Windows 8 and 8.1 Forums

Creating the Windows 8 user experience

  1. #1

    Creating the Windows 8 user experience

    This blog often focuses on the bits and features and less on the “philosophy” or “context” of the product. Given the level of brand new innovations in Windows 8, however, we think it is worth putting Windows 8 in the context in which we approached the design. As with any significantchange to a broadly usedproduct, Windows 8 has generated quite a bit of discussion. With millions of people using the Consumer Preview for their daily work, we’ve seen just as many points of view expressed. Many people—from David Pogue of the New York Times to Mat Honan from Gizmodo and many more—have been quite positive, and others less so, most notably in the comments on this blog, where we’ve seen the rich dialog we’d hoped for. Some have asked about design choices we’ve made in the product and the evolution of Windows or suitability of the design to different people. Some bloggers believe it is critical to further separate the traditional desktop from Metro style elements. Other people believe passionately that it is important to make the desktop more like the Metro style interface. There are as many opinions as there are folks who have tried out the Consumer Preview. Designing a new release of a product already used by a billion people in a billion different ways is, as we say, like ordering pizza for a billion people. Doing so out in the open encourages this dialog, and we embrace and value it. Jensen Harris, Director of Program Management for our User Experience team, authored this post.

    At the D: All Things Digital conference in June 2011, we demonstrated for the first time the new user interface that we developed for Windows 8. This new UI is fast and fluid to use, and optimized for mobile form factors such as laptops, tablets, and convertibles, where people spend the vast majority of their time today. Windows 8 works equally well with mouse, keyboard, or your fingers, and has the best pen support of any OS. It supports multiple displays and the widest array of configurations and form factors of any OS. On top of all that, Windows 8 introduces a new kind of app, which we codenamed “Metro style” following the design language that has evolved going back to Windows Media Center and the new Windows Phone. These apps are immersive, full-screen, beautiful, and optimized for the ways that people commonly use devices today.
    I thought it would be useful to take a step back and describe a little bit of the background of how the Windows 8 user interface was designed, and discuss some of the decisions we’ve made and the goals of this new experience in more detail.
    A brief history of the Windows user interface

    The user interface of Windows has evolved and been transformed over the course of its entire 27-year history. Although we think about certain aspects of the Windows UI as being static or constant, the reality is that the interface is always changing to keep up with the way people use PCs. It is amazing to reflect back on the history of the Windows UI, and to see the level of dramatic change that has transpired over time.
    Since Windows 8 marks a significant evolution of the user experience, I will focus on the releases where the user interface of Windows changed most significantly, and some of the initial perception surrounding those shifts. If you are interested, a full history of Windows is available to read on the Microsoft website.
    Windows 1

    Windows 1 was released in 1985, and it was designed for drastically different scenarios than what people use PCs for today.
    The first version of Windows was a rough graphical shell around DOS, intended primarily to be used with the keyboard. A mouse was strictly optional and very few PCs had one.
    In fact, the mouse was a bit of a curiosity at the time, perceived by many experienced users as inefficient, cumbersome, un-ergonomic, and hard to learn how to use. The mouse was certainly exotic. Do you roll it on the screen? Do you pick it up and talk into it?
    Here are a couple of published expert opinions from early 1980s print publications about whether the mouse would catch on:

    • “Mice are nice ideas, but of dubious value for business users” (George Vinall, PC Week, April 24, 1984)
    • “There is no evidence that people want to use these things.” (John C. Dvorak, San Francisco Examiner, February 19, 1984)
    • “I was having lots of fun, but in the back of my corporate mind, I couldn't help but think about productivity.” (George Vinall, PC Week, April 24, 1984)
    • “Does the mouse make the computer more accessible, more friendly, to certain target audiences such as executives? The answer is no.” (Computerworld, October 31, 1983)
    • “There is no possibility that this device will feel more comfortable to the executive than the keyboard. Because of its ‘rollability,’ the mouse has the aura of a gimmick…” (Computerworld, October 31, 1983)
    • “The mouse and its friends are merely diversions in this process. What sounds revolutionary does not necessarily help anyone with anything, and therein lies the true test of commercial longevity.” (David A. Kay, Datamation, October 1983)

    So, as you can see, the mouse was considered gimmicky, unnecessary, and not useful for mainstream use. On the other hand, some people are now asserting that the mouse is dead.
    Windows 3 and 3.1

    The first commercially successful version of Windows was Windows 3, released in 1990. It featured a totally new interface, centered on a new shell called Program Manager for launching, arranging, and switching programs.
    File Manager was the most important new program in Windows 3, used for managing files and drives. This upgrade bet big for the first time on most users having a mouse, and knowing how to use it to click on the colorful, large (for the time) 32x32 icons. Many reviews were critical of the release because to use it effectively required one of those oft-criticized mice.
    It is worth noting in the screenshot above that File Manager is being used to browse the files in the OS itself—something that was commonplace at the time, but now the modern equivalent of looking under the hood to repair an electronic fuel-injected car.
    You could not put links to programs or files on the “desktop” in Windows 3. The area behind the floating windows was where programs went when you minimized them. Because getting to these minimized apps often required moving a bunch of windows out of the way first, the Alt+Tab keyboard shortcut became a very popular way to switch between running programs.
    Windows 95

    Windows 95, released a few years later in August of 1995, included a substantially reinvented user experience. Many of the constructs that are still present in Windows 7 were introduced in this version—the Start menu, taskbar, Explorer, and the desktop—but in very different forms.
    Although we think about these user interface elements as familiar today, at the time, they were radically different from how anyone had used a PC before. The Start button was so undiscoverable that, despite having the word Start right on it, bouncing.....
    Source: Creating the Windows 8 user experience - Building Windows 8 - Site Home - MSDN Blogs

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  2. #2

    Posts : 828
    Windows 7 x64 Ultimate/Windows 8.1/Linux

    I rather like the lack of aero glass and the flat interface. I wonder what else they have planned for the RTM...

