Inge de Bleecker has been working as a User Interface Expert specializing in mobile for the past 12 years. Here’s her take on Windows 8 and why users may or may not ultimately embrace the usability change.
I recently was fortunate enough to attend a series of Windows 8 training sessions for user experience (UX) designers. Attending the sessions gave me valuable insight into Windows 8 design.
I am not here to give you a full list of the good, bad, and ugly of Windows 8. A quick Google search will reveal a number of links to articles that already cover that. What I am wondering about is what the Windows 8 user experience over time will evoke in its users.
The goal behind any good user experience has always been to provide the user with an interface that is easy and intuitive to use. With the advent of the iPhone, the interface also had to be fun to use. Usability and user delight are now top priorities.
During the Windows 8 training sessions, it quickly became clear that the Windows 8 user experience team has put a lot of thought into all aspects of user experience design. Based on that, they have created a vast number of rules; rules about what can be displayed on an app’s landing page, what needs to be stuck in menus, where menus reside on the page, the look and feel of page elements, and so on. There are so many rules that it is a bit overwhelming.
The good thing about rules is that it makes it much easier to design an app: just follow the rules, and the end result will be passable at the worst.
Consistent use of rules also leads to uniformity. For users over time, uniformity breeds familiarity. And familiarity promotes ease of use. To some extent.
While familiarity is one of the principles we strive for in design, discoverability is another one. I found that some of the Windows 8 design rules result in a lack of discoverability. To give an example, one of the rules states that actions should not be displayed on-screen, but instead provided in a (by default hidden) menu that can be opened through swiping. While users can become familiar with this and understand that they may need to look for something in a hidden menu, it impedes the discoverability. Yet usability testing time and again shows that users want actions at their fingertips, on-screen.
This example brings about some questions: Will familiarity in time overcome the discoverability issue and result in an experience that users find easy and intuitive? Will it make for an enjoyable experience?
My exposure to Windows 8 so far has definitely made me think. I am curious to see how users over time will rate the ease of use and enjoyability of Windows 8 applications. I’ll report my findings in this blog once I’ve gathered enough data. Stay tuned.