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No worries, I'm happy to have a grown-up discussion.
As you mentioned, skeuomorphic design (however you spell it) is going overboard. Fortunately MS never went all out on this, unlike that fruity company.
I liked what MS had going with Windows 7 - taking advantage of the high-resolution, high-color graphics capabilities that everybody finally had at their disposal. Look at a "modern" UI, and it almost looks like something you should've been able to do back when CGA video cards could display a mere 4 colors. I find I have to look at Visual Studio icons longer than I used to because--being mostly black and white--only their shape sets them apart from one another, and some of them look very similar (think different file types in the same tree in Solution Explorer). It's not as bad now as it was back when they had just started experimenting, but still, with so little distinctiveness, it used to be easier when they had a full color palette at their disposal.
Metro apps...or whatever they're called this week...I can never easily tell where one control ends, and the other begins. Heck, at times I don't even realize something on the screen is clickable; at other times, something that's NOT clickable looks like it should be. I'm not sure who decided that scrollbars that hide themselves were ever a good idea. Buttons that would've been at home in a toolbar sometimes are at the bottom of the screen, sometimes they're at the top. So-called hamburger menus...sometimes on the left...sometimes on the right...sometimes it's a "..." on the right end of a horizontal menu. It's all incredibly inconsistent. Discoverability - which defines one's ability to discovery an unfamiliar app's functionality through familiarity with other, consistent apps - has gone out the window. Is something right-clickable? That's anyone's guess.
All this UI "simplification" was done in the name of less-capable, smaller real-estate tablets and phones that had to be made usable for big fat fingers. Retrofitting this paradigm to a computer operating system running on 27" and larger monitors doesn't make sense. On an actual PC, you just end up with huge, wasted, empty areas that could've been used to display more information without scrolling, or going to another screen, etc.
Of course I could go on, but I'm sure this is already sounding like some madman's nonsensical rant. I guess the bottom line might be that I'm primarily not a fan of the inconsistency that now exists, and feel like today's UIs have taken multiple steps backwards because we're trying to accommodate multiple devices that clearly don't have the same capabilities. So we're catering to the lowest common denominator.
Thank you for you long winded reply. Though I mostly disagree with your conclusions and sources of problems, I agree with your identified symptoms.
I don't think inconsistency is caused by Tablet/Touch restrictions, but rather it happened at the same time as the mass influx of sh*tty mobile app developers. 99% of Android Apps are still utter sh*t today, even the "big" ones.
And remember none of this happened without legacy. Hell, people still download Winamp with it's fully custom skin (that was still a thing with XP apps, remember?): talk about integration...
And I don't think there was any simplification at all. I think that proper native app development lost focus at around the same time (API hell times, you were always between a rock and a hard place, deciding the target API, with no clear future tech and ecosystem silos). It was around that time I switched stopped working on Windows MFC software, and most developers kept going on the web side. I absolutely detest web-development, so I ended up making apps, which usually are only targeted towards mobile with only use case being: using the website is too difficult on small screen with no mouse.
Meanwhile, OneOne UWP is one of the best pieces of software ever and it's a "mobile" app. UWP is not the problem, quite the contrary, it's a (possible) solution! I've built (and published) a few UWP apps and they're a bliss to develop on, compared to Android. Don't like it C#, XAML .net? Cool, use centennial and just wrap the bloody thing on a UWP sandbox and you get most of the benefits.
I've been somewhat intrigued by UWP, but given that this means an app wouldn't run on Windows 7 or Server OSes from that era, that makes it a non-starter for me. Generally my apps don't need the latest and greatest OS features, and it's taken me forever to drop support for XP (of all things) as a target platform. Heck, even then, if I just reverted back to the .NET 2.0 runtime, most of my code would still compile and run on it.
Paraphrasing from a Microsoft UX document I read about 'Metro' and task dialogs:
Microsoft wrote something like this:
Message boxes are replaced by task dialogs, which are supposed to be a uniform and fairly large size. One of the criticisms of the standard message box was that it was too small, and tended to get lost against a background of multiple application windows. The intent is that the larger and constant size of the task dialog acts as a cue that you need to make a decision or perform an action when the dialog appears.
FWIW, I hate flat monochrome UI's too. I don't mind the flatness as much, as people were getting out of hand with overly-wide drop shadows on everything and 3D-reach-out-and-grab-your-crotch icons on stuff. I despise monochrome UI's. I'm thoroughly middle-aged, and my visual acuity is pretty poor. It's rough for me to recognize icons that differ only by a few pixels. I also have a hard time figuring out the too-subtle figures of the icons themselves, as they assume a visual language acquired during a childhood filled with video games and the world wide web. Those of us who experienced these developments as adults don't have the same fluency (you lose a lot of language-learning skills as you exit childhood). Part of the problem is that the principal development teams are run and populated by 20-somethings and 30-somethings. No one performs usability testing based on age, since the attitude is they wish the dinosaurs would just f***ing die off anyway.
Instead of a floppy disk, I once wrote an app that used the standard Windows hard drive icon, overlaid with an arrow pointing down to the drive to represent Save...and another icon with an arrow pointing up instead, away from the drive, for Load.
And so my graphics designer career came to an end. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
I always think something, but actually it was a little embarrassing to say it until recently, because it sounds like a bad joke of teens or their dream.
Therefore - in advance and to my defense - is to mention that my SF-Con is a very long time ago, and I (hopefully) with my 40+ already arrived in life.
Especially after the appearance of Windows 10 and its UI appearance, I increasingly recognize a special trend and change with a certain similarity of the UI to the good old ST TNG.
Looking back at the past 20 years and the current direction, first the good old fold-out phone, then iPhones, pads, and other mobile devices. In addition, then a little loose connection with Linux, and the growing storm clouds, whereby a certain weakening of the desktops in the direction of mainframes is tried.
So also in now relatively flat and now universally expectant UI, which should now get more and more tabs.
Maybe someday our dear windows will disappear completely.
Something about which we often break our head:
"In the name of the Compiler, the Stack, and the Bug-Free Code. Amen."
Yeah, when was the last time you saw a 20 year old web-developer worrying about anything else, other than what flavor of fashionable tech they're using? Who cares if you have a 5% contrast between the grey background and the grey text? Who care about 25 MB for the landing page. Who cares about the fact that a core-i7 at 5 GHz still can't run your page responsively, let alone fluidly.
Native development is only a tiny bit less worse, because they can't just import a magic 300 MB library to show a button.
PS: I add and test accessibility features to all the apps I make, even though I never use them. Why? Because I make apps for users, not for store ratings.
My biggest peeve with latest designs is the missing Apply/OK buttons in windows 10. Once you change something there used to be an OK button that gives you an immediate confirmation that what you have done is actually applied. These days you make some changes and there is no buttons to confirm and it makes me confuse did it work or not and then most of the time I go back to same screen just to be sure.
Some designer ( Self proclaimed artist ! ) is getting paid a million bucks somewhere to come up with such a stupid design.
Zen and the art of software maintenance : rm -rf *
Maths is like love : a simple idea but it can get complicated.
That's actually very easy. Under the new paradigm, there's no such thing as "apply". Apps aren't databases with commits, if you change a font size or enable a background service, everything should be completely dealt in the background. Think of the WiFi on/off button in your smartphone. You don't change the wifi to off and then press apply: you turn it off and wait for the darn thing to actually turn off, which is relayed by the button changing color, indicating status.