I was reading through UI expert Jakob Nielsen’s scathing assessment of Windows 8’s usability which has the tech press all abuzz this week; partially from professional interest (I still have to do a certain amount of desktop support at work, and for friends and family), and partially because – as someone who prefers and sometimes advocates a certain non-Windows operating system – I get a certain amount of guilty pleasure seeing the ol’ 800 lb. gorilla getting raked over the coals by someone with actual credentials and expertise.
I won’t for a minute claim to be capable of an unbiased assessment of any Microsoft product, but in all honesty I can’t see Windows 8 being anything short of a train wreck for most users. “Vista” may have become a byword for “catastrophically bad software release” (even by Microsoft Executives), but when you objectively analyze what was wrong with Windows Vista it pales in comparison to what’s happened with version 8. Vista had its bugs, its annoyances (UAC, e.g.), and a UI that was a tad too heavy for the hardware of the day; but frankly, for the gazillions of people who’ve been using Windows since the 1990s, the Windows 8 UI pretty much pulls the rug out from under you.
Some people will love it; in fact, I know a few who think its the greatest, most exciting release ever. Fair enough, to each his own. Whether you love it or hate it, though, you have to agree that for the average user – the folks who have invested about as much effort as they care to invest in figuring out how to navigate their PC over the last 5 to 15 years – the changes are quite jarring and will undoubtedly put a lot of people off the product.
So what do you do?
So, if you’ll allow that I’m even half right about how jarring and off-putting these changes are, what will people do? How do you feel about these changes? Sure, it’s easy for people using GNU/Linux, OSX, or mobile devices exclusively to dismissively say “just use <insert non-MS platform>”; but realistically there are many people and businesses who are pretty heavily invested in the Windows platform, or in software that is only available for it. They can’t just jump ship and run to another OS because the UI stinks.
I guess I’m fascinated to see how this plays out. Will people stick with 7? Will they just get over it and use 8? Will they hold out for 9, and if so will Microsoft actually deliver a more traditional UI? Or will they consider other platforms and OS? Or will Windows 8 turn out to be the best UI ever, in spite of criticisms?
What’s your plan?