Jakob Nielsen Excoriates the Usability of Windows 8

Just devastating. A taste:

Newegg is the only app that includes its full name in the tile. When we asked participants to use the other apps, they couldn’t find them. This on a new tablet with only a few applications installed. We know from our user testing of other tablets and mobile devices that users quickly accumulate numerous applications, most of which they rarely use and can barely recognize — even with static icons that never change.

The theory, no doubt, is to attract users by constantly previewing new photos and other interesting content within the tiles. But the result makes the Surface start screen into an incessantly blinking, unruly environment that feels like dozens of carnival barkers yelling at you simultaneously.

And then there’s this:

Because this column is very critical of Microsoft’s main product, some people will no doubt accuse me of being an Apple fanboy or a Microsoft hater. I’m neither. I switched from Macintosh to Windows many years ago and have been very pleased with Windows 7. […]

I have nothing against Microsoft. I happen to think that Windows 7 is a good product and that Windows 8 is a misguided one. I derived these conclusions from first principles of human–computer interaction theory and from watching users in our new research. One doesn’t have to hate or love a company in order to analyze its UI designs.

True, but it sounds defensive to include this disclaimer.

Update: I still don’t think his disclaimer is worded well, but I’ve been thinking about it, and the underlying sentiment is quite damning. Some aspects of usability and interface design can be measured and ranked objectively; others are quite subjective. There’s a certain unique style to the systems designed by different companies. To pick one small thing: window close buttons. On the Mac and other Apple systems, close buttons go in the top left. On Windows and other Microsoft systems, they go in the top right. I’ve always preferred the Apple style, but I admit this is an almost entirely subjective preference. It’s a style thing. There are a hundred little things like that that have always made me prefer Mac OS to Windows. It also means I’m at least somewhat less likely to prefer something new from Microsoft purely on a subjective basis. That Nielsen prefers Windows 7 over Mac OS X really does make his disdain for Windows 8 all the more damning.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012