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Windows 8

(This wound up a bit long.)

For this assignment I drew on both the Tufte reading and the presentation in class on Tuesday. The former made an interesting if common critique of PowerPoint, arguing that it “elevates format over content”, while the latter dealt in part with judging ‘good’ and ‘bad’ design by its functionality and intuitiveness. Both of those ideas played in my head on Friday night while I interacted with the upcoming Windows 8 for the first time.

For those of you who have yet to experience Microsoft’s newest mistake, this is a screenshot I took of the new home interface for Windows, which subsumes the Start menu. This style of interface is becoming more common, essentially an attempt to ape OS X (see also the Unity interface native to Ubuntu since 11.04), embodying many of the sort of design failures we talked about this past week.

Doubtless, the aesthetic here is sleek and, at a glance, even appealing. The issue is that this is a ‘shotgun’ approach to design; this interface is meant to work with tablets, desktops, and smartphones. As a result, its design is too broad to work well for any of the three.

Clearly this design emphasizes the format in which information is presented, at the cost of both usability and the conhesion of the design’s rhetoric. It lacks an attention to the way the user actually experiences the interface; while this style of menu has great communicative value on a tablet (where people interact with the device in a more tactile, natural way) on a desktop it feels clumsy, and places new barriers between the content, its function, and the user. The result is that where the design is not outright confusing, it is still clumsy and roundabout.

You might analogize Tufte’s admonishment that a presentation should at least “do no harm” to this situation, and how software presents itself to users. While the goal should be a clean, intuitive, appealing aesthetic, at the very least avoid confusing the user with mismatched messages. Design to purpose, and do not expect one design rhetoric to be applicable for a 23″ monitor through mouse and keyboard, an 8.9″ screen navigated by touch, and a 4.8″ display flicked through with a thumb.

Nikolas

Comments

Andi
Reply

I have yet to try out Windows 8, but the design of it takes me aback. It is quite different from previous Windows versions and while I am mostly a Mac users these days, I appreciate the simplicity and information-based image that Windows always presented. I agree with you on how it has great communicative value on a tablet but feels clumsy on a desktop- I assume that I would feel the same way upon experiencing the new operating system.

Nikolas
Reply

Yeah, I think the design is even more confused by the fact that there does exist a conventional ‘Desktop’ interface (minus the Start menu) alongside the interface you see in this screenshot. It feels tacked on, almost like a self-aware apology for the strangeness of sticking a tablet UI on a desktop OS.

Justin
Reply

I’ve been using Windows 8 for about 3 months now and it gives a different experience when using multiple monitors. Its worse…. while using this interface with 3 monitors it becomes quite nuisance. Going to the left or right to bring up a menu or app doesn’t really work well when you have to across 2 monitors to get there. In addition apps constantly close when working with an application that isn’t a part of new interface because the desktop takes precedence. I know I Know, first world problems but this new feature could have been thought out a little more.

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