Fluent Design: Microsoft Yammer Explored

Microsoft Yammer is having a banner year, with the software giant declaring 2020 the ‘Year of Yammer’. One of the biggest developments has been aligning the product to Microsoft’s Fluent Design principles. It’s a key move for the product that is competing with the ever popular Workplace from Facebook—also an enterprise social network. While the parallels are very clear to see, there is much more to the new Yammer than being a mere copycat to Workplace from Facebook. We’ve covered a lot of the features of the new Yammer that’s rolling out (and is now in public preview)—but what’s still worth exploring are the design principles that both govern and guide the reinvention of the original enterprise social network.

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Microsoft Yammer and Fluent Design

The new Microsoft Yammer and its design are all informed by what Microsoft calls its Fluent Design System. Philosophically, ‘Fluent’ refers to the idea that technology and its use should have a natural, intuitive flow from one platform or device to the next. It’s really a reflection on how we consume technology nowadays—we often start work on our laptops and personal computers then shift to our tablets and mobile devices as we move about.

It’s a fitting design paradigm choice for Microsoft which used to be plagued by terrible cross-platform integration. Now, in more practical terms, ‘Fluent’ design is about anticipating use cases of its products and ensuring the overall user experience is crafted to meet many needs, contexts, and uses with little fuss and confusion. It’s certainly a long way from the days when Apple took potshots at the company for being the opposite of Fluent in its user experience.

What Fluent Means for Microsoft Yammer

A look at many other Office 365 programs will give you a glimpse into the future for what this could mean for Microsoft Yammer. There’s been a clear shift toward single colours—apart from white, that is—and an overall cleaner look. It’s certainly the first impression that you have when you visit the new Yammer. Fluent design influences are apparent in the much more organized look. Everything that you could possibly need is on display.

For one, there’s the much clearer company branding that includes your company logo and business name. There’s a prominent search bar as well as all the basic application controls and settings on the top. All these make it much easier to get to anything that you would like to change and customise in terms of your overall experience using the program. You even have easy access to your Office 365 profile card—changes to which will apply across the entire network.

Fluent Design Prioritises Engagement

When you move to the social cards themselves, you’ll find that Fluent design has ensured that engagement is a clear priority. Images and media content are prominent and eye-catching, but the real gem is in the comment section. Much like many other social media, there are the requisite reaction, comment, and share options. Conversations are tiered to keep threads in order. It’s clear, however, that Yammer intends to take advantage of a strong Office 365 integration.

There’s a dedicated button that allows you to share documents and files from everywhere in your company’s Office 365 network—from SharePoint to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more. From an employee standpoint, this makes collaboration significantly easier. From a comms standpoint, it will allow you to share content relevant to an employee post for clarity and support—without having to needlessly trawl through your own files.

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AI and Guided Discovery in Fluent Design

AI is a big deal nowadays and features in everything from bots to even assisted search, and its presence can be strongly felt in the new Fluent design version of Yammer. For one thing, your discovery feed itself is curated to show you what matters to you. Depending on your job role, your prior search queries, and other little bits of detail that is sourced from your interaction with Office 365’s other applications, the AI learns what’s important and pushes it front and centre.

This is also applied to your search experience in general where you can easily find what matters to you at the moment. Perhaps the best applications of this machine learning have to do with the aforementioned ability to attach files. AI guides this behaviour and suggests the files that are most relevant to a particular post or conversation. It’s an easy way to have all activities flow more naturally for users in your company.

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Fluent Design Guides Building Communities

One great update with Yammer is the focus on stronger community support. The communities within Yammer allowed one to create spaces to build camaraderie, cooperation, and collaboration. All three are reinforced by the ability to better brand internally within communities. Cover photos can be handily replaced with team or departmental logos or even guidelines and infographics that communities want to bring to the fore.

The expansiveness of Fluent Design can be seen in the ease by which communities can be managed via smartphone. The interface has been simplified for ease-of-use. Simpler, some have argued, than Workplace from Facebook’s interface which has become cluttered of late as more features are added into the mix. Posting is an easy and fluid experience as is, again, attaching relevant files from anywhere in your Office 365 network into a post.

One area of mobile where Fluent Design really shines is in video capture. Tools are in place to make the process of capturing, editing, and publishing a breeze. This is perfect for highly mobile comms or remote setups where high production value videos might not be easy to undertake. There are many great internal comms opportunities to be had with this improvement: from direct CEO comms to their employees to even on-site community updates.

A Smoother Fluent Design Native Experience

Those who are most invested in Office 365’s full suite of enterprise products are the ones most likely to enjoy the benefits of Fluent Design. Outlook is one particular platform where Yammer shines in its new iteration. The Native mode integration makes each inbox a mini-Yammer. You interact with posts shared to you in much the same way that you would were you to view them in Yammer. While limited to the web version of Outlook for now, it has been verified that the desktop and mobile versions are soon to follow.

It’s pretty much the same story when it comes to the conversations web part of SharePoint. Again, you can add file attachments from your work network, set up robust question and answer sessions, and share rich text content. All of this with the same level of coherence with the original Yammer platform. It breathes new life into a platform many often consider ‘yet another’ that they have to contend with—presenting a truly vibrant platform for communications.

The Power of Integration

If Microsoft and its adoption of Fluent Design across its platform prove anything, it’s that investing in a fully integrated suite of enterprise solutions is a worthwhile one. With Microsoft Yammer, you leverage the power of social media to enhance your communications across your company and its communities. There are a lot of exciting design changes being pushed out and more down the line to be explored. It shows that Microsoft is starting to listen to what its customers want the most.

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