Windows has always existed to be a stage for the world's innovation. It's been the backbone of global businesses and where scrappy startups became household names. The web was born and grew up on Windows. It's the place where many of us wrote our first email, played our first PC game and wrote our first line of code. Windows is the place people go to create, to connect, to learn and to achieve—a platform over a billion people today rely on.
The responsibility of designing for 1 billion+ people is one we don't take lightly. The past 18 months brought an incredible shift in how we used our PCs; we went from fitting the PC into our lives to trying to fit our whole lives into the PC. Our devices weren't just where we went for meetings, classes and to get things done, but where we came to play games with friends, binge watch our favorite shows and, perhaps most meaningfully, connect with one another. In the process we found ourselves recreating the office banter, the hallway chatter, workouts, happy hours and holiday celebrations – digitally.
What was so powerful was the shift in the PC we saw and felt—from something practical and functional to something personal and emotional. This is what inspired us as we were building the next generation of Windows. To build you a place that feels familiar, where you can create, learn, play and most importantly, connect in all new ways.
This has been one of our most people-driven releases ever. During 85+ research studies and tens of thousands of testing rounds, we spoke with everyone from long-time fans who love the familiar aspects of our product, to new customers wanting Windows to be easier and more approachable. A key theme surfaced during research which became a guiding design principle: calm technology that makes our lives genuinely better. Calmness is much needed in today's world, and it tends to hinge on our ability to feel in control, at ease, and trustful. Windows 11 facilitates this through foundational experiences that feel familiar, soften formerly intimidating UI, and increase emotional connection. Experiences that bring you closer to what you love most: family, friends, passions, entertainment, and creations. Windows 11 is where everything comes together, and the need for this has never been stronger.
Putting you at the center
Designing for over one billion people requires empathy. It relies on internalizing human needs to build solutions that are inclusive of all, while still delivering a personal touch. Consider the Start menu: the cornerstone of the Windows experience moved into the centerpiece position. After listening to people express a need for more efficiency and less noise when using Start, we designed a cleaner and simpler experience that puts people at the center by prioritizing the apps they love and the documents they need. It also adapts to modern device form factors and enables easier access for all screen sizes, from a Surface Go to an ultra-wide monitor.
At Microsoft, these design decisions are not taken lightly. The team obsessed over every pixel; we updated the Start logo to align with our new visual language and leveraged animations to add delight and confidence to the interaction. We were also intentional with the choice of the wallpaper imagery, which welcomes you on boot and complements the new center alignment to make your experience more balanced and focused. We want your journey into Windows 11 to be literally centered from the start.
Our focus on making technology more human is reflected in the out-of-box experience as well, a moment that once welcomed you in but now welcomes you back. We know that not everyone is a first-time customer and we're eager to honor our relationship with longtime loyalists through our designs. You can also give your PC a name during setup so that Windows feels uniquely yours, more human than the random name used to accompany the system settings. Windows is yours, and we designed it to celebrate the way you live and work.
Once you're settled in, Windows 11 remembers who you are and what you need as you navigate your day. One-click interactions will carry you from task to task, experience to experience, without disrupting your workflow. Over the past year, the boundaries between work and life have been redefined. In this new version of Windows, the ability to organize your activities is something that we paid close attention to, ensuring you remain focused and in flow regardless of changing contexts. Windowing and snapping have been redesigned to remember your preferences so when you leave your work brain for a moment to check the news (the new Widgets were intentionally designed to respect your workflow), the system remembers how you organized your space. We created the digital equivalent of your work desk nestled into your home, empowering you to achieve something great and feel connected to your life all at once.
These changes come to life through a beautiful new design language that makes Windows more coherent than ever across experiences. Hearing people's desire for UI that felt softer, friendlier, and less intimidating, we evolved our visual and auditory expression. We rounded sharp corners and created a warmer color palette to build a more human and approachable language that doesn't get in the way of your productivity.
More than an operating system
How do you build a product for over a billion people with diverse and unique needs? You listen, iterate, and adapt. Through customer insights, we made Windows 11 more human and welcoming by softening edges, reducing clutter, and designing for consistency. These changes also elevate self-expression through new materials and typefaces, a refreshed color palette, and new wallpapers and theme packs designed to appeal to a broad range of tastes.
With Windows 11, we see a shift from technology that is simply functional to technology that is emotional, human, and deeply personal. Windows is more than just an operating system — it is a fabric woven into our lives that brings us closer to everything we love and helps us create and connect.