Microsoft unveils UI designs for its dual-screen devices

Don Sharpe
by Don Sharpe
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Use experience design

Microsoft is showcasing user-interface (UI) design ideas for smart gadgets with two screens, including its upcoming Surface Neo and Surface Duo. If dual-screen computers prove to be technologically feasible from a hardware perspective, they can be a commercial success too if their apps deliver superior user experiences (UX).

One of the main reasons why Android smartphone sales dwarf those of tablets running on the same mobile OS is that the latter have poorly designed apps that don’t always look great on the larger screens.

Now developers intending on building apps for dual-screen devices that run on platforms like Android or Windows 10X can draw some inspiration from the feasible ideas that Microsoft is floating.

Whether the expected dual-screen devices fall in the category of tablets, smartphones, or hybrids, they present new form factors with which most developers and consumers have no experience.

The different form factors support a wide variety of activities and allow the user to fit the device to their situation. By taking advantage of the various postures with your app, you will help your users achieve more.

Taking care of the seam in the middle

The seam (gap) between the two screens on the upcoming devices poses a critical UX concern for apps that support spanned layouts. But Microsoft recommends not minding the seam if it doesn’t obstruct the user from accessing or enjoying the app content.

For instance, the user can move a location on Google Maps in case the seam is partly blocking it. But in some dual-screen applications, the “gap” can be an unwelcome eyesore, and the developer has to do something about it.

Dropdown menus on an eCommerce app would be a perfect example of the seam blocking part of any content spanning across two screens. According to Microsoft, the developer should design the feature such that it changes the direction of expansion to display all the menu items on one screen.

Another practical idea is moving the UI to the center of one of the screens and rather than the middle region of the entire app in the spanned portrait or landscape mode.

Also, Microsoft is urging cross-platform app developers to incorporate responsive layouts in their UI design. That’s one of the issues that still haunt some Android tab applications today.