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The UX of Windows 8

Jensen Harris, the Director of Program Management for the Windows User Experience Team, gave a really compelling talk where he explained the work his team had done in crafting the UX for Windows 8. They knew they needed to shake things up and re-imagine some concepts that had become stale. They threw out the Start menu and built a cool new tiled interface.

He talked about how important it was to sweat the small stuff. For example, he talked about the herculean effort it was to eliminate a little blue flash in the boot sequence the first time you power on a device straight from the manufacturer. His point was that the seemingly small stuff REALLY matters when we're creating an experience for a user. A little bit of sand in my hamburger is going to spoil the whole experience. 

I had to compare my own experience as a user of Windows 8 with the description I was hearing from Harris. I thought it still had a lot of rough edges and it was an uncomfortable melding of two paradigms that made it uncomfortable for the user who wasn't always sure which paradigm was in operation. My frustration was pretty well captured by Brian Madden in a post today

And then there's that whole problem of having the Tile interface mode and the desktop mode which are side-by-side and not at all related. It's like two OS virtual machines side-by-side. How are regular users supposed to understand what the [heck] is going on? Even worse is that Internet Explorer exists in both modes, yet the two versions are different. They don't even share bookmarks! So I can use Tile mode IE which is all nice and touchy, then maybe I want to use Word. I click on the Word tile and I'm flipped over to desktop mode to run Word. Now I want to go back to IE. Hey cool! There's an icon for IE on the bottom of the screen in the desktop mode taskbar. I click IE and it launched, but it's "different" IE. The menus are different and the URL bar is on the top. And I have no bookmarks. And my tabs aren't open anymore. WTF? 
Sure, as a geek I understand that I'm now running desktop IE and not Touch IE, but how's a regular user supposed to know that? I set this thing down while running Word and came back later. I hit the power button to wake it up, logged in, and clicked the IE icon on the bar. Was I supposed to remember "Oh yeah last time I used this I was in desktop mode, so I have to remember that this IE is not the one I want. I have to switch back to Tile mode then launch IE." 
Seriously people?

As I embark on my own journey's to craft great user experiences, I want to learn from Harris' failure with Windows 8. It isn't enough to sweat the small stuff if the big stuff has serious problems. 


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