Help! I’m blinded!

Ever since people have seen screenshots of Visual Studio 11 Beta, there has been a lot of gripe concerning the new flat and gray look. Myself included. But quite frankly, that is nothing compared to the removal of macros. I think I shall not rant about that in this post.

The Visual Studio Blog claims: “In this and subsequent studies more developers have expressed a preference for the glyph style icons over the former style, especially after having spent time getting used to the new glyph style icons.”

While that may be true, it is unsubstantiated, and unqualified. “More developers”. I like this one. Well unqualified. More compared to what? I think maybe it could be “more than before, which was none.” Which would make it a true statement. So, the real essence which they did not share, is the percentage of developers tested that preferred the new glyphs. Regardless, we have our own preferences, as everybody’s brains works in their own way. It is true that one or the other will work better people most of the time. But what’s not cool, as many has pointed out, is there isn’t any choice/option. For now, if the glyphs don’t work for you, then you’re screwed. Point to note, graphics in the past were grayscale because we did not have coloured displays.

Check out the Visual Studio Iconography. It is a sort of test to see whether the coloured icons or the grayscale glyphs work better for you. Take note, it’s to see which is better for you. “Better” requires a frame of reference. So that would be yourself. The ‘game’ basically names an icon/glyph and you pick it out from a batch of them. Simple. Here are some points:

  • The icons are represented by both the coloured and non-coloured versions
  • There is a list of all the icons/glyphs with their names. You need not memorize them all, and you shouldn’t. Part of the test is to see if you are able pick out an icon/glyph based solely on a description. This will demonstrate the effectiveness of its design
  • The icons/glyphs are presented in a group like a toolbar, basically and without context. This neutralizes any contextual advantage, and each of them must stand on the merit of their design. You will then be able to see which (of those available) ‘get lost’.
  • Poorly designed glyphs will standout here, in particular, the Class View and Object Browser glyphs. They are identical. This is where the fun is in the game when you have to pick one of those out. Refer to image at the end of this post

I have played it a fair amount of times, and here’s what I found:

  • It generally takes longer, sometimes twice as long to figure out the glyphs. But that is because they are new. However, this is a valid point as part of the issue is how great the learning curve is for the new glyphs. Ideally, they should not impact you greatly as they are new representations of existing things. If it’s significantly difficult to figure out the new representation of something you already know, then it is a problem
  • It is actually easier to pick out some of the new glyphs. I noticed that this is not because it is grayscale, but because it has been redesigned into something more effective. If the coloured icons were redesigned as such, I believe they would be even more effective than the glyphs
  • If you have to pick glyphs that you are familiar with, or are standouts or well designed, the times taken for both were the same down to the second for me.


So, as usual, you can’t please everyone. And in this instance, it looks like Microsoft, bent on their Metro-gone-wild approach (this is my opinion and allegation) is pleasing what appears to be a minority. Some people don’t care what it looks like, and some do. Both are legitimate. Personally, I can’t even use a computer (notebook) I can’t stand the look and feel of. But that’s just me. But alas’, Visual Studio 11 is in beta at the moment. Lets see what happens after the feedback has been gone through.

Just so Microsoft remembers, most Visual Studio users are using it to make their living, and somebody is forking out the cash for the hefty price tag. I don’t know if this is supposed to appeal to a new category of users or not, but I certainly hope they are paying attention to those who are paying the premium (whether for or against).

My fave new glyphs:

vs11-glyph fail

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