Stoked for Windows 8

I was already excited to check out the consumer preview of Windows 8, having briefly test-driven it when it first dropped, but now, I’m really stoked.

Why? Because Don Norman likes it. Yup, that Don Norman.

Well, Microsoft is back. Windows 8 is brilliant, and its principles have been extended to phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop machines (and larger — for example, Surface), whether operated by gesture, mouse and keyboard, or stylus, but with appropriately changed interaction styles for the different sizes of devices and different input devices.

I’m actually surprised that he praises Windows 8 for avoiding (or ameliorating) the inconsistencies that have become rampant among gesture-based operating systems.

Jakob Nielsen and I have criticized existing Apple iOS and Android designs as confusing and unforgiving, ignoring fundamental principles such as discoverability. Microsoft does not suffer from these same design flaws. It created an innovative set of design elements that couple the power, fun, and ease of gestures with straightforward ways of discovering the possible range of actions.   

Thanks to Apple and the iPhone, touch interfaces have become commonplace, but just like past interface breakthroughs, the implementations of touch lack consistency across vendors and force users to relearn common functions, if they exist at all. Remember that iOS didn’t get copy-paste until 3.0, nearly two years after its initial release. So, users are left to fiddle around and hope to get lucky, or they have to rely on friends and search to perform routine operations.

This is bad.

I firmly believe this is an empathy problem. Honestly speaking, empathy is not a strong value among many geeks, especially early in their lives. Thinking about my own progression as a nerd, in my 20s, I was much less forgiving of user error; it was easier to blame the user, who didn’t know how to use the product, than the people who spent enormous amounts of effort building it. Software is hard, deal with it was my mantra.

Perhaps age has mellowed me, or maybe working with users more has shown me that these people aren’t dumb, just busy. Technology should be helping users, and the best software stays out of the way and just works.

Anyway, I’m really excited to find some time and dig in with Windows 8. Are you similarly excited?

Find the comments.




  1. Have they completely changed it since the developer preview? Have they allowed you to get rid of that crappy metro interface? Have they reinstated the Start menu?

    If not, then it is compete dog poo.

    I will download it and give it a go for a few days. The world will be forced to use it as it will be installed on all new PCs, so it makes sense to understand how to use it, but the developer preview was so far off the mark it was unbelievable.



  2. I think you know the answers to those questions. I did see something about how to reinstate the Start menu, but it’s not there OOTB.

    My interest is really around a few things: 1) I’m curious to see how MS has adapted and applied their vast resources to the problem of touch interfaces, 2) I want to see how they’ve balanced the old and new interfaces.

    You’re expressing the same issue millions will have, i.e. relearning how to use the computer.

    It’s a brave new world, annoying and delightful all at once.

  3. In my early days, I fled COBOL-think precisely to make things easier for users.  I would be hard on other programmers who would do things like say “1 items found” (and many more substantial issues).  I still have to fix that far too often, 30+ years on.  That might give a clue why I’m so down on some crappy social media UIs…

  4. You’re down on just about everything (insert “get off my lawn” here) as a general rule 🙂 Y U No like gradients and rounded-corners?!

    Oh and BTW, when will I get the pleasure of making your acquaintance in meat life? OOW? Some other Oracle show?

  5. I haven’t tried the preview, but I am curious to see how the OS works on various platforms. I still want to have access to a physical keyboard, but I like the ability to access touch capabilities.

    True story – about a year ago, my daughter asked me to help her with something on her Mac. I personally haven’t owned any Apple hardware in years, but my daughter has her Mac and both my daughter and wife have various iWhatevers. In the process of helping my daughter, I began running my fingers across the Mac’s screen, just like you would on an iPod/iPhone. 

    My daughter burst out laughing.

    It’s odd that Apple, who has always championed a consistent user experience, allowed their product UIs to diverge so much. Who thought that we’d be praising Microsoft for a consistent user experience? (Well, relatively consistent – I don’t think we’ll see Kinect on a mobile phone on day one. But I could be wrong.)

  6. Totally true. Lion adds a bunch of gestures that supposedly bridge the gap between OS X and iOS, but I found them more intrusive and annoying than useful. I’ve been expecting the annoying convergence of the two OSes for years. It’s sad really.

  7. Its kind of funky and nice to look at and easy to use to a point but there is still a fair amount of work to do.

    I’m not sure what will happen to the average geek /power user tile overload I suspect unless I’ve missed folders for tiles (ooh mixed metaphor). 

    Discover-ability is still somewhat lacking. It took me a good few minutes to get back to the land of tiles after using an app that used the desktop. Then I tried to use the media app, which should be touchstone for ease of use. I’ve still no idea what its actually like because it didn’t want to accept music on a remote machine as part of the library without resorting to the command line. What’s this, even a half decent Linux distribution can cope with that concept.

  8. As I sift through the coverage, I wonder what Don Norman likes so much. You mention discoverability, which is a huge problem for people coming from older incarnations like XP and will be a frustrating struggle. 

    I wonder if people with support from family geeks will end up w Macs or Linux distros like Ubuntu and Mint instead of Win 8. Maybe even iPads. We’re in a very weird transition period as people are pushed into touch, forcing them to relearn basic functions.

    I had (have) hope that Win 8 would ease the transition, but maybe not. I still need to find time to dig in myself.

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