As has been made abundantly clear by now, Windows 8 is not a success for Microsoft. Or to quote Paul Thurrott of the influential Supersite for Windows blog, “Windows 8 is a disaster in every sense of the word.”
This really should surprise no one. Microsoft did an almost obscene level of user testing as it was developing Windows 8 — 1.24 billion hours of testing across 190 countries, Microsoft said.
And throughout all that, users, as well as influential Windows bloggers, told the company repeatedly that they didn’t like the new touch-screen interface.
The question is, what is Microsoft’s new CEO going to do about it? We are hoping the answer is “scrap it and try again,” and not “dig in and insist the world learn to love Windows 8.”
But a long post on Reddit from a person claiming to be on the Windows 8 design team might be a worrisome sign.
Remember, Windows 8 has two personalities. It has a “desktop” side, which is basically a version of Windows 7. It also has the Windows 8 side designed for a touch screens.
When you buy a new Windows 8 PC, the default is to boot to the Windows 8 side. At first, you couldn’t turn that part off and choose to use the Windows 7 side exclusively. Now, with Windows 8.1, you can, but the setting that lets you boot to Windows 7 is kind of hard to find.
This person says the reason Microsoft “forced” Windows 8 on people by default was because the company thought it was easier to use for the average PC user:
Metro is a content consumption space. It is designed for casual users who only want to check Facebook, view some photos, and maybe post a selfie to Instagram. It’s designed for your computer illiterate little sister, for grandpas who don’t know how to use that computer dofangle thingy, and for mum who just wants to look up apple pie recipes. It’s simple, clear, and does one thing (and only one thing) relatively easily. … So we forced it upon them. We drove them to it with goads in their sides.
The problem is that Windows 8 isn’t easy to use, particularly for casual users. It has commands and features tucked into all sorts of confusing spots. For instance, sometimes a flick up while in Internet Explorer brings up a list of open tabs. Other times that same gesture brings up a list of frequently used websites.
The self-described Microsoft designer recognises that Windows 8 isn’t perfect for average users. But this person thinks Microsoft is sticking with the basic plan.
Right now we still have a lot of work to do on making Metro seem tasty for those casual users, and that’s going to divert our attention for a while. But once it’s purring along smoothly, we’ll start making the desktop more advanced.
In April, Microsoft will host its annual developers conference, Build, and we hope to hear more details about Windows 9. We’re hoping that Windows 9 is to Windows 8 what Windows 7 was to Vista: a seriously big fix.
Here’s the full post from Reddit:
UX designer for Microsoft here.
I want to talk about why we chose Metro as the default instead of the desktop, and why this is good in the long run – especially for power users.
…but not in the way you might think.
At this point you’re probably expecting me to say that it’s designed for keyboard execution, or some thing about improved time trials for launching programs, or some other way of me trying to convince you that Metro is actually useful. I’ve talked about those in the past extensively on reddit, but for this discussion let’s throw that all out the window. For this discussion, assume that Metro is shit for power users (even if you don’t believe it to be).
Now that we’re on common ground, let’s dive into the rabbit hole. Metro is a content consumption space. It is designed for casual users who only want to check facebook, view some photos, and maybe post a selfie to instagram. It’s designed for your computer illiterate little sister, for grandpas who don’t know how to use that computer dofangle thingy, and for mum who just wants to look up apple pie recipes. It’s simple, clear, and does one thing (and only one thing) relatively easily. That is what Metro is. It is the antithesis of a power user. A power user is a content creator. They have multiple things open on multiple monitors – sometimes with multiple virtual machines with their own nested levels of complexity.
“But wait,” you’re thinking, “You said Metro is good for power users, yet now you’re saying it’s the worst for them, what gives?”
Before Windows 8 and Metro came along, power users and casual users – the content creators and the content consumers – had to share the same space. 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. Many, MANY features got cut because of this.
A great example is multiple desktops. This has been something that power users have been asking for for over a decade now. OSX has it, Linux has it, even OS/2 Warp has it. But Windows doesn’t. The reason for this is because every time we try and add it to the desktop, we run user tests; and every time we find that the casual users – a much larger part of our demographic than Apple’s or Linux’s – get confused by it. So the proposal gets cut and power users suffer.
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.
So why make Metro the default? And why was there no way to boot to desktop in Windows 8.0?
The short answer is because casual users don’t go exploring. If we made desktop the default as it has always been, and included a nice little start menu that felt like home, the casual users would never have migrated to their land of milk and honey. They would still occupy the desktop just as they always had, and we would have been stuck in square one. So we forced it upon them. We drove them to it with goads in their sides. In 8.1, we softened the points on the goads by giving users an option to boot directly to desktop.
Now that the casual users are aware of their new pasture, we can start tailoring. It will be a while before the power users start seeing the benefits of this (that’s why I said they’d benefit in the long run). Right now we still have a lot of work to do on making Metro seem tasty for those casual users, and that’s going to divert our attention for a while. But once it’s purring along smoothly, we’ll start making the desktop more advanced. We’ll add things that we couldn’t before. Things will be faster, more advanced, and craftier than they have in the past – and that’s why Metro is good for power users.