (where I picked up Java because of it – yea!) Now, I am picking up something else because of MS forced “retooling” of the development / knowledge field of mine. Yes, we are creatures of habit – you make me an expert by reuse and familiarity. This constant pulling the rug out of our feet / eyes / memory – we may start to resent it.

    Build upon the past and change slightly for the better and you make for one rock solid future. Constantly “refactoring completely” and you keep us behind. How much more would the developers love MS if they kept with familiar UI, added a huge amount of functionality and let us hit the ground running – not hit the ground crying, picking ourselves up, learning to train our senses and then poof, another round of pain.

    So, I am taking this time to learn other stacks, other places and saying quietly, “enough, I am too old to be constantly changing. Experts learn their tools, and if the tools are always (idiotically) changing, find yourself another shop to become the expert again.”

    Shopping around for an OS, and tools… shoot, I just might change careers while I am at it.

  75. The metro concept seems to have been embraced without understanding the entire concept. Yes, icons should be simple and self-explanatory with clean distinct shapes. That concept applies to the icon, but, however, not to the entire interface as a whole. Look again at the cars cockpit. Imagine the entire dashboard as a flat, monochromatic plane with the control buttons being nothing but simple black icons without evening seeing a button shape outlining and defining the space that the icon exists in. I promise you – no one would buy a car like that. The metro concept only works if it is applied to icons, and wrapped in something that is esthaetically pleasing (to balance out the plainness of the icon). Put simply – the 2012 interface is a$$ ugly.

  76. Usability and minimalism are not the same thing. Jony Ive needs to figure that out too. The human brain processes color and real-world textures. VS2008 had everything right. Just go back to that and stop changing the UI. We want new tools and features and a faster leaner IDE.

  77. John Scanlon says:

    Your webpage title is “Overcoming the new UI” and all you do is praise it. I don’t have any particular reactions to the look-and-feel – just to things that say they’re something they’re not. And in that category, removing the block move buttons as a “productivity-improvement” seems questionable at best. All I want to do is find out how to put them back, which is surprisingly harder than expected. My natural fondness for Visual Studio as a developer isn’t enhanced by coming to pages advertising to “Overcome the new UI” only to find them to be some sort of propaganda site for Microsoft…

  78. It is enough work and time consuming to “learn” new features and go throu the upgrade process. It is not productive to “learn” a new UI on top of that.
    There is no need to re-invent a hammer.
    Why do the UI developer newbies at Micrsoft think they must force other people to live in the same poor, colorless world as they do?

    Instead of putting engergy in inventing a new UI you should put that energy in things like porting existing useful functions to the next release of VS, like i.e. the code print function that supports colors (which MS took away with 2010 – the first loss of color). I don’t want to install a third party tool for a feature that was in VS before.

    And to all the people that think VS2012 is like Window 3.11:
    Windows 3.11 hat already 16 colors. Windows 1.1 was the black and white one!

  79. To all frustrated Visual Studo 2013 users:
    Use the new Feedback-Feature of Visual Studio 2013 to give feedback EVERY TIME you are frustrated about something (i.e. the poor UI).

  80. Donald Duck says:

    Yes no doubt the new VS is ugly as hell out of the box and so terribly slow on fast Windows 7 PC. I spend at least an hour a week looking at the spinning cursor in despair. This is at work. At home I run my old virtualized XP with VS 2010 and it is way faster.
    I found some trick online to change the caps menu to normal menus and it feels much, much better.
    I still need to find a way to get flashy colors, maybe I am getting old but I just can see the damn outline colors because they are so dim.
    Not to mention the fact that sometimes the selected line is under one of the other windows I stack at the bottom of the screen.
    I totally hate the windows pinning stuff. I want these open or closed, not switching from pinned to auto-hide because auto-hide sucks big time.
    I could comment on the add references dialog I struggled with today. Fire the guy who ever devised and coded that sh*t and bring the old one back. I could go on for a while with references. Does any one use VS to actually write code at MS?
    Maybe I should add that I am one of this old fashioned person who tries to use the thumb on the scrollbar navigate up and down in a document. Try it with 10,000 lines of code. This thing is not usable at all. And it is not only in VS. The thumb is about 3 pixels high and moving it one pixel jumps 3 pages. Those guys are beyond redemption. And yes it has been broken for years.
    Should I also mention the ugly ribbons in Word which make you switch to Google docs forever? I have been using Word the old way so long that the location of every command is engraved in my brain. The old ones. I need to google to format a paragraph now.
    And then there is this damn thing asking me all the time if I am really sure that I want to copy files or telling me I must the admin. I am the administrator of that piece of crap you moron.
    It is terrible to see that those guys just ask you to do their job. They couldn’t come up with a solution to make their system secure so instead they ask Sheila the blonde if she really wants to let such and such program modify the system which might “harm her computer” and guess what she has not the faintest idea what the f**** it is about.
    Can you imagine that someone rewrote the search function in Windows and it is even worse?
    And to add insult to stupidity VS is more and more full of dumb messages like “performing the action you requested” or “taking much time than expected”, this is crap. Total crap.
    Is anyone sane at MS anymore? When do you reintroduce the salty wizard and the funny little dog while you are at it?
    Can’t you implement real, solid, simple, well designed useful functions or innovative software for a change?
    No wonder I do more and more JavaScript on Linux using SublimeText and testing it on Chrome…
    And btw, your boss’s yacht is just obscene, voila!

