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Windows 8’s release is still more than two months away, but millions of people have already downloaded Windows 8 preview builds and realized that Windows 8’s tile-based, touch-friendly “Modern-style” UI (or whatever they’re calling it this week) is not for everyone. But is it simply because the typography-inspired interface is far too different for most people to accept readily, or is there something fundamentally wrong with the interface? We know most of you’d love to weigh in on this matter — despite having done it umpteen times already — but before that we’d like you to read what a leading usability expert feels about the whole Windows 8 experience.
Raluca Budiu, a User Experience Specialist at the Nielsen Norman Group, recently shared her views on Microsoft’s two-interface approach in Windows 8 with the Laptop Magazine. She feels Windows 8 is not quite as user-friendly as previous Windows operating systems when it comes to content creation and multitasking, even though it makes it easier to “share a news story through email or with friends on Facebook.”
“Users will need to remember two different interfaces. They will learn Windows 8, but won’t be able to forget Windows 7,” Raluca Budiu, who has also worked at Microsoft, told the Laptop Magazine in an interview last week. “And they will need to keep track of which app goes with each framework. [It's] definitely a cognitive burden, but not an insurmountable one.”
But it’s not just the two-interface strategy that she has a problem with. She also has an issue with the Modern UI: “Most important, while Windows 8 embraces some important mobile design principles (such as giving priority to content), not all these principles are well suited for the larger non-touch screen of most PCs or laptops. Many apps waste a lot of space for huge images and give little space to text. The idea of hiding the controls to give priority to content may make sense on mobile, where screen space is so limited, but it doesn’t make that much sense on a large screen, especially if users have to work harder to access hidden features.”
Asked for her opinion on Microsoft’s decision to put the Start Menu out to pasture, Budiu justified the decision. She believes that it had to be done for the sake of consistency, even though the current setup, which requires the user to switch back and forth between the desktop and the start screen in order to launch a new desktop app, is cognitively burdensome.