    Click image for larger version

    While a few of these visual changes are hinted at in the upcoming Release Preview, most of them will not yet be publicly available. You’ll see them all in the final release of Windows 8!
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  3. #3

    Posts : 1,851
    8250 x86 + 7 SP1 x86 + Ubuntu 12.04 LTS x86

    Wow, this is really a mind boggling, poor decision. I think they are trying as hard as possible to keep people off of 8. lol

    Without Aero, it looks so cheap and Windows 98-like. Terrible management decision.
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  4. #4

    Posts : 5,707
    Windows 8.1 Pro

    I am glad that Microsoft has improved the Windows 8 Desktop, I was getting deeply concerned with the design clash of Aero and Metro. The new Desktop looks....interesting. It reminds of vista almost how it had the blackish glass Taskbar with the different color of windows. But, I am kind of disappointed with the navigation bar. I think the breadcrumb navigation would go better next to the Ribbon tabs, get rid of the verbose File tab and mitigate the few items in that to the Home tab. Then, one could place a large back button and small forward button i.e., IE9's nav buttons. I also was expecting to see more metro iconography in Windows Explorer.

    But overall though, wow. Windows 8 is something, it's like a convergence of Windows 95, Longhorn, Xp, and Windows 1.
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  5. #5

    Posts : 5,707
    Windows 8.1 Pro

    This was a good article to read. I especially liked the Windows 95 user testing and how different that UI was to the times back then and how difficult it was for people to get used to it, much like Windows 8 has to some. I think this goes to show that Windows 8 isn't a simple evolution of refined features and UI, it's a complete rebuilding of it.

    Speaking of such, back then when 95 introduced the new Desktop, we gained a new UI and lost DOS. I'm starting to think the same thing will happen this decade. We will gain a new UI while losing the old one.
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  6. #6

    Posts : 828
    Windows 7 x64 Ultimate/Windows 8.1/Linux

    Quote Originally Posted by Coke Robot View Post
    ...Speaking of such, back then when 95 introduced the new Desktop, we gained a new UI and lost DOS. ...
    Not quite correct. Windows 95/98 used DOS 7 and it was quite easy to boot to DOS, with a modification of MSDOS.sys - a text file under these versions of Windows - and the run Windows by typing Win. MSDOS dependencies didn't really disappear until the NT kernel made an appearance.
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  7. #7

    This new interface is ugly. I don't know what's going on in Redmond, but I don't like it at all. If it's going to look like this, I will start making a new skin as soon as Windows 8 comes out.
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  8. #8

    Madrid, Spain
    Posts : 228
    Windows 8.1 x64

    Quote Originally Posted by GMan View Post
    Wow, this is really a mind boggling, poor decision. I think they are trying as hard as possible to keep people off of 8. lol

    Without Aero, it looks so cheap and Windows 98-like. Terrible management decision.
    Even worse, it looks Linux.

    Back 10 years.
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  9. #9

    I can't believe from the consumer preview up until now this is the BEST they could come up with. It's disappointing to say the least. I get the incorporation of metro but to be quite frank metro just doesn't work. Maybe on things where it's fine to be less graphic say on the phone but on a desktop and even a tablet no one wants to be looking at flat objects. Their idea works when things are meant to be simple say when watching a movie but you cannot have buttons and such be so flat to the point of looking like their was no effort taken into creating them. Plus they obviously didn't put into consideration how light everything looks and how much harder it is with the flatness to distinguish things such as the tabs they just look like blocks similar to internet explorer 9 there isn't even a BIT of gap and such to show separation. While their idea may work on say something that is focused on one task here there is just too much going on for the desktop to be completely flat. It's even flatter than windows 95.

    I don't think they understand that there is just too much going on for it to be as flat as it is. I mean look at the icons for the various programs and various system items. Even if the system items change to look flatter I doubt most of the people would go back and create flatter icons and even if flat icons so many of the icons just don't work flat. They need to realize that they need to create something that meets aero and metro halfway. This is not it sure they've taken most of aero out but the look just looks boring and unappealing. Not to mention it just creates a interface where it looks like the designer didn't try. This is the metro apps I've seen those "buttons" that are flat and have a border around text and possible a fill doesn't really cut it design-wise. No one is asking them to bring super special effects but a little more dimension and character would be nice for something that is as complicated as the desktop. Look at the blue glow on the hover/selection over the libraries compared with everything else that has been metrofied that just looks jarring. Some of the buttons aren't metro and same for a lot of the icons such as the folders.

    I also don't know why people would even call this the new user interface that everyone will adapt to. No doubt people will learn to adapt but it is not new. The metro screen is new, but the desktop is not. It looks and feels mostly the same. With tweaks here and there. The difference being the menu is hidden and with no real good replacement in removing the start button. We basically get a bad face-lift with all the user-interface elements being as flat as they are. It just doesn't work in this environment all that flatness you can hardly understand the different states of change or distinguish items. The taskbar already had an issue for me visually.( The hovers were not as clear as they could be, the stacking of windows and seeing the various windows of a program. Seeing what was being used at the moment doesn't show screenshots after a certain amount. Which program is being used identification just small visual cues like those. )

    Long story short it needs to go back to the drawing board. Desktop is not the same as a phone and the flatness just won't work with the complicated multitasking you might do on a desktop. Their design seems like an after thought.
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  10. #10

    Changed Windows 8 Desktop Revealed, Interface Improved [VIDEO]

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Creating the Windows 8 user experience
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