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Posted

[b]Commentary: The usability expert branded Microsoft's new operating system "disappointing." But his approach would lead to the kind of incremental improvements that have dogged Microsoft for years.[/b]

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was once asked what market research went into the creation of the [url="http://reviews.cnet.com/ipad/"]iPad[/url].

"None," Jobs replied, in one of his most celebrated quotes. "It's not the consumers' job to know what they want."

I was reminded of that when I read usability guru [url="http://www.useit.com/alertbox/windows-8.html"]Jakob Nielsen's recent criticism of Windows 8[/url]. Having studied "12 experienced PC users" fiddling with the new operating system on both PCs and Microsoft's new Surface [url="http://reviews.cnet.com/tablets/"]tablet[/url], Nielsen found the usability "disappointing."

There is a litany of concerns, but the biggest seems to be that [url="http://reviews.cnet.com/windows-8-review/"]Windows 8[/url] is too unfamiliar. He notes that with both the new touch interface on the Surface and the traditional Windows desktop, "(u)sers have to learn and remember where to go for which features." And he says that the lack of "pseudo-3D or lighting model to cast subtle shadows that indicate what's clickable" reduces the ability to discover applications and information.

I'll leave it to others to decide whether 12 experienced PC users is a large enough sample size to gain meaningful insight. The bigger question to me is whether Microsoft should pay too much heed to any users at all.

The problem with watching people try any product that's undergone a significant change is that they will struggle. It's human nature. We'll always be more comfortable with something that's familiar. Jobs understood that, which is why he put so little stock in market research. That's why the notion that users should be able to grasp the new Windows interface right away is a recipe for incrementalism.

"It's a very old-school approach to usability," said Tom Hobbs, the creative director at the Seattle design firm Teague and an interaction design specialist.

Microsoft, a company often tarred for its lack of innovation, wasn't shooting for incremental improvements with Windows 8. The software giant embraced its new tile-based user interface for Windows to leverage its operating system hegemony to compete in new world of tablet computing where Apple's iPad is dominant.

"For Microsoft to support incremental change around a new paradigm would be suicide," Hobbs said.

For its part, Microsoft said it conducted usability tests in more than 127 countries, refining the operating system to one where users can find the information most relevant to them. And in [url="http://winsupersite.com/windows-8/jensen-harris-tells-story-design-windows-8"]a recent video[/url] reported by longtime Microsoft watcher Paul Thurrott, Jensen Harris, director of program management for the Windows User Experience Team, acknowledged the need for a significant shift.

"Resting on familiar is the way to mediocrity," Harris said in an August presentation to user experience designers.

Nielsen told me he's not advocating modest product evolution. That has its own set of problems.

"Every time you do incremental change, you acquire crud," Nielsen said.

Former Sun Microsystems chief executive Scott McNealy famously labeled Windows as a "hairball" for all the code it amassed over the years in the name of modest improvement.

"At some point in time, you've got to make a break from the past," Nielsen said. "But you can't do it very often. That's why it's so important to make sure you get it right."

His research and analysis tells him that Microsoft didn't get it right this time, and that Microsoft should have put out one operating system for tablets and a separate one for PCs. Then again, Nielsen's research and analysis led him to [url="http://www.useit.com/alertbox/ipad-1st-study.html"]pan the iPad's usability[/url] when it debuted two years ago, noting inconsistencies in the way different apps work. Of course, that didn't stop consumers from snapping up the device in eye-popping numbers.

None of this is to say that Microsoft has created the perfect operating system. Windows 8 has its flaws. Teague's Hobbs agrees with Nielsen's criticism of the potential for errors when using gestures with the tablet version of the operating system. And he thinks that the animation that announces new information, such as a news story in a specific app, can be overly distracting. Indeed, [url="http://news.cnet.com/8301-10805_3-57552196-75/analysts-turn-negative-on-windows-8-prospects/"]some analysts have already soured[/url] on Windows 8's prospects.

"I don't think they've got it all right by any sense," Hobbs said. "But I'd argue that Microsoft is doing some of the most interesting user interface work on the planet."

That got me thinking of another Jobs quote.

"The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste," he said in the 1996 PBS documentary, "Triumph of the Nerds." "They have absolutely no taste. And I don't mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don't think of original ideas, and they don't bring much culture into their products."

People can differ on whether they think the new Windows 8 user interface is worthy. But, for a change, Microsoft seems to have a distinct point of view.
















[url="http://news.cnet.com/8301-10805_3-57552860-75/why-jakob-nielsens-windows-8-critique-is-old-school-thinking/"]http://news.cnet.com/8301-10805_3-57552860-75/why-jakob-nielsens-windows-8-critique-is-old-school-thinking/[/url]

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Posted

Much of that critique was based on the principle that "[b]if something that is familiar to people is changed, they are no longer familiar with it and therefore it has poor usability[/b]." - which I found (and I did many usability studies during my degree and A levels) to be a rather farcicle idea. I was certainly never taught to include that in usability reports, indeed it was cited as the wrong way to do such a report - intuitiveness should not be judged on it being familiar, it is how long it takes a new user to get to grips with it.

Going by the above familiarity law, then any innovation would be poor from a usability standpoint. The introduction of touch screens to start phones would have been one of the biggest usability disasters in recent memory because it completely altered the way that people interacted with their phones. All sorts of new gestures had to be learned, people had to learn how hard or soft they needed to touch the screen in order for it to register and so on. They had to find where to access the on screen keyboards, how to change between text input and etc.
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If he had given a glowing report of Windows 8 he would have been a genus. Windows 8 has potential but it also has some poor design ideas. Shutdown on Windows 8 is a good example of a poor design idea.
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This guy just highlighted that people prefer gradual change that they don't notice, they rebel against immediate change they have to adapt to because "they don't have the time".

I have nothing to back that up, it's my own opinion from being in the corporate IT world. I'll never forget being yelled at by a woman who broke down in tears because Excel 2000 was upgraded to Excel 2003. If she could have hit me, I think she might have. Some people at work have lit me up over Windows 7 and my involvement with the project as one of the PM's because the GUI and Start Menu are different.

The more I get yelled at, the more I believe people just don't like change if they notice it right away. If it is gradual we adapt to the small changes and life goes on. Win8 is a massive visual change for some and they are not happy campers.
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Posted

Just also have to toss out that Nielsen's website is a piece of crap from a usability standpoint...which tells me his sensibilities are crap to begin with.

Note I don't hate him...but his site is just bad.

Also there's a point where he flat out lies when he says that there is no way to use multiple Windows in Windows 8. Note he's not talking about Metro. He's talking about the OS altogether...which is a flat out lie.

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Posted

yup, someone with common sense. Windows 8 UI is complete garbage, obviously MS didn't bother to actually use their product and making sure it has correct and balanced UI design, its all just giant text or giant coloured tiles everwhere you look, complete garbage. Honestly can't believe their UI designers are so incompetent to even think for a second that W8 UI is ready for the market, it needs so so so much work still done. Everything he mentioned makes sense 100%
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[quote name='Growled' timestamp='1353559018' post='595341354']
If he had given a glowing report of Windows 8 he would have been a genus. Windows 8 has potential but it also has some poor design ideas. Shutdown on Windows 8 is a good example of a poor design idea.
[/quote]

No. If he had given Win8 a glowing report he would be forgotten to history because no web site would have written about him. Write about some guy that nobody ever heard of, has a poor history of usability design, and likes Win8 - nobody cares. Write about some guy that nobody ever heard of, has a poor history of usability design, and dislikes Win8 - instant goldmine in ad revenue for sites like neowin and the others.
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[quote name='nohone' timestamp='1353567907' post='595341548']


No. If he had given Win8 a glowing report he would be forgotten to history because no web site would have written about him. Write about some guy that nobody ever heard of, has a poor history of usability design, and likes Win8 - nobody cares. Write about some guy that nobody ever heard of, has a poor history of usability design, and dislikes Win8 - instant goldmine in ad revenue for sites like neowin and the others.
[/quote]

I wouldn't describe Nielsen as 'unknown' - you'd know him if you knew more about HCI research and some of the work he has done in the space. That said I don't agree with him as this is a fact of life with modern UI design. For example the notification drawer on Android and iOS isn't immediately apparent but people still manage just fine. I think people are becoming moor tech savvy and less afraid to explore.

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[quote name='Shane Nokes' timestamp='1353560314' post='595341392']
Just also have to toss out that Nielsen's website is a piece of crap from a usability standpoint...which tells me his sensibilities are crap to begin with.

Note I don't hate him...but his site is just bad.

[/quote]

No it isn't. It is clearly laid out and categorized, it takes no thinking to work out how to navigate or read so that makes it good.

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[quote name='exotoxic' timestamp='1353631460' post='595343298']


No it isn't. It is clearly laid out and categorized, it takes no thinking to work out how to navigate or read so that makes it good.
[/quote]

It certainly not the most visually pleasing site in the world.

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Posted

[quote name='exotoxic' timestamp='1353631460' post='595343298']


No it isn't. It is clearly laid out and categorized, it takes no thinking to work out how to navigate or read so that makes it good.
[/quote]

No, no it doesn't.

Just because it is plain text doesn't make it great for usability.

If that was the hallmark of usability then almost all sites would be designed that way...like they were in the mid-90's.

His site is just a collection of links and text. It's simple, but simplicity isn't the only element of usability.

He relies entirely on the concept of folks knowing what they can and cannot click, without proper visual cues.

It is a study in what not to do.

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Posted

[quote name='Growled' timestamp='1353559018' post='595341354']
If he had given a glowing report of Windows 8 he would have been a genus. Windows 8 has potential but it also has some poor design ideas. Shutdown on Windows 8 is a good example of a poor design idea.
[/quote]

How hard is it to hit the power button? It's how it should have been designed from the beginning.

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[quote name='Shane Nokes' timestamp='1353634545' post='595343376']
No, no it doesn't.

Just because it is plain text doesn't make it great for usability.

If that was the hallmark of usability then almost all sites would be designed that way...like they were in the mid-90's.

His site is just a collection of links and text. It's simple, but simplicity isn't the only element of usability.

He relies entirely on the concept of folks knowing what they can and cannot click, without proper visual cues.

It is a study in what not to do.
[/quote]

Think you might be equating usability with visual appeal a bit too much there.
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[quote name='Shane Nokes' timestamp='1353634545' post='595343376']He relies entirely on the concept of folks knowing what they can and cannot click, without proper visual cues.
[/quote]

Yeah, if only there was some well-establised visual cue for indicating a [url="http://sixrevisions.com/web_design/designing-hyperlinks-tips-and-best-practices/"]hyperlink[/url] that he consistently used on his site.

-> [url="http://www.useit.com/about/nographics.html"]some more info[/url] (and an [url="http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2007/aug/09/guardianweeklytechnologysection.interviews"]article[/url]) on why his site looks the way it does.

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Note what he says there. He designed in the 90's and other than changing from : to > he hasn't done much.

His site was bad back then, and it is still bad now.

I won't bother arguing beyond this though since evidently what I say doesn't matter.

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[quote name='.fahim' timestamp='1353631710' post='595343302']
It certainly not the most visually pleasing site in the world.
[/quote]

I agree, but does it need to be?? You could add all sorts of bells, whistles and fancy graphics but would it help the content be more readable or accessible than it currently is??

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Posted

This review epitomizes Techno-Darwinism.... And who better to serve as poster child than Nielsen, whose very foundation of relevance has been pummeled beyond repair due to their inability to identity, react, and rebuild their business model. Remember, this is the company that identifies television market share by sending boxes to random houses and documenting the shows watched.... When "I Love Lucy" was the top show, these results mattered. In today's world, who watches TV in real time and only at their home? Use a DVR? Nielsen can't count you. Watch on your iPhone? That doesn't get captured, either. The list of exceptions is long, and the resulting idea of "Market Share" has dropped from 67% of viewers watching the same show at the same time (I Love Lucy 1952) to something like 11% today for Sunday Night Football. The last time Nielsen was able to report anything over 20% was the freaking Cosby Show....

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[quote name='heuristik' timestamp='1353645693' post='595343664']
This review epitomizes Techno-Darwinism.... And who better to serve as poster child than Nielsen, whose very foundation of relevance has been pummeled beyond repair due to their inability to identity, react, and rebuild their business model. Remember, this is the company that identifies television market share by sending boxes to random houses and documenting the shows watched.... When "I Love Lucy" was the top show, these results mattered. In today's world, who watches TV in real time and only at their home? Use a DVR? Nielsen can't count you. Watch on your iPhone? That doesn't get captured, either. The list of exceptions is long, and the resulting idea of "Market Share" has dropped from 67% of viewers watching the same show at the same time (I Love Lucy 1952) to something like 11% today for Sunday Night Football. The last time Nielsen was able to report anything over 20% was the freaking Cosby Show....
[/quote]

Wrong Nielsen...
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Posted

The only fallacy I found in the critique is that with something like Windows as opposed to the iPad, you can't just throw something out there. The iPad was gobbled up in droves by Apple fans, noobs, and gadget lovers because it was something new. Windows has had a strong presence in the corporate arena for years and years, so you can't just toss something out and hope it goes well. Jobs really never had anything to lose by releasing his niche products so you can't compare the two.

