Monthly Archives: March 2012

Paradigm Shift

So yesterday came the release of the windows 8 consumer preview, which introduced a couple new UI paradigms to the traditional desktop computer. Things such as settings, start menu, charms bar, closing metro apps all translate to the following patterns.

  • Corners for options or menus
  • Sliding edges for additional options or menus
  • Slide across screen to manipulate app Viewability

And it got me thinking, these are radical new concepts that really haven’t changed too much since the beginning of the PC age with windows and mac os. Not only that, but the new paradigms violates traditional design rules of making things clear to the user. The UI controls lack visibility, and anyone without prior knowledge would not have any cues on where to look.

Imagine your mom, dad, or anyone who isn’t familiar with technology, looking at a blank desktop.

How do I get to my metro start menu?

So will Windows 8 Catch on? or will it be labeled unintuitive, or even worse, VISTA like?

How about mindshare/user share? Will the enterprise or consumer base adopt?

Lets take a look back on some previous releases of windows that introduced similarly radical paradigms that we now use as a staple today.

Remember windows 95? it introduced the task bar, and it came along with a tooltip!

What is this grey abomination on the bottom?

Or how about the jump from a text OS to GUI OS? MS-Dos to Windows, introduced file Icons, Desktop. Imagine the shock when the user found that moving a mouse also moved a cursor on screen, Witchcraft they said.

This used to be your operating system

Now keep in mind that this was all done in the age before Youtube, social media, or The internet. There is no tutorial video to guide you step by step, a link to an article from a forgotten high school acquaintance on your Facebook feed. Information was scarce.

So now you may be wondering, how did they learn these new patterns?

To learn, they simply used what ever means was possible, be it thousand page instruction books, being trained by professionals (keep in mind windows start off at the enterprise level) or playing around until the desired solution occurred.

Some might argue it was intuitive, imagine trying to open a file on the desktop on your first run of the OS. Would Double Click be the first thing you tried to do? left click or right click? Circle it with your mouse? type open on the keyboard? Drag it around? I’d argue what is intuitive today, is a product of being exposed to the same pattern for the past 20 years. My 2 year old niece knows how to open an application on a phone, and I don’t think she is able to cognitively reason how to open a file.

And now more importantly why did they bother to learn it?

If you make something good, people will use it. In each iteration of the OS, it became easier and quicker to access your files and programs. Imagine you wanted to access a program in some folder deep in your computer, what would you need to do on DOS, Windows 3.1, and Windows 95?

In DOS you would need to type

“thisisa/reallylong/folderpath/andannoyingname/foranapplication.exe”

In Windows 3.1, you would have to click on each one of the folders to and traverse down. A lot more efficient than typing out the whole path, but still a fair amount of clicks. Revolutionary, dare I say Magical? (RIP, this will be my only shot, I swear)

Now enter Windows 95, press the start button, all programs, “foranapplication”. DONE.

Notice on each iteration, the efficiency to access the content that you want was increased dramatically. Now back to Windows 8, is accessing our content today any faster than in Windows 7?

Yes and No. Today accessing the start menu is just as fast as previously. Instead of a button you can just ram your mouse to the bottom left of the screen and click, the edges stop it from traveling further, the exact same as with the button. You also have the Windows Key to do the same thing. The other menus are found on the other corners, and running it down the side of the screen is as easy and quick as drawing a straight line with a ruler, you really cant mess it up.

So then where is the speed up? Touch UI. Remember Windows 8 is Microsoft’s foray into the touch screen tablet market. Ever try using a windows 7 tablet? its not a good experience, things are too small, accuracy is down, it wasn’t possible to be productive. The goal was to create a no compromise Mouse-Keyboard & Touch UI. And there is no compromise. You are getting your efficient Windows 7 mouse & keyboard along with a new touch UI capable tablet. The side effect is that our current mouse keyboard setup must experience a little bit of change, but I think it’s worth the change.

So will Windows 8 Catch on? Yes I firmly believe so, tablets are exploding and Windows 8 is the only OS that allows production and consumption of content. Android and IOS are mainly consumption based.

How about mindshare/user share? Will the enterprise or consumer base adopt?

I shall share what I think in a future post =]

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