Usability Expert: Windows 8 on PCs is Confusing, a Cognitive Burden

  • MORE

Windows 8 Usability

Though Windows 8 is winning rave reviews for its touch-friendly tablet experience, many feel that the operating system's "Modern-style" UI makes life more difficult for PC users. Count usability expert Raluca Budiu of the Nielsen Norman Group among these critics. Though she has not conducted any formal studies on Windows 8, the former Xerox PARC researcher and user experience  specialist has used the new OS enough to conclude that, for productivity tasks on the PC at least, Windows 8 is less user friendly than its predecessors.

Budiu explained to us why the design principles Microsoft used don't make sense for PCs and have the potential to confuse desktop users and slow them down.

LAPTOP: Is Windows 8 more or less user-friendly for PCs than previous versions of Windows?

Budiu: It’s hard to say without doing an in-depth study, but at least for some tasks, the usability is worse. There are things that you can do more easily in Windows 8. For instance, it’s easy to share a news story through email or with friends on Facebook. But, I am not sure that these are the tasks that people do most often on a PC.

Windows 8 is optimized for content consumption rather than content production and multitasking. Whereas content consumption can easily be done on other media (tablets and phones), production and multitasking are still best suited for PCs. Windows 8 appears to ignore that.

Cognitive BurdenLAPTOP: How will switching back and forth between different environments (Modern and Desktop) affect PC owners? 

Budiu: Users will need to remember two different interfaces. They will learn Windows 8, but won’t be able to forget Windows 7. 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.

LAPTOP: Is it a mistake to force people to relearn an interface that has been popular for 20 years?

Budiu: So it seems, at least if we talk about desktop computers. There are several reasons:

  • The learning curve is going to be steep.
  • The duality of Desktop-Metro is likely to confuse at least some of the users.
  •  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. For instance, to expose the URL bar or the list of tabs in the browser you will need to click the right button of the mouse. The back button is not visible either, but if you hover on the left hand side of the screen, it becomes visible.

Windows 7 Start vs Windows 8

LAPTOP: If you are in Windows 8's desktop environment and want to launch a new desktop application, you must return to the tile-based Start screen to click a shortcut. One could argue that going to a different screen is no more time consuming that opening up a Start menu that overlays on top of the screen. Was Microsoft really wrong to remove the  Start menu?

Budiu: The advantage of the overlaid menu is that it preserves context. Cognitively, there’s more of a burden when you have to switch context twice (desktop->start screen; start screen -> desktop). There are reasons to force users to switch contexts, especially in the tablet or phone environment, where screen real-estate is a lot more expensive and a menu is forced to use only part of the (already-small) screen. In that situation, a separate page makes better use of the small screen space.

There are fewer reasons for a separate page on a desktop – the start menu is a cheaper interaction than the start page. Microsoft probably does it for the sake of consistency – they want you to start an app in the same way, regardless of whether you are in the desktop environment on a PC or laptop, or in the Metro environment on a PC or on a tablet, or on a mobile phone.

For the PC case, I think that if you are going to have two environments, consistency is important, because otherwise people will always have to keep track of which action to use in which environment – which is an extra burden on their memory. So although the start menu is the cheaper solution (in terms of interaction cost), not using it in the desktop environment is probably the right thing to do, given the choices already made by the Metro interface.

Windows 8 Switcher


LAPTOP: The Windows 8 Switcher displays each Modern style app as its own thumbnail but folds all the desktop apps into a single thumbnail because it considers the desktop itself to be an app. Is this a usability problem?

Budiu: It is confusing, because users have to remember what they’re running in the desktop and go back to that app to resume editing a document in Word, for instance, or creating a chart in Excel. In general, switching between apps is costly for the users – you have to go to the start page, then select the app, and then, for those apps running in the desktop, go to desktop and select it from there. Compare that with older versions of Windows – just one click was needed to choose the running app from the task bar.

LAPTOP: When using Windows 8 with a mouse, you must hover for half a second over the upper left or right corners of the screen to bring up key menus (the Switcher, the Charms menu). Does hovering slow the user down?

Hover on Win 8

Hovering before using a menu does slow users down, but that’s not the major problem. The fact that the menus are hidden is primarily what slows users down – remember that what’s out of sight is out of mind. In our studies with mobile devices we found that whenever a menu was not in plain view, even users who knew about the existence of that menu (that is, they had discovered it in the past) didn’t use it as much or took a longer time to think to use it than if the menu options were all visible. So it’s not only the hovering that slows users down – it’s the lack of visibility that makes these menus less available.

