Posts Tagged ‘Windows 8’

Average user does not mean complete idiot

There’s been this common misconception with user experience design for years now. Good design is a design where a complete idiot understands how to use every feature immediately.

This is completely wrong and leads to useful features getting cut because, “It’s too complex”

There is an elitism in IT where people assume they are special because they know more than the basics about computers and that those, “Average users” are complete idiots and should be treated as such.

Nowhere is this more clear than with Windows 8. Many reviews have said how complex and how it will confuse the end user. But they never say that it confused them. Here’s the problem, they were able to get the hang of it pretty quickly, but they see themselves as “elite” as they not only use computers everyday, they write about computers. But then they make comments about how this theoretical “Average User” will struggle.

A good user experience does not mean something so simple you can’t do anything meaningful. A good UX is one that can be explored – it pulls you in to touch it, experiment with it, play with it. A good UX is consistent, so that once a user has learnt how to do something can guess how to do similar things.

The modern UI in Windows 8 achieves this surprisingly well.

The ribbon

This is a bit of a follow up to my last post on windows 8. If there’s one thing Microsoft has been criticised more than anything else in Windows 8 it’s the decision to include the ribbon in explorer.

“Look how big and ugly it is!”

“Clean design means providing us only the functionality we want, not shoving every command in sight”

The think there is a fundamental misunderstanding in what the ribbon is. People see it as a toolbar replacement. This is incorrect.

The ribbon is a menu replacement that might render toolbars redundant.

So when comparing UIs, you shouldn’t compare a ribbon to a toolbar, but to a menu. Compare Windows 8’s ribbon to OSX’s menu and you’ll come to the conclusion OSX’s menu is far more complex.

“But OSX’s menu is hidden; it’s out of the way, the ribbon is in your face”, you say? Well again, I think you’re missing an important thing the ribbon can be minimised so it looks just like a menu. I will admit I hope in the final release Windows 8 has the menu minimise by default.

This behaviour of being able to minimise or stay open is very powerful, what if you wanted to do multiple things in your menu? As soon as you select one the menu disappears and you have to start again to select the next. On the other hand with a ribbon if it is minimised you can double click it to keep it open select all the options you want – selecting one doesn’t hide the ribbon, the double click the ribbon again to minimise it – That’s much nicer.

One more note about Windows 8. They really need to work on the icons. There is no consistency between them. “Hue variance should justify itself”

Visual Studio

I’m actually going to go to the territory that no developer has gone to – I want the ribbon inside Visual Studio. I may have just lost you but listen to my reasons.

  • In all the hundreds of menu items, I go into the menu to use a grand total of 3 of them.
  • The ribbon is a menu replacement, not a toolbar replacement. Toolbars can stay how they are (or preferably back to what they were in VS2008, there’s so many problems with them in VS2010)
  • The most important way select commands in Visual Studio is shortcuts. The ribbon does an excellent job at exposing shortcuts.
  • The menus are cluttered from years of addition of commands and never removing commands. The ribbon forces the organisation to be rethought.

I think these are quite compelling reasons. At the moment, I have kept my toolbars to an absolute minimum (10 commands). Some of these I wouldn’t mind to be more hidden inside the ribbon – Target Deployment Device, Solution Configurations & Solution Platforms.

Windows 8 Impressions

Before I start, I am still to use Windows 8 myself. All I know is from videos and posts about it. The purpose of this is mainly to give my views on what other people have said, and point out their flaws.

First techcrunch’s

Microsoft’s Bold Move: If They Can’t Win The Tablet Race, They Won’t Acknowledge It Exists

First this title is obviously hyperbole in order to try and get clicks. Really low techcrunch.

Now the basic premise of the article is about how by using the same operating system as they use for a desktop, it’s not really a tablet. The problem with this, no reason is given why and doesn’t address the fact that Apple (and google) are using their mobile phone platform for tablets.

Why is a PC operating system on a tablet not really a tablet but a mobile phone operating system on a tablet is a real tablet?

Sure you can point out how a phone is more like a tablet than a PC is

  • Mobility
  • Battery life
  • No keyboard

But you can do the same for why a PC is more like a tablet too

  • The form factor is more similar – Apps that work on a decent sized screen should be designed differently for one on a tiny mobile screen
  • Multitasking – because of the phone’s limited screen real estate you’re less likely to want to view more than one app at a time, if you were given that extra space, then you want to see multiple things at the same time.

Microsoft are not ignoring the tablet market, they are simply taking a different approach to apple.


Next a techcrunch video

Fly Or Die: Premature Opinions On Windows 8? We Got ‘Em Here!

Wow! They didn’t even try to be fair. John Biggs although making some inaccurate statements looked reasonable next to the other guy…

First his “the ipad is a lot lighter” comments.

That’s because ipad was running on an ARM processor while the other wasn’t. Now that would be a fair comment to make – IF THEY POINTED OUT WINDOWS 8 WILL BE AVALIABLE ON ARM TOO! But they didn’t. The impression they gave was ALL Windows 8 tablets will be heavy, have a fan and won’t be able to compete with the iPad on battery life. All of that is wrong.

On comments about the network…

You’re going to blame windows 8 because you didn’t bother to setup the network on it? His comment that it MIGHT be their fault sums it up – figure out what the problem is before you start going on about it.

“Can I get this without the Windows?”

Although it’s true that you can’t get it without the classic windows, if you don’t want to use classic windows – you don’t have to! You can stay in the metro UI.

He then instantly fails it because of this. But as I said, you can use the metro UI for everything and only go into the classic mode for stuff that’s not in Metro.

So let’s compare Apple’s and Microsoft’s solution to needing to do something the tablet interface can’t do.

Apple’s solution – You can’t do it.
Microsoft’s solution – Switch to classic view and do it.

And they’re saying apple’s solution is better?

Next – From Daring Fireball

Now the thing I found funny about this post is a big part of what he’s saying is

“I’d be appalled if Apple were to unveil something in the half- (if that) finished state of Windows 8 for tablets. I enjoy writing about what’s real.”

Now I don’t know enough about the author of this article to make a statement against him. But, one thing Apple fans and Apple journalists love to do is speculate about apple products.


The amount of garbage like this that gets released on an almost daily basis is incredible. So I find it amazing that an Apple fan would say that writing about a beta people have in their hands is not “writing about what’s real” when the tiniest of news from some unnamed and unconfirmed source about apple is treated like gospel.

Return top


The occasionally interesting thoughts & insights of a software developer