I know this may seem dated since Windows 8 was released nearly a year and a half ago but I recently ran across this interesting article on #fastcompany that analyzed Microsoft’s Windows 8: http://www.fastcodesign.com/3023244/microsofts-windows-8-is-the-perfect-os-that-nobody-wants
While I’ve always been a fan of the design since the initial concept was disclosed to the public, conversely I also had doubts on how successful it could thrive today, especially in the desktop realm. I’ve always had my personal opinions on the OS and figured now would be a great time to share them considering the fact that I had just read the article on Fast company.
Lack of Design Progression
With Windows 8, Microsoft took a huge leap delivering a very bold, unique, and beautiful new interface for its consumers. However, that leap may have been too far for most to take and have instead wanted to stay put. What would have been ideal is if the company provided a “bridge of subsequent design releases” to get to this point – this could possibly be subtle OS updates that slowly introduced new features and interactions that are existent in Windows 8. While I think the new interface looks fantastic, I don’t believe that the behaviors and tasks of Windows users enabled them to quickly adopt the mechanics of the new UI. Microsoft failed to understand those core user behaviors and rather than accompanying them step by step through subtle design changes, they launched them off to a distant planet (not really but you know what I mean).
Stagnant Hardware Tools
Understanding core user behaviors also comes the ability to understand the tools they use. Although it seems rather simple to realize, it needs to be identified that users are tied to desktop tools that are still relatively “old” considering the introduction of tablets and mobile devices. Take the mouse for instance which was first introduced in the 1970’s. Channeling your behavior to the desktop computer through this device is what people are accustomed to unlike tablets and mobile devices where direct touch interactions are possible. While I believe desktop computers will eventually evolve to mimic the same natural interactions inherent with mobile and tablet devices, they aren’t there yet but with hardware being developed like Leap Motion or the Xbox Kinect, it is on its way. Microsoft just pulled the trigger too soon.
Technology needs to develop
I mentioned Leap Motion and Xbox Kinect as product examples that represent technological advancements which allow us to interact with computers in a more natural manner. While these are two great products, they have only scratched the surface to establish new ways we can interact with technology more intuitively. Users have an infinite number of behaviors, actions, and desires when interacting with technology and its not simple to provide one universal language setup that accommodates those scenarios. For example, if a user creates a left-right swiping gesture with their hand using Leap in one application, how does that translate in another application? Technically they should have the same outcome but its difficult to predict how a user may react. In addition, what if another user applies the same gesture but expects a different outcome? Think about how we user our mobile phones today when we perform query commands with our voice. In my case I tend to deliver my sentences in a very rigid, robotic, language that I hope my phone can understand. I use Google Voice Search often and I’ve taken notice to its phonetics improvement with whomever is using it but it will still take time before its evolved to accept any natural sentence that a user may deliver. The possibilities are endless and creating these technological advancements is a very intriguing and challenging design problem to solve. While Windows 8 looks amazing, it currently doesn’t have the technological advancement surrounding it to deliver the multi-tasking capabilities that people need to utilize on a daily basis.
Anyways, those are my quick thoughts on Windows 8. Amazing and beautifully designed interface for the future but not for today.
Cheers and Happy Holidays,