  81. Been working since the early 90’s with Dos (Watcom) , Borland, 16-bit MS C++, and 32-bit MS C++.
    Back then we enjoyed 3-D design for UI’s and MDI so you could arrange code windows any way you like for greater productivity (like working with older vs. new versions of source).
    Tabbed interfaces are great for controls and browsers; a real pain for development. 2-D buttons and menu’s give you less feedback, especially when they don’t (or barely) highlight or become raised as the mouse hovers over them.
    I think I experienced the best productivity with C++ 4.2 and the older MSDN MVB- and MediaView based MSDN documentation. Not sure if that was because I was 20 years younger and could see, hear and think better, or the quality of the human interfaces and documentation were far superior to that of today.
    I have adjusted to every new version of VS, but the biggest problem I’m having with VS2012 is I CAN’T SEE THINGS! When even scroll bars are almost invisible, what are you supposed to do?
    What a pity MS does not really have the competition it used to have. Borland pushed MS to make meaningful vs. cosmetic change, and now MS has linked the ability to use newer versions of .Net with newer versions of VS.
    Should I stick with .NET 4.0 or go blind using VS2012 in order to use 4.5?
    With VS2012 some basic engineering precepts governing Accessibility have been thrown under the bus.

  82. Old article, but the Visual Studio 2013 UI is still a crap. Who designed the cursed Search / Replace, what was wrong with the one that actually worked? Click on “Match whole word (Alt-W)” hieroglyph, click it again – see any change? Neither am I… what is On and what is OFF? It barely changes the background color, impossible to say if it’s check or not. Seriously, checkbox was bad, MS turned it into a icon that has no definite On/Off position, and that is a “STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION”? Well, if the direction was given to get us confused, frustrated and mad – then yes, it is very much the right move. Only bringing this up because it’s probably the single both simplest and most used function, and it’s been screwed up so badly, how symbolic. CRAP.

  83. dotNET Pro says:

    It is more frustrating that developers with LESS experience with development are determined to change how experienced developers should work. Enough with the ‘you just don’t like it because you are not used to it yet’ attitude. If you want to introduce new features and look, fine. But forcing developers to give up their shortcuts, their approaches, and their style is anti-productive in every fashion. Something that stings about all of the UI changes, even back to the ‘Ribbon’ of MS Office, is that the person who is stuck using the tools is not allowed to customize it to their style. It’s like moving into a community that tells you they have 3 predetermined house paint schemes and your house must comply with it. Even if you have color blindness or are eccentric, you must deal with their choice for your life.

  84. VS2013 disappoints as well. I find myself searching for the comment/uncomment button….I find myself searching for a lot of toolbar items now. I can’t tell where one toolbar ends and another begins. what the hell did they do to the search/replace?!?!?!?! OH, the scrollbars suck too! monochrome everything. also, why in the hell do some window tabs open on the right now? wtf?!

    the people responsible for this UI bullshit need to be FIRED!!!!!

  85. JC in DC says:

    I found this post looking for a way to make Quick Find in VS 2013 go away. I like how in the productivity extension to 2010 you could turn it off. I’d like to be able to turn it off. The UI is flatter, and may be not as appealing, etc., etc., But visual stuff is not as distracting as changing actual functionality. I want to hit Ctrl+F, type what I’m looking for, hit , have the dialog go away, then be able to use to find other instances like I used to. Having the cursor automatically move to the first match and having text in the code highlight as I type and having the extra keystrokes to return to the code is a BIG change in functionality with no reward. I think the problem is that when faced with anything from physical tools in the shed to an IDE there are two types–those who adapt to things as they are to make it work the way they want to, and those who are always looking for novelty. The Ford example is cute, but I don’t know that it applies here. I’m one of the adapters. I don’t resist all change, but you better give me a substantial rational for making it and show me the 317 ways that it’s better. If it’s just different, new, shiny, DON’T DO IT. We don’t need change for the sake of change. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And the old Find Dialog was not broken, so I’m not sure why the propeller-heads at MS found the need to change it.

    • charlie says:

      100% agreed. Adding new functionality which places a docking view in the main document view (!) that can not be switched off is one of the worst UI design decisions I’ve ever come across. It may be a great feature for some, but to force its usage and provide no way of switching back to behaviour that has worked satisfactory for others for years is very contradictionary to their own guidelines (actually, any UI guidelines). I’d be fired if I’d insist on such implementation. Let alone highlighting all found items in the current document which again may come in handy, but appears to be forced too, whether you want it or not. Major UI design changes in a document based app w/o a way back – exam failed!

  86. Missing Part says:

    I would like to see Ribbons implementaion in VS2013 at one point, it’s really so useful and stuff.

    “OK, George, now whip me like you mean it!”

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Microsoft won’t go all monochrome like they did with Visual Studio 2012 beta (and received tons of feedback as a result, not all [...]

  2. scott tucker says:

    scott tucker

    Overcoming the New Visual Studio UI – Doug Seven

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