360 ways to use a table?

Did you ever use Microsoft’s first Surface? Didn’t think so. One of their early user interface guidelines was something called 360° computing.

It encouraged designing experiences people could use from any orientation, but our brains don’t enjoy reading upside down too much.


This is a dramatization of how it felt to use a Surface v1 app with scattered content. Note how the frustration induces users to shoot cats out of the sky via lasers coming out of their eyes.

In practice, we huddle, we bias, we cheat out. Even among activities that involve face-to-face collaboration, a lot of it is not exactly 360°, unless you’re King Arthur. Nobody likes reading upside down (or even at moderately sharp angles), but we all have a tendency to huddle around each other.

So in order to succeed in building a great and usable Surface-based guestbook application, we went for big, bold and playful… but we also kept things upright.

That beautiful mockup by the visual design team is based off my wireframes:

If only our eyeballs spun around their own axes, maybe that ScatterView demo with the photos strewn all over the place would have become the norm.