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When Microsoft's design teams were sane....

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  • User profile image
    wastingtime​withforums

    Windows 95 design document:

    The first major design direction we investigated was a separate UI ("shell")
    for beginning users. The design was quickly mocked up in Visual Basic and tested
    in the usability lab. (See Figure 4.) While the design tested well, because it
    successfully constrained user actions to a very small set, we quickly began to
    see the limitations as more users were tested:

    1. If just one function a user needed was not supported in the beginner shell,
    s/he would have to abandon it (at least temporarily).

    2. Assuming that most users would gain experience and want to leave the
    beginner shell eventually, the learning they had done would not necessarily
    transfer well to the standard shell.

    3. The beginner shell was not at all like the programs users would run (word
    processors, spreadsheets, etc.).] As a result, users had to learn two ways of
    interacting with the computer, which was confusing.

    For these reasons and others, we abandoned the idea.
    Importantly, because we
    used a prototyping tool and tested immediately in the usability lab, we still had plenty of time to investigate other directions. 

    http://www.sigchi.org/chi96/proceedings/desbrief/Sullivan/kds_txt.htm

    Edit: fixed link.

  • User profile image
    BitFlipper

    @wastingtimewithforums:

    Very interesting and very apt title. Pity MS threw common sense out the window. I guess this time around they are doing their usability testing with the public and finding out points 1, 2 & 3 the hard way.

    One can argue that point 2 isn't as relevant because the idea is to permanently constrain everyone to Metro. The other two points are very relevant.

    Your link seems to be broken though.

  • User profile image
    dentaku

    @wastingtimewithforums:Good find.

  • User profile image
    wastingtime​withforums

    Let's not to forget my other good find:

    http://channel9.msdn.com/Forums/Coffeehouse/Irony

    Windows 8 is a complete reversal of their own previous usability research and experience. All that good reasoning didn't turn simply obsolete on a whim. Metro on the desktop is just a marketing ploy first and foremost. A marketing ploy that apparently doesn't even work.

  • User profile image
    JoshRoss

    If you're going to make an omelet, then you're going to have to break some eggs. It can only get better from here. I mean, think about it. Microsoft could make any arbitrary design change, and it would most likely be a step forward. You can only take so many steps backwards before you walk into something, like a wall or a police officer or ... I don't know. Something has to happen!

    -Josh

  • User profile image
    dentaku

    All the talking on forums in the world isn't going to help though. It seems to have gotten to the point where most people don't care. In previous OS versions there would have been a bigger public outcry and that's what MS has to worry about. Once people stop caring the product become irrelevant.

    This is one of the reasons I think there should be a new Win8 Taskforce like the other ones on Long Zheng's website http://www.aerotaskforce.com/. It'll be a central place where concerned users can collaborate on showing the people at Microsoft what parts of the Win8 UI need fixing.
    Complaining on C9 isn't going to accomplish anything.

    If they could give us a way to switch to "non-touchscreen" mode that works like Win7 it would also be good marketing. I think they're afraid to admit they went to far with the UI but the embarrassment of admitting this probably would be offset by the gratitude they would get from users and all the sales people at stores like Staples that just can't bring themselves to sell a machine with Win8 on it if it doesn't have a touchscreen (which there are only 2 of in my local store, one's hidden way at the bottom of the isle and the other is an ultrabook that has a password set on it so nobody can try it out).

  • User profile image
    contextfree`

    I already saw that and made the connection to Windows 8, but drew the opposite conclusion.

    First, the beginners shell vaguely resembling the start screen shows that a larger presentation like that was seen to have value even before it was motivated by touch. Second, some of the decisions around the start screen seem designed to address those points - it's a complete replacement for the start menu, not an additional "beginner" version from which you're eventually meant to graduate, and there's a class of apps that do look and act like the start screen.

    Another relevant blast from the past here would be this Windows 7 blog post on touch:

    "While providing this touchable experience, we made sure you are getting the full Windows 7 experience and not a sub-set just for touch. We've been asked if we are creating a new Touch UI, or "Touch Shell" for Windows – something like Media Center that completely replaces the UI of Windows with a version that is optimized for touch. As you can see from the beta, we are focused on bringing touch through the Windows experience and delivering optimized touch interface where appropriate.  A touch shell for launching only touch-specific applications would not meet customers' needs – there would be too much switching between "touch" mode and Windows applications. Instead, we focused our efforts on augmenting the overall experience so that Windows works great with touch."

    My take: Yes, having two kinds of applications is a UX penalty. However, the penalty isn't infinite and can be justified if benefits exceed it. In this case I think having the new UI / app model be the "beginners shell" AND the "touch shell" AND the "instant on environment" (around 2009 when Windows 8 was being planned there was a trend for netbooks to initially boot into a Linux environment for basic internet browsing and status checking etc., before going into a heavier Windows environment) AND help introduce a new application model, together those benefits are enough to justify the cost of having a second model (and of course the long-term goal is to make the other model unnecessary for most people).