I imagine that once Windows 8 matures or the changes are system wide in Windows 9, it's going to absolutely smash the private sector, specifically in the area of point-of-sale machines. I already find myself wanting to touch my laptop screen and almost find it a drag to have to go back to the regular desktop for something like using the calculator. The usability of the Metro apps is key though. Apple has a ton of developers. Android seems like it's on every smartphone that isn't an iPhone. WP8 and Windows 8 Store really only seem to have the big ones and they always seem like half-hearted ports. Even in-house apps like Metro IE are such hot trash that I'd almost rather use the BREW browser from an old cell phone.

All this Start Menu hysteria is doing is taking away from putting the spotlight on the really dumb things like a lack of a Wireless Connection manager, the Power button being buried under a couple of menus, and a severe lack of subtle guidance. Phones/tablets have a Home/Back key but how many regular users even know what the Windows key does? Something as simple as a first-time toast notification would greatly improve usability.
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Posted

Yeah, in time times will calm down and people will adjust. They always do.

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[quote name='zeke009' timestamp='1353560181' post='595341386']
This guy just highlighted that people prefer gradual change that they don't notice, they rebel against immediate change they have to adapt to because "they don't have the time".

I have nothing to back that up, it's my own opinion from being in the corporate IT world. I'll never forget being yelled at by a woman who broke down in tears because Excel 2000 was upgraded to Excel 2003. If she could have hit me, I think she might have. Some people at work have lit me up over Windows 7 and my involvement with the project as one of the PM's because the GUI and Start Menu are different.

The more I get yelled at, the more I believe people just don't like change if they notice it right away. If it is gradual we adapt to the small changes and life goes on. Win8 is a massive visual change for some and they are not happy campers.
[/quote]

Exactly.

I do like the ideas behind Windows 8, but even Windows 95 had videos and the option to launch Program Manager. Windows 8 by comparison is shoving change down your throat in an inconsistent way - not even an intuitive way - and it doesn't have the appearance of benefiting you in any way.

People adapt to change when it has tangible benefit, even if you can't see it yet. They'll usually try it once. Just like the UX guy said on that video: "we want to get rid of the blue flash. They'll only see it once, but it'll still leave a bad impression." That's the point. If we don't "get it" on the UI changes [i][b]when we first need to experience them[/b][/i], you've lost us. After that point, it will simply feel painful, and just like "the customer is always right", you can't make me feel better about it, you can only educate it in. I don't see any education here, just "our way is the only way, you're holding it wrong, you never need to shut down, that large monitor is completely wasted for fullscreen metro apps, right click is useless now" etc etc ad nauseum.

I generally love changes. I really even like radical changes. I have used OS/2, Windows, Linux, MacOS, etc. as my primary desktop machine for years. But everything he says in this article is true -- Windows might be forward thinking and radical, but the more radical a departure from the norm things are, the more you have to be coddled into it, or the acceptance rate is abysmal. And it had better make sense too. This has the problem of not having either. Win8 doesnt have a cohesive strategy, is not intuitive, has no instruction (the one screen of "touch the corner" is laughable) and is a radical departure.

It is very much like Vista except instead of being a resource hog, it's a usability pain. People will not adopt it for the desktop, where it has very little perceived benefit. You can't sell me for years that multiple windows is good and then sell me an OS where windows are now removed for your new Metro interface and my 1920x1200+ displays are wasted. And just sitting back and saying "we're smarter than you" isn't going to help in this regard. It's not like Antennagate -- which was stupid too -- that particular problem was obviously hardware and obviously fixed too. This is a whole paradigm shift into non-intuitiveness.

I cannot stand surfing in fullscreen mode Metro IE. The wasted right and left side of the screen for fixed-width sites is a real eyesore. Not to mention Office 2013 follow on that model by delivering color schemes of "white" and "almost white".

Seriously, are we all supposed to go out and buy small tablets now, to suit the OS? I thought the OS was supposed to suit the device.
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The age old trick. Everyone who uses verbose language and pseudo-jargon with an academic qualification must know what they are talking about. Unfortunately usually they are only compensating for their lack of actual understanding.

He wants Windows to look like his website. *shudders in agony*

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When Windows 95 was new, it came with this:
[img]http://regmedia.co.uk/2009/10/21/windows_95.jpg[/img]

Windows 8 could do with a similar dialog

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Cooky, it does. When you install it.

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[quote name='Davo' timestamp='1353647248' post='595343696']


All this Start Menu hysteria is doing is taking away from putting the spotlight on the really dumb things like a lack of a Wireless Connection manager, the Power button being buried under a couple of menus,[/quote]

+1.


even the most diehard windows 8 fans can admit that MS screwed up hiding the power/restart under so many clicks and menus is annoying.

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