When I have heard about the launch of Windows 10 and heard that its bringing back the old ‘famous’ ‘start-menu’, it immediately reminded me a joke that I have heard in one of those HCI classes, back in those old days,
One old man bought a computer. On the very first day, he called his daughter for a support. He asked her, “how can I turn the computer on and off?” She replied, “To turn it on, press the power button on the box,” and at his surprise, she continued,”to turn it off, …click the start button on the screen… …”
So, yes over time the users have adapted themselves with this unforgettable primitive interaction ‘mistake.’ And then suddenly Microsoft came out with a new version of Windows without this classical ‘mistake’ that become an integral part of users’ Windowing experience. When the start-menu was removed, the users noticed what was taken away from them. And they noticed it badly.
Until Windows 7, it was OK. However, Windows 8 really came with a number of (un)pleasant surprises to me. Especially removing the start menu and introducing new tiles interaction was not enough as how it was expected. I have not come across many users who really liked this interaction pattern at the first place. Some of them, of course, failed to understand why is it there. Windows 8 came with a whole new set of features, but sadly forgot to acknowledge that a very large community that comprises majority of homes and business users are still on traditional desktops and laptops. And only a very few of them have access to a touch screen device that can utilize the potential of the new interaction pattern. And for the users, there was no way back, unless, like many other people switched back to Windows 7. Probably due the users demand, Windows 8.1 was released too quickly and that somewhat corrected the ‘start-menu’ issue, including some other issues.
It seems that Windows repeatedly either knowingly or unknowingly failed to acknowledge that knowing the users in their own world is important than anything else. And by ‘knowing’ them I really mean knowing them. Not interacting with them in a fancy way using different hi-tech tools and technologies.
Microsoft announces launch of Windows 10, their next version operating system. I am also eagerly waiting for the moment of Microsoft 10’s launch on June 29, 2015, however, I am a little bit anxious too. I am anxious because, I can already clearly see a wide array of mistakes in terms of ‘user centered’ approach from desing and testing perspective. I am also anxious about, how would the Windows 10 users embrace the gap in what they expect, and what Windows 10 offers. Moreover, they will have to deal with critics’ comments, peer pressure, etc. This is a serious point that often over looked by many leading brands, including Microsoft.
A great thing for a large group of users is that they will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 from their current operating systems. However, since the very first moment of the launch news of Windows 10, I could hear the users cry, and I whispered, like previous times, its all about users, and usability matters!
Now let me start with one minor issue and slowly explain more serious issues that I wish (or all the users may wish) that Windows 10 knew it before. Lets look at the first step towards Windows 10.
During the course you would receive a notification on your taskbar that will remind you the ‘great’ offer from Windows 10. It is so vivid, you are eligible for this offer, you cannot miss it.
You could already see from different forums that many users of different range are already asking about how to get rid off this notification. It seems that Windows 10 is push selling itself and annoying by reminding you some information that you may be no longer interested to know. From the ‘nagging’ notification (which is actually not too nagging, it is just standing on the taskbar without any valid reason and taking some unused pixels, but to many users that matters a lot) you can learn about the procedure for the free update. You may cancel the update, but you cannot cancel the notification, at least you cannot do it easily.
2. New Start Menu:
One required interaction pattern that Microsoft realized (finally) after so many years that users want start-menu back. Many people, including me, talked about it before. Removing start menu was not an upgrade in anyway. However, I am anxious about the tiles interaction, that is not suitable for a larger group of users. While Windows runs on a range of the hardware, there was no particular technology driven push (or pull) for users requirement to move to a new hardware (with touch interaction.) Which is still not popular for desktop based interaction. Furthermore, its not benefiting either for users or for Microsoft, per se. Anyway, good that its coming back, better late than never. However, I would expect a pre-load of all the installed program. As the user suffers in the current ‘charm’ interface for Windows 8 and higher, where searching for any program is anything but charming.
You may not believe or not, many people are already using Windows 10. As Microsoft calls it with a fancy name, “Windows Insider Program.” Within this program anyone can download and test the Windows 10 operating system. However, as they say, “… If, however, you think BIOS is a plant-based fuel, this program may not be right for you …” Meaning that a wide range of people with some prior knowledge about an operating system and some basic knowledge about computer such as, BIOS can use it.
The crowdsourced testing, that I call ‘crowdtesting’ is a lethal technique, if not utilized with proper care and used withing a legitimate jurisdiction. As I have mentioned earlier, that I am anxious as presumably, that is going to happen in Windows 10. The usage data of the ‘Windows Insider Program’ is fed to the development team. Now they have data to support their claim(s) behind any design decision(s). However, it they forget that all those users, without any exception, are users who know BIOS*. And they represent a really tiny group of Windows users. Therefore, usage data of those power users cannot resemble a real user requirement, or their usage pattern under any circumstance. This is more like a technology driven test for understanding users and their tasks, and so on.
A serious reminder for technology driven requirement gathering fail could be, the famous test Microsoft conducted about Microsoft Word’s menu. They considered some billion scale data and developed the dynamic menu. A menu that changes over usage pattern. For example, if you use delete button more times than other, for a particular case, delete button will be raised to a higher position in the software. And that was an epic fail for many users. People want their tool on its convenient place, not nearer as they use it more. That confuses when users are working on different project where for example, copy-paste was major task over delete from the previous example.
4. Real User vs. Power User
In many software development cases, the requirements are collected from a group of users that is no way related to the actual users. A textbook example is “traditional banking software” where the requirements are collected from the higher officials in the head-office, whereas, the actual software is used in a branch by a cashier in a remote town. And then obviously the cashier, the actual user of the software cannot comprehend why some functions are not working as expected. They spend their whole life adjusting with a wrong interaction design case.
Windows 10 is being heavily tested. Sadly it is being tested by power users. There is a little chance that a general user will turn to Microsoft and want to share the pride of being ‘Microsoft Insider.’ It reminds me the reason behind the failure of more than 80 software in US government procurement (collected from memory.)
5. Serving What Users May Expect Even If It is Not Uttered
I am certain that it is not time to remind with Microsoft Bob, one of the serious failure case of among many Microsoft great initiatives; and that also become an HCI textbook example. It failed despite its engineering marvel built into it. It failed in such a way, that a very small number of people today would barely remember that there was an operating system called Microsoft Bob. One of the major reasons behind the fail was the lack of acknowledgement about what users may need at that time. It is a serious business for the designers to combine the design knowledge with the users requirements.
In the Microsoft Bob case, that was the time when cyber world was only becoming popular, and there was hardly anything built into the operating system that Windows offered. Now, its time for social networking, wearable sensing, wide screen display. I failed to find a clear declaration that says, Windows 10 will be a ‘social operating system’ and will take into account users wearable sensors of their health or their large displays. Windows 8 somewhat takes the large-screen display by utilizing Intel WiDi, a communication with the wireless display. However, that is still more noisy and needs some more time to settle.
(End of first five points. End of Part 1)