Fluent Version of Teams Desktop and Browser UI Rolling Out

Aligning Teams with the Microsoft 365 Design Vision

Microsoft 365 admin center notification MC225329 of Oct 28, updated Jan 29 predicted the release of a makeover of the Teams user interface on desktop and browser clients to use Microsoft’s fluent design language. The language in Microsoft 365 roadmap item 68721 reveals that this is not a major update. It’s simply to align Teams “with the overall Microsoft 365 design vision,” which we can assume means the Fluent design system launched as “The Future Vision of Microsoft 365” in July 2018. The essential elements of the client remain intact in terms of app and search bars, navigation and content panes, the search and command box, and so on.

Rounded Corners and More!

Devotees of design language will be thrilled to discover the use of drop shadows between panels, rounded corners for square graphical elements (like buttons) and subtle color adjustments to the default and dark themes. Those of us who simply get on with life might notice new icons for apps like chat, calendar, files, and calls. But you’ve got to look closely to pick up the changes, and it’s likely that many users will fail to notice.

I looked at the old and new icons (Figure 1 – old on left and new on right) and noticed the following:

  • The people in the Teams icon are rounder in the new UI.
  • Chat is now a bubble (more rounding).
  • Calendar has gained a line.
  • Activity seems to have swelled a tad.
  • The Calls icon is thicker.
  • The downturned tab in the Files icon has switched sides.
  • The filter icon (not shown) is now three lines instead of a funnel.
The old and new Teams icons
Figure 1: The old and new Teams icons

For the curious, the reason why the sets of icons use a different order is that I applied a Teams setup policy to change the set in my tenant (to the right). I just prefer having the teams app icon on top instead of activity. To each, their own…

Fluent Design

I freely admit that other subtle enhancements might have escaped my notice, but truly, these are not earthshattering changes that will improve your working life. According to Microsoft, the Fluent design system ensures “a cohesive and accessible design for all Microsoft products and users.” I understand how Microsoft might apply a design language to its products: I struggle with the implications of stamping new design elements on users. Maybe the last part of Microsoft’s assertion should be “to benefit users.”

The documentation for the Fluent design system is an interesting read if you want to understand how Microsoft coaches engineers how to create user interface components. For instance, the page covering controls for Windows apps how applications use different controls. It’s nerd heaven.

How to Switch to the Fluent Version of Teams

Returning to the point in hand, MC225329 says that standard release for the new UI is scheduled for mid-February. Microsoft missed that date, but if you want to see the new interface, switch your Teams client into preview mode. The client will relaunch complete with its prettified and refreshed icons. You’ll have a nanosecond of excitement followed by the swift realization that while it’s good for Microsoft to have a common design language for Microsoft 365 apps, it won’t add much value to your life.

And as for people who write about Teams? Well, we look forward to the opportunity to redo illustrations in publications like the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook. But then again, so much change happens inside apps like Teams that we’d need to change the chapters anyway…

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