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Let the Debate Commence: New Visual Studio Icon Revealed

Perhaps nothing stirs up Visual Studio developers like design changes to their familiar UIs, especially fundamental redesigns of iconography.

Last year, when Microsoft unveiled new icons for the Visual Studio Code editor, the backlash was so great that the company reversed its decision on a color change.

Expect more of the same with yesterday's announcement of upcoming UX and UI changes in Visual Studio 2019. Actually, it's already started, with the one-day-old post already garnering dozens of comments. Despite a lot of support, many developers immediately took issue with the icon change, with comments such as: "I hate to say it but this is ridiculous. This smells of tinkering with the UI just for the sake of it."

Here's a comparison of the Visual Studio 2017 icon on the left and the new Visual Studio 2019 icon on the right:

The Visual Studio 2017 Icon (left) and the New Visual Studio 2019 Icon (right)
[Click on image for larger view.] The Visual Studio 2017 Icon (left) and the New Visual Studio 2019 Icon (right) (source: Microsoft).

"The current icon's flat style rendered it almost invisible against a background with a similar color," said Jamie Young, group principal design manager. "By adopting the Fluent Design System approach to depth, lighting and materials, we've visually enhanced the icon so that it's much more visible against a variety of backgrounds."

The design team made further tweaks to differentiate the VS 2019 release and preview versions of the IDE:

The Visual Studio 2019 Release Icon (left) Next to the Visual Studio 2019 Preview Icon (right)
[Click on image for larger view.] The Visual Studio 2019 Release Icon (left) Next to the Visual Studio 2019 Preview Icon (right) (source: Microsoft).

"We increased the size of the infinity loop, which gave us more room and opportunity to show the difference between the Preview and Release icons," Young said. "We've also taken a bolder approach to how we represent the Preview. By breaking the icon shape in a few places, we've maintained the overall shape of the Visual Studio icon. But we're showing a distinct and accessible difference at the same time, suggesting a complete (if not production-ready) preview."

Other UI/UX improvements were designed to help developers more easily launch their code with a new start window providing quick access to the most common code access techniques: cloning or checking out code; opening a project or solution; opening a local folder on PC; and creating a new project.

"Finally, we also reimagined the experience of creating a new project, with a new list of the most popular templates and improved search and filter capabilities," Young said. "With the new design and step-by-step approach for selecting a template and configuring it, we believe that we have made it less overwhelming so that you can focus on a single decision at a time. You will also be able to explore other languages, platforms, and project types that Visual Studio supports and eventually be able to install them right from there."

Other changes involve a refreshed blue theme, more noticeable/clear notifications and improved productivity through tweaks that involve removal of the title bar.

Getting rid of the title bar didn't sit well with many developers, whose vociferous objections have already received a response from Young.

Responding specifically to one commenter who asked to make the removal optional, Young said:

Hey rossisdead (and everyone below asking about the title bar change). Wanted to let you know your feedback is consistent with some results we've had from recent studies as well. There's enough evidence around this that we're already looking into making changes. These should alleviate the issues you've raised below around wayfinding and draggability of the IDE. Please keep an eye out for these in future Previews. This sort of feedback is exactly why we wanted to talk with you as early as possible about the changes coming to Visual Studio 2019. Please also file bugs or leave suggestions in our Developer Community if you've not already done so. Thanks!

Emphasizing the need for developer feedback, Young invited feature requests or bug reports to be logged in the Developer Community site, which has taken over from the old UserVoice site.

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.

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