Ok, it’s not exactly this week, but on 13/02 a reddit user named pwnies (?!), who claims to be an UX designer at Microsoft, wrote a reply about why Windows 8 tries to reconsile the desktop and the metro (aka modern) environment.
A lot of people I know say they don’t like the interface of Windows 8. They argue that switching between the desktop and the metro environment is compulsory (since the start menu was removed) and that it interrupts their workflow. They refer to the disappointing sales numbers of Microsofts new OS. Some even say the OS is responsible for the low PC sales recently.
The shared tuxedo coat
So what was Microsoft thinking when it designed the new iteration of their PC operating system? Pwnies (ponies?) states that there are two kinds of Windows users: the power user (roughly content creators) and the casual user (roughly content consumers). In all previous versions of Windows, they had to share the same UI, namely the desktop. Pwnies explains this using a shared tuxedo coat metaphor:
It was like a rented tuxedo coat – something that somewhat fit a wide variety of people. It wasn’t tailored, because any aggressive tailoring would make it fit one person great, but would have others pulling at the buttons. Whatever feature we wanted to add into Windows, it had to be something that was simple enough for casual users to not get confused with, but also not dumbed down enough to be useless to power users.
To get rid of this constraint, UX designers decided to split the playground. Pwnies:
Our hands were bound, and our users were annoyed with their rented jackets. So what did we do? We separated the users into two groups. Casual and Power. We made two separate playgrounds for them. All the casual users would have their own new and shiny place to look at pictures of cats – Metro. The power users would then have free reign over their native domain – the desktop.
Lower in the comments on reddit, pwnies explains that low sales for Windows 8 are natural, since it is a tick-iteration. Windows has a tick-tock release cycle. Every tick iteration (2000, Vista, 8) introduces big changes, which users naturally dislike. Tock iterations (XP, 7, 9) on the other hand refine these changes.
Since reading the post, I must say I like Windows 8 better. I’m starting to use Outlook instead of the Mail and Calendar apps in Metro, and I pinned more programs to my taskbar. I wonder why Microsoft didn’t explain this reasoning in an official announcement. Apple has done something like that in their introduction videos with Jony Ive (which I think are hilarious, as do these guys).
PS: Jay Machalani also wrote an interesting article about the Windows 8 UI, or how he thinks it should be…