We've just been upgraded from Office 2010 to Office 2013. There's the usual assortment of UI rejigs, most of which are either the modern trends (ultra-flat icons and UIs), fairly neutral, or easily customised. However, there's one change that really puzzles me and seems such bad UX that I think there must be something I'm missing, because I know Microsoft have a UX team. It relates to the program icons, as used on the Windows start menu and taskbar. For reference, here's a before and after comparison shot of the icons for the whole office suite:
Office 2010 icons (before):
Office 2013 icons (after):
The stylistic changes (from smooth gradients, rounded corners, unusual fonts towards stark colour-and-white, no 3D, simple line-art look, simple font) are fair enough. That's the current design trend, and I've accepted it even if I don't like it.
But my question is: why on earth would Microsoft move away from a wide range of easily-disambiguated colours towards a set of colours that are almost identical? Look at my taskbar now:
I can't tell at a glance which of the three icons that's a "blue trapezium next to a white blob" is Outlook, which is Lync, and which is Word. Before, Word was a dark blue, Lync a light cyan, and Outlook a distinctive yellow: easy to identify at a glance, without needing to think about it at all.
I ask this question not to criticise, or rant, but because I know Microsoft are smart and they do a lot of UX testing. There must be some benefit to this colour scheme that I'm missing, but what is it?