October 16, 2012
Though Windows 8 and its highly anticipated Modern UI represent the biggest change in the operating system since the GUI design was improved with Windows 95, some experts feel that usability of the OS will suffer.
According to PC Advisor, Windows 8 holds quite a few surprises for long-time users of Microsoft's popular operating system. Windows 8 focuses more on multi-device consumers, those who own a tablet, smartphone and PC, and improving touch integration on mobile devices while keeping desktops and laptops in design conformity. The traditional point-and-click interface has given way to gesture and touch, and the iconic Start button is now gone, supposedly to make the overall design simpler. However, some users feel that Windows 8 is simply more difficult to navigate and control.
While early adopters of Windows 8 on tablets and smartphones have had overall positive reviews, the traditional PC market is where the new OS is suffering the most. According to the news source, several usability experts have weighed in on the OS, and while their opinions aren't all negative, the overall reaction doesn't seem to be positive.
One user experience (UX) expert, Raluca Budiu, told the news source that she has been running UX tests of the Windows 8 preview releases to examine user reactions to the differences between Windows 8 and its predecessor, Windows 7. Budiu found that the most common complaint is the change in navigation, as some users believe it too difficult to find and use common features due to hidden sidebars.
"So far, in our testing, discovering and remembering the different gestures was a big issue, because these gestures lack affordance and people just don't click randomly on the screen hoping for something to happen," Budiu said. "Some mouse gestures are really hard to replicate. For instance, we've seen users struggling to expose the right-hand-side charms by hovering on different sub-regions of the right edge, rather than on the upper or lower corner. The right button of the mouse is used to expose controls or text fields throughout the interface. Right-clicking is a fairly expert user behavior, and in our testing, some users never did it."
Budiu continued, saying many users were even more confused when switching between tablet and desktop versions of Windows 8, as there were different gestured needed to accomplish the same task. Additionally, users who don't want to use the Modern UI interface on their desktops may have to download multiple versions of the same app in order to achieve full functionality.
Overall it seems that Microsoft has created a new graphical user interface design that works beautifully on touch-based devices. The device interface development has evolved nicely for the OS, updating for the mobile generation of technology, and shows that Microsoft has taken the evolution of computing well. However, it seems that the company has missed with its traditional user base, needlessly complicating desktop use.
The new operating system launches October 26, and it is too late for Microsoft to make any changes now, but perhaps developing two distinct operating systems, one for PCs and one for mobile devices, would have served better than the all-encompassing UI that has been created for Windows 8. With a distinct focus on mobile interface development for the tablet and smartphone OS, and a more familiar UI for desktop users, perhaps more users would be excited for Windows 8.