Monday, October 29, 2012

Initial Thoughts on Windows 8

I haven't been a Microsoft early adopter for a few years, so I hadn't seen Windows 8 until yesterday. The jury is out, but here are some initial thoughts:

  1. Things are a little too hidden. It's not always clear how to find familiar functions; for example, I still can't figure out how to change display settings. For a tinkerer like me, this is hard to get used to.
  2. Oh, wait--there it is. "Your PC can't project to another screen". Oh, well.
  3. The contextual search isn't second nature for me yet. I like the idea, but I haven't embraced it mentally yet. It requires two gestures to access (move mouse to upper corner, click the magnifying glass), which may be my barrier.

  1. I do like the simplified interface (even though things are hidden). The home screen can be customized.
  2. Easy upgrade process: My old apps can still be accessed in a Windows-7-like "desktop" user interface. At first I was disappointed that it appeared to be a shell on the old OS, but now I'm pleased with the compatibility.
  3. App store model: The app store model has become like the Apple or Android app stores, and it's really usable and easy to install applications that are compatible with the operating system.
  4. Messages I've seen so far are in plain language. I think my grandmother could've figured this out. (Yes, I know--Apple probably did it first, but MS is doing it well.)

I installed Windows 8 on a 7-year-old tablet laptop ("No!" you exclaim. "Yes!" I reply.).  Though I'm sure it's missing some wicked-cool new features that I will discover soon (oh, yeah, can't use dual monitors--yet), it's running, frankly, pretty great.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Designing for Simplicity

Good article on designing for simplicity, by Rob Tannen, on Designing for Humans:

Some points I found interesting:

“Research by Accenture…found that only five percent of returned products actually have a malfunction – in many cases, the buyer has simply found them too complex to set up. Another study…found that the average U.S. consumer spends only 20 minutes trying to make a device work before giving up and returning it.”

He makes a great point about automatic improvements, using the example of automobile transmission: the example shows how complexity of the gear-shifting task was moved from the user (manual transmission) to the system (automatic transmission). Technically, though, automatic transmission is much more complex a system in its design. (In other words, design of simple interfaces isn’t simple.)

“In other words, what the end-user wants isn’t simplicity per se, but a simple way to access complexity.”

When we are challenged to do things like other companies known for their simple interfaces (such as Apple), we need to remind ourselves that it’s a lot harder to do that well.