  • User profile image
    warren

    Two kinds of applications?

    ..... it's like people forget that there are also console applications in Windows.

    All of this bitching and moaning about Metro reminds me of 1995, when Microsoft started to push DOS into the background in favour of their new "for beginners" Windows 95 interface, with its tacky Start menu (complete with an animation on the taskbar to guide peoples' eyes to the bottom-left corner) and keyboard-hostile file management interface.

    People who'd spent the last 10-15 years working in DOS (the Lotus and Wordperfect crowd, the gamers, the BBSers, and basically everyone else who wasn't using a Mac) bitched, whined, complained, hemmed, hawed, posted screeds on Usenet, etc., but eventually they adjusted to this new interface.  The apps they wanted to use eventually showed up as native Win32 apps, too.  They managed, right?  I guess some of them fled to Unix systems because they didn't like GUIs.  Fine.  But Windows still went on to 95+% market share on the strength of the boldness of the radical changes behind Windows 95.

     

  • User profile image
    androidi

    If you count Windows versions from 1.0 to 98, then add that count to the Modern UI version, giving atleast say a year for each version, we might be closer to when the Modern UI is actually usable. 

    Making the Modern UI as "in your face" for desktop users at its "v1 stage" was a big mistake. I support the idea of a tablet/laptop hybrid that can also easily hook to larger monitors but this is comparable to making computers boot to Win 1.0 and then needing to exit that in order to use the apps you really want to use, and do this crap until Windows 98 came around.

    My hope is that most people are smarter than to install Win 8 even if they got it free, as that will send a clear signal that the bean counters will understand. Yes. I would not even install Win 8 if you gave me it for free. And infact, the low ball offers MS made for Win 8 upgrades just suggest that it's real value is closer to worthless than Win 7 which was not so heavily discounted.

     

  • User profile image
    Sven Groot

    , androidi wrote

    this is comparable to making computers boot to Win 1.0 and then needing to exit that in order to use the apps you really want to use, and do this crap until Windows 98 came around.

    Funny you should say that. Back when Windows 95 came out, my computer sort of had to triple boot. It could boot Windows 95, for when I wanted to mess about with that. It could boot Windows 3.11, which my dad needed for his work (and since his work still used Windows 3.11, he didn't want to get used to a completely different UI), and it could boot into DOS for games (which was probably its most used boot option).

    I say "sort of triple booted", because the difference between booting DOS or Win3.11 was really just a config.sys/autoexec.bat menu choice that did or did not start Windows. To start Windows 95, you had to hit F4 at exactly the right time (the same time that you'd use for F8 in safe mode). Kind of impressive considering this was basically dual booting from a single partition.

    Of course, some games required such strict amounts of free conventional memory that we had to use boot floppies (or add more config.sys menu options; I remember having different options for with/without CD-ROM drivers and with/without QEMM, at least).

    So not only did we have numerous different environments needed to run different kinds of apps, switching between them actually required a full reboot. Having to click the desktop tile in the start screen is really not that inconvenient by comparison.

    , androidi wrote

    And infact, the low ball offers MS made for Win 8 upgrades just suggest that it's real value is closer to worthless than Win 7 which was not so heavily discounted.

    No, it suggests that MS hopes to make most of its money from the Windows Store (which did not exist for Windows 7), for which they will need as large a user base as possible.

     

  • User profile image
    androidi

    @Sven Groot:

    That much is obvious but getting there by creating a negative sentiment for the early adopters doesn't seem like the best strategy. They could have at minimum made the Modern UI a "default" that desktop users can easily change to the Windows 7 style experience from a checkbox.

     

     re: The history lesson,

    I don't this is quite comparable. I used similar self made boot menus and config.sys etc as most gamers had to, we had many boot options for specific games as well. I could have DR-DOS 6 installed and Win 3.1 did not mess around with the DR-DOS 6 environment. Win 8 going to Modern and then messing up a great deal with the Win 7 style experience on top of that pretty much created what you just said. I installed Windows 8 on alternate boot, took a good look and haven't bothered going back, particularly  after finding some biggest most popular games had problems in their installer in Win8, which leaves one to question about the compatibility for all the obscure stuff I have. (I did manage to get the popular game installed but only to find out that it said it won't support anything newer than Windows 7 when running it and compatibility mode didn't help because this message was from the drivers the game installs - maybe this has been fixed by now though for this popular title)

  • User profile image
    Dr Herbie

    @androidi: Even just a 'start at the destop' option would fix it (making the Start Screen a Start Menu replacement).

    And I assumed that discounted upgrade price was because they are changing to a faster update cycle, so rather than one expensive upgrade every four years there are cheaper upgrades every year.

    Herbie

  • User profile image
    androidi

    @Dr Herbie: That might be satisfactory if the desktop experience was practically identical to Windows 7. Even in 7 you could configure it to resemble more XP/Vista style by setting small icons + combine when taskbar full and you can even add quick launch icons back just as it was in XP with little work.

