When the Microsoft design language was introduced with Windows 8, we tried to help out with an extensive set of guidelines around design and User Experience. These guidelines were in the beginning very restrictive, which resulted in lots of apps with squares. With Windows 8.1 we explained that guidelines means guidelines, not “the law”. And although the app certification team looks at the usefulness of an app, they never disqualify an app because “it’s ugly”.
We’ve also seen that the end user is getting more and more familiar with UI elements and interactions that are used on a wide variety of platforms and devices. For instance, the hamburger menu is used on all kinds of platforms and devices – being the web, mobile, iOS, Android or Windows. Although there is lots of discussion on the use of the hamburger menu, there might still be a reason to use it wisely. Same goes for other forms of layout, navigation or commanding in an app. If the user is familiar with it and you are using it on your app on another platform, why not use that on Windows as well?
So, where are we now with Windows 10? Actually, your still free to do whatever you like with the design. There are however best practices to fit in the platform as best as possible, as is the same for the web, iOS and Android. For instance, on Windows there is the gesture to swipe from the side of the screen inwards to get a system action. Swipe in from the left gives you the task switcher, swipe in from the right gives you the notification area. Unless you’re on Windows Mobile, where the notification area is accessible with a swipe from the top for instance. These are constructs to keep in mind when designing a UI and placing controls or handle gestures.
In Windows 10 we came with a few new controls and concepts that make it more easy to build apps that work and scale across all the devices we target, from the Rapsberry PI to phones, tablets, XBOX and even Hololens. On Channel9 a new short video is posted to briefly explain the approach of designing a Universal Windows Platform app with these things in mind. If you want to learn more, go to http://design.windows.com.