The Problem with Windows 8

As someone who has switched from Windows (3.11 – XP), to Mac (10.4), to Windows (Vista) and back to Mac (10.5) (going straight for 4 years now…), I’m quite excited by what Microsoft is doing in general, in the UI space.

On the mobile, Live Tiles bring a much needed brightness to devices, rather than just a list of shortcuts ala iOS (which doesn’t even update the weather app, though oddly does with the calendar app).  I love the idea of convergence between the desktop, mobile and tablet, with devices such like this one. I really don’t know why my almost-thousand dollar tablet can’t run a desktop app like say an similarly priced ultrabook can.  I hope that MS complete their convergence by bring in a way to share 90% of the code between a W8 and WP8 app, but I digress.

The biggest issue I have as a user of Windows is how badly Metro apps integrate with non-metro ones. And how for many actions, there is a Metro app by default.  Opening an image from the Desktop and having it show in a metro app is a very jarring experience, for example.  I like Windows 8, and I like Metro. However I think since the “legacy” Desktop is going to be here a while, there should be a separate set of applications for that platform  as a default.  Settings seem totally schizophrenic, you can search for a setting in Metro, have it load the desktop control panel, click and link and be back in metro again. Wow!

For new users, there is also a massive UI issue when they begin, and that is: how do they actually bring up the metro window. I watched (and timed) my girlfriend, after upgrading her from Windows7. It took 10 minutes to figure out exactly how to bring up that screen.  I think there are some really obvious issues:

  • On the “Desktop” mode, there probably should be an on-screen start button that just brings up metro. I’m all for killing that button, but people expect it to be there, so it would be a good transition.  OR– if this is not an option, have a giant hint, when you login for the first time explaining how to use it and actually testing the user before they can continue.
  • The way that charms animate (slide-in from the right) doesn’t seem to match with how you activate it (move to bottom right). I almost think they should either activate if you move the mouse to the right, or slide in from the bottom right.
  • A shutdown button somewhere obvious. This one took me ages to find.

Now I know there is a little graphic hint when you install windows. This just reeks of a programmer solution to a UI bug (“Hey guys, nobody can figure out how to actually bring up the menu”, Programmer: “I’ll put a hint in the installer, since I’m sure people are paying attention there!”).

 


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