Microsoft's refreshed mobile apps extend Fluent Design across platforms

Outlook and Edge on iOS
Outlook and Edge on iOS (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft discussed designs for its flagship mobile apps on iOS and Android.
  • The apps incorporate Fluent Design language.
  • Microsoft also redesigned the apps to facilitate quick productivity.

Microsoft's Jon Friedman discussed the redesigns to Microsoft's flagship mobile apps on iOS and Android in a Medium post. Fried said that Outlook, OneDrive, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint have already been redesigned and that new versions of Teams, Yammer, and Planner are on the way. The redesigns show a continued effort by Microsoft to bring its productivity services and apps to the mobile space regardless of platform.

The redesigns of the apps accomplish two major goals, bringing Fluent Design to mobile apps and enabling quick productivity for people on the go. Friedman breaks down the design process and the research that went into it. One of the insights that came from Microsoft's research is that even though people spend hours on their phones every day, individual actions often take just 20 to 30 seconds of people's time. To improve these bursts of productivity, Microsoft geared its mobile apps towards completing what microtasks.

Several features and changes aim to make tasks easier when on the go, including Play My Emails on Outlook and Read Aloud on Word and other Office apps. Microsoft also added features like document and table scanning to Office and OneDrive to improve productivity.

Fluent Design is a framework of principles that guide app design. Initially part of a push by Microsoft for Windows 10, Fluent Design now extends to Microsoft's mobile apps. The redesigned Office apps implement Fluent Design elements throughout the app experience, including the app icon, splash screen, cells, cards, typography, people, and file lists.

When creating the redesigned mobile apps, Microsoft had a team of 40 designers create a mobile UI toolkit that makes it easier for developers to use the same components across apps. These toolkits are also available to external designers that would like to build apps that align with Microsoft's mobile efforts.

Microsoft's mobile applications on iOS and Android have continued to grow in usage numbers, and Friedman discussed how mobile applications sharing a design language helps people be more productive. "When mobile apps seamlessly connect and feel similar, it reduces cognitive burden by eliminating the need to re-learn app patterns and navigation. This is especially important to us as we're investing in side-by-side productivity scenarios on iPad and Surface Duo."

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at (opens in new tab).

  • If Windows 10 looked anything like this -- Apple would tremble.
  • I think Windows 10X (please change the name), will look closer to this first before Windows 10.
  • This looks beautiful and so refreshing. Does Xamarin forms support Fluent design? It will be one point to create beautiful X platform apps.
  • I believe it does now.
  • Do these apps already have Fluent design? Or it's just a plan?
  • They honestly look about the same to me.
  • What in blazes was that video on about? It showed me nothing useful or practical about Office. Nothing. It's bad enough that the whole Fluent design thing doesn't impress me in the least, but to produce a video that doesn't actually demonstrate what they suggest we can do with the entire Office family? SHOW ME SOMETHING TYPICAL, SOMETHING PRACTICAL.
  • There are other videos do that. Lighten up, live a little and enjoy the beautiful things. Not every single video needs to show productivity.
  • "When mobile apps seamlessly connect and feel similar, it reduces cognitive burden by eliminating the need to re-learn app patterns and navigation. " That's great if all you are using are MS apps. But if MS apps look different from other phone apps (because other apps are following the iOS design guidelines, for example), then the MS apps will look weird by comparison AND will "INCREASE cognitive burden by having to re-learn app patterns and navigation".
  • And let us not forget that Microsoft has no platform anymore and will therefore be forced to accept the trends that Android/Google dictates or perhaps even Samsung as well.
  • December in 2020 they will. Also, this design language is for Microsoft's apps not for the Android and Apple industries. If others accept it great besides that this is Microsoft's design language for consistent apps.
  • ah yes!! Coming Soon. Never heard that before.
  • Alas, once again, what could have been had it not been for that lying POS Nutellla