Now that Windows 8 has been released, I continue to be amazed at the amount of vitriol being poured upon it. I really can’t see what all the fuss is about. Yes, there are some radical changes in the user interface, but I certainly don’t find them a problem at all.
In that light, I was somewhat amused to read Jakob Nielsen’s condemnation of the design of Windows 8. After all, he’s the design guru who jointly set up the Nielsen Norman Group along with Don Norman, another design guru, who has written:
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.
(note: the Surface device that Norman refers to is Microsoft’s table top device, now renamed as Microsoft PixelSense – he wrote this piece before Microsoft announced their Surface tablets)
As well as being amused, I confess to also being more than a little irritated by Nielsen’s review, because it seemed to me that he was often deliberately misrepresenting what Windows 8 is, and how it behaves in practice.
For example, he writes:
“Windows” no longer supports multiple windows on the screen. Win8 does have an option to temporarily show a second area in a small part of the screen, but none of our test users were able to make this work. Also, the main UI restricts users to a single window, so the product ought to be renamed “Microsoft Window.”
Er, sorry, the Windows desktop is just as it always has been, supporting multiple overlapping windows. The Modern UI view, designed for tablets and similar devices, does indeed show only two Modern UI apps simultaneously, but the traditional desktop hasn’t gone away, it’s still there. I find it hilarious that Nielsen states that “none of our test users were able to make this [the Modern UI view] work”, when he has just proudly stated
we invited 12 experienced PC users to test Windows 8 on both regular computers and Microsoft’s new Surface RT tablets
“Experienced”? They don’t seem particularly savvy to me. I cottoned on to this facility very early on, and use it to share my Desktop with Modern UI Apps.
The other example that I’ll give where it seems to me that Nielsen is not playing fair is the section where he claims that Windows 8’s “Flat style Reduces Discoverability”. He uses the example of the Settings Charm to illustrate this:
I find it odd that none of his “experienced PC users” noticed that as they moused over the icons and text in this panel, they would be highlighted to indicate that they were buttons, e.g.:
Frankly, I think Mr. Nielsen has not done a very good job in reviewing Windows 8 here. Scott Barnes also thinks that, and goes into far more detail. His critique of the Nielsen review is worth reading.