    I currently pin often launched document based stuff (excel, VS etc) on the start menu and only very frequently used stuff in the taskbar (IE, notepad replacement etc). The more rarely used things I launch from either desktop or the Run (win+r). I prefer the more often used or text input based stuff in Run history than desktop as I can start then start and run them purely without moving my hand to the mouse, where as mouse based stuff can be on the desktop as icons. I don't launch stuff using Start Menu search at all since I always disable indexing services and as Windows unindexed search is unusably slow I use NTFS search as that handles millions of files in second. I don't think the MSFT search guys can even dream up that kind of perf, or if they can, it will involve some background indexer service that happens to run when I'm using a MIDI keyboard and increase jitter...

     

    re: release cycle

    That would make sense. I'm tempted to here think about all the crap I've read (I don't own their devices, have only tried out) about Apple and Google cycle/updates. As Microsoft has experience here and should know what doesn't work well in the competitors models, I'll just wait and see if this would actually work out better than what the competition is doing.

  • User profile image
    Sven Groot

    , androidi wrote

    @Dr Herbie: That might be satisfactory if the desktop experience was practically identical to Windows 7. Even in 7 you could configure it to resemble more XP/Vista style by setting small icons + combine when taskbar full and you can even add quick launch icons back just as it was in XP with little work.

    You can still do all this in Win8.

    I currently pin often launched document based stuff (excel, VS etc) on the start menu and only very frequently used stuff in the taskbar (IE, notepad replacement etc). The more rarely used things I launch from either desktop or the Run (win+r). I prefer the more often used or text input based stuff in Run history than desktop as I can start then start and run them purely without moving my hand to the mouse, where as mouse based stuff can be on the desktop as icons. I don't launch stuff using Start Menu search at all since I always disable indexing services and as Windows unindexed search is unusably slow I use NTFS search as that handles millions of files in second. I don't think the MSFT search guys can even dream up that kind of perf, or if they can, it will involve some background indexer service that happens to run when I'm using a MIDI keyboard and increase jitter...

    So the only difference is that you'd have to pin the stuff you currently have on the start menu to the start screen instead. Win+R still works. Desktop shortcuts still work. The only possible issue here is loss of the jump lists for things that were pinned to the start menu, but if this is really a major issue there's probably third-party start menu replacements that can do that.

  • User profile image
    Lee_Dale

    I really don't see the problem people have with Windows 8 honestly I'm getting fed up with every "analyst" bashing Windows 8 as being unusable and confusing.

    Yes Microsoft has introduced a touch interface on top of their desktop but for my personal everyday use this acts as a fancy start menu, it really doesn't bother me at all.

    Do I use the "Metro" interface? Not really, but then again it wasn't designed for my traditional use, it was designed to bridge the gap to touch interface devices like tablets.

    As a UI interface on it's own "Metro" isnt all that bad I mean it works great on Windows Phone and works fine on a touch enabled desktop, I really don't see why people are getting confused here.

    Now the confusing part comes with the RT version, I really think Microsoft HAD to act and build a ARM version of the OS.  I really don't think it will be around for long as Intel will eventually catch up and everyone will forget about this ARM thing (just my opinion).

    I think Windows 8 is a great OS just as good as Windows 7 if not better. The Metro Start Menu doesn't bother me or get in my way and I appreciate the need for a touch enabled interface.

    To be honest I think as an engineering feat MS should be applauded for taking the bold step and creating a full fledged version of Windows on ARM, bringing the Metro interface to the desktop, 

    When was the last significant update to OSX or iOS that took a step to push the boundaries and move software forward?

    It's been years since Apple innovated with software, all these "analysts" predicting the downfall of MS due to Windows 8 MUST be on another planet to me.

  • User profile image
    bondsbw

    Windows 95 was a new paradigm, and people needed to learn how to interact with that system.  Today, they already know how.

    Microsoft understands that there has to be some changes.  Eventually, the desktop/Win32 as we know it will cease to exist.  But that day is still far away, and they need a new experience to replace it.  Hence WinRT applications.

    Microsoft cannot convince third-party application developers to move anything to WinRT if the Metro interface is not prominent enough to warrant the development effort.  Microsoft would also have a harder time in the future at training users if today, they convince users that the Metro interface is some crappy application they can ignore (or, worse, that they never see in the first place to know it even exists).

    Sometimes, you choose to do what hurts a bit now so that you don't experience more pain in the future.

  • User profile image
    MasterPi

    , bondsbw wrote

    Sometimes, you choose to do what hurts a bit now so that you don't experience more pain in the future.

    +1 They already know within 2 years, touchscreens will catch on in desktop land and everything will just work together (3 screens and a cloud). It's important to note that they don't think just now or next year...they plan for the next 5-10 years. They probably consider short-term losses in their planning.

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    Deactivated User

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