These hidden menus also have zero affordances on the desktop, which makes them hard to discover for the first time. And even if you discovered where to click, being able to correctly remember which menu goes with location on the screen will require a fair amount of practice and continuous usage.

And yet another problem of these menus in the left and right corners is that they interfere with scroll arrows in some apps. The scroll arrows at the bottom of the screen are very close to the bottom corners of the screen, which are supposed to expose the menus. In general, it looks like the corners of the screen (the top, too, presumably, since this is how you close the app) are no longer good places to position controls.

Recommended by Outbrain
Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
Add a comment
  • Brian Says:

    Lots of microsoft trolls defending this piece of c. Can't even search, misses files. If you want to actually find fields you must turn OFF indexing, but then it's SLOOOOOOOOOOOOOW.

    The duplicate file paths that have been added, create a non linear file structure that is impossible to track, and easy to get lost in. The same file shows up in some half dozen file VIRTUAL files paths.

    I always thought the Rollerball fuzzy computer was nuts, but Micro junk is doing it.

    They aren't even 5% of the overall OS market anymore when you include phone and tablets.

    They lost.

  • Nancy SMith Says:

    I really do not like my screen to enlarge at the least touch. Is there a way to stop that and a way to stop the on screen keyboard to stop popping up?????

  • rocky_racoon Says:

    I managed to whip win8 into to shape with a number of utilities such as 'Classic Start' But after a few weeks I wondered why I was running an OS via plugins, so I removed windows and installed 'Linux Mint' which is a delight to use. Contrary to popular myth I do not have to type commands into a terminal (unless I choose to) I simply click my way around and enjoy my daily PC life, much as I did in the pre'Metro days.

  • James Carlson Says:

    I came across the same problems, I really wish Windows had designed their software to where users didn't need to read a long, boring manual.

  • X Says:

    OK, for the people who think "Change is ALWAYS necessary" as the general tone of things here.

    What would happen if your favourite car manufacturer decides to replace the steering wheel with arrow buttons, or a touch screen? Good luck, all that driving experience can go out the window.

    Not much different here. Change for the sake of change is a stupid idea, and that's what Microsoft has done. There's NOTHING new that this version of Windows does. Same old stuff with a different UI.

    I have no qualms about a few tweaks here and there to the UI, except when I have to re-learn everything again all of a sudden, and with a massive lack of customization.

  • DaveCS Says:

    after more than 3 decades of using computers, this OS appears to be the first one that will require a full semester course just to lear how to do the dirt simple tasks, like navigating the file system. crap, i'd had less grief learning DOS, and still have to use it on a fairly regular basis (why? after all these years? do I still have to use it when doing general network tasks?) I have less problems bit banging and cutting code in assembly language than I do dealing with the win 8 UI
    I can agree, I have had little to no problems with compatibility to old software, fewer in fact than with other OS moves, but, UI is supremely horrid, and yes, the ugly ass start screen that eats all of my 48" displays (3) in some of the worst color scemes imaginable, burying and hiding common functions, completely changing up the symbology to something unrecognizeable, sorry, I bought a windows 8 machine a year ago as a future replacement for my older Win7 machine, I hardly ever even touch the thing, my blood boils every time I have to use it

  • rc Says:

    I'm trying Windows 8 for the first time, and I honestly hate it. I've been using Windows and Macintosh for 20 years. I know how to use both. They are fairly consistent with each other, and consistent between versions. Windows 8 has broken that. It is very true that Microsoft is trying to push the mobile user paradigm, while trying to maintain the desktop paradigm. For many computer users who are "consumers" (of content), it is fine. For many others who are content creators or producers, it's completely backward. That is why I hate it.

    I sat down to this Windows 8 computer to remove PC Power Speed, which got on this computer. It's a Trojan. So here is my first experience:
    I want to uninstall it. Where is the Start menu?
    Fine, it's been removed. Where is the Control Panel?
    Can't find it. Where is My Computer?
    Maybe if I right click on the task bar. Hm, not in the toolbars, not in the menu. No search feature.
    Maybe if I click to the left of all the icons on the task bar...what the crap, a tiny hover menu that says "Start"? Fine. *click* I'm in Candyland. There are only about 8 buttons here? Nothing looks...oh, