Windows 8 New Interface a Worthwhile Change?

Windows 8 Start ScreenI’ve been wanting to write about the potential success of Windows 8 but I didn’t have a reason, or probably I was just too lazy. But after reading an interesting article in LaptopMag, I’ve finally been inspired enough to discuss whether I think it it will be a success, or not.

The first thing I don’t like is that Windows 8 is being released a mere three years after the original Windows 7 was released. I installed Windows 7 on January 2011 and I don’t want to dump a great operating system just to follow Microsoft’s plans and vision. I love Windows 7 and after a year and a half of intensive use, I’ve only had one virus. I solved the problem by using the System Restore feature because the virus had infected an important system file. Since it has proven itself, I won’t hurry to install Windows 8, that’s for sure. I might wait for the service pack version and maybe after that, I would consider installing it.

Windows 8 has some good features and my colleague Don Willmott wrote about them perfectly in a recent post and included; performance, fast boot times, always on, always connected, security and redesigned task manager. I would add image password, close app automatically, safe download, iso files mounting and pause file copies to the list as well.

What about the Windows 8 interface?

In the LaptopMag piece, Raluca Budiu, a Nielsen Norman Group user experience specialist, said that while she personally used Windows 8, productivity tasks on the PC were lacking and that Windows 8 was less user friendly than its predecessors.

Although I’ve never used Windows 8, I tend to agree with Raluca. Microsoft is trying to make an operating system that everyone will find easy to use, much like Apple did with iOS. They want to minimize certain tasks and eliminate older elementary features. It’s okay but not for the PC version.

iOS runs on tablets, smartphones and music players, while Windows 8 should first be built to work for a PC and afterwards, tweaked for tablets and smartphones. It’s a great idea to change things but I don’t need the confusion of a Windows 8 interface. I don’t want Microsoft to kill the Start button just to force me to use their new-fangled interface either.

I think Microsoft wanted Windows 8 to work like a sandwich of all existing platforms, just like Android did with Ice Cream Sandwich. Their operating system has features that work separately on three different platforms, so it ended up making a content consumption product. Raluca thinks the same thing:

It’s easy to share a news story through email or with friends on Facebook. But, I am not sure that these are the tasks that people do most often on a PC. Windows 8 is optimized for content consumption rather than content production and multitasking. Whereas content consumption can easily be done on other media (tablets and phones), production and multitasking are still best suited for PCs. Windows 8 appears to ignore that.

Asked how switching back and forth between modern and Desktop environments will affect users, she gave an interesting response.

Users will need to remember two different interfaces. They will learn Windows 8, but won’t be able to forget Windows 7. And they will need to keep track of which app goes with each framework. [It's] definitely a cognitive burden, but not an insurmountable one.

Another problem is the Windows 8 Switcher, which displays each modern styled app with a unique thumbnail, but groups them into a single thumbnail, theoretically making the desktop itself an app.

It is confusing, because users have to remember what they’re running in the desktop and go back to that app to resume editing a document in Word, for instance, or creating a chart in Excel. In general, switching between apps is costly for the users – you have to go to the start page, then select the app, and then, for those apps running in the desktop, go to desktop and select it from there. Compare that with older versions of Windows – just one click was needed to choose the running app from the task bar.

It’s still too early to anticipate user reaction but I hope Windows 8 will not end like Windows Vista, as a big fail. Let’s hope that on Oct. 26, Microsoft will start surprising us again.

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Comments

  1. BY Ryan says:

    I find this article odd.

    For starters, the person writing the post admits they have never used Windows 8, but is trying to make an objective story about it. How does that make sense?

    “Although I’ve never used Windows 8, I tend to agree with Raluca.”

    Secondly, this Raluca individual. I have the full version of Windows 8 Professional that I got from my University running at home on my laptop. I definitely have experience with the software. There are a few statements that are odd, but this particular one really threw me off:

    “It is confusing, because users have to remember what they’re running in the desktop and go back to that app to resume editing a document in Word, for instance, or creating a chart in Excel. In general, switching between apps is costly for the users – you have to go to the start page, then select the app, and then, for those apps running in the desktop, go to desktop and select it from there. Compare that with older versions of Windows – just one click was needed to choose the running app from the task bar.”

    Nothing in the above statement is true. The desktop on Windows 8 pretty much acts the same as any previous versions of Windows, with some new, small adjustments made. To begin, any program you add to the task bar, functions as expected. You can switch between those applications that you have open just by clicking their icon without opening Start — just like any version of Windows. Secondly, if you need to access any previous application that you exited (but not closed), you simply point your mouse to the left side of the screen and an overlay with previously opened applications pops up in which you can switch to those or close them (and pin them). If you want to open a new application, previously un-open and not saved on the desktop or task bar, you just open up the Start screen and select the program. Nothing new here. Actually… when it’s all said and done — the Start screen acts exactly like the old Start menu, it just looks different. Now, when you are in the Start screen, the applications are not available on the task bar, because Start takes up the whole screen so the task bar isn’t there. But is this an issue? No. Why? Because you are in the Start screen, so your applications are there anyway. Additionally, the applications are available by (as I mentioned earlier) hovering your mouse to the left of the screen. Overall there are not extra clicks that are “costly for the users” (dramatic??), someone just has to take a few minutes to explore and get accustom to the change. It’s all actually kind of logical once you are familiar with it.

    Yeah, things are different. Computer settings, power options, etc, are in a menu that you open by hovering to the right of the screen, while in Start, but it’s just different. Not really a bad thing. At first, I really hated Windows 8. I thought it was insane what Microsoft was doing. However, after spending a couple of days with the software, I have grown to actually really like it. The interface is also pretty nice too. The final build does NOT look like the RCs. In the RCs and Consumer Preview, Aero still exists. This is not the case with the final build. It implements a new, modern “flat” look. Which makes me wonder — which could explain why some things the author is stating (or Raluca) are wrong — what version is being analyzed??

    And this:

    “Let’s hope that on Oct. 26, Microsoft will start surprising us again.”

    The whole problem with that statement is Microsoft HAS surprised us. They have offered up an entirely new platform – not just a small incremental upgrade like Vista to 7. Other than some system icons, Microsoft has completely revamped Windows, right down to the trimming on the windows themselves. Not too many stones are left unturned.

    Respectfully, I suggest you actually try out Windows 8 so you can be a bit more objective in your reporting. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised with Windows 8. I know I was. :)

    • BY Andrei C. says:

      Thanks for your comment. I am actually waiting for a stable version of Windows 8, more like a Service Pack.
      I’ve test it for a couple of minutes on a laptop and I wasn’t blown away by the Metro Interface. In fact I was already missing that old Start button.
      In my post I have to agree with the analyst, where she said that Microsoft tries to simplify the Windows experience and make it simple to use. This thing is good, but for a Windows user this would be very annoying.
      Windows users like to be free and not locked inside. It’s just my simple opinion, only the final version or the Service Pack would make me change my mind. Once again, I hope it would not be a Vista version, since it’s coming just 3 years after Windows 7.
      Only time would tell if a Microsoft product will be famous or not. I remember the whole buzz around Kin Phones and the disappointment that came months later. Unfortunately, we will have to wait at least 2 years to find out if Windows 8 it’s successful or not. As a lifetime Windows user, I hope it will be.

      • BY Ryan says:

        That’s cool — I just thought it was odd. Not really because you never used W8 before…but more because the analyst was analyzing stuff that doesn’t exist — at least in the final version that I have. :P

        Can you elaborate by what you mean “free and not locked inside”? I know Mac is notorious for that.

  2. BY BobD says:

    Your best bet is to try a MAC as you will never go back. Windows is what it is and has always been a slow operating system that demands fast hardware. If this turns out to be another Vista, how embarrasing was that, Microsoft may just say goodbye.

  3. “I think Microsoft wanted Windows 8 to work like a sandwich of all existing platforms, just like Android did with Ice Cream Sandwich.”

    True, but Google/Android had already established quite a bit of success (i.e. user acceptance) with Android before branching out to other platforms. WP7 has a tiny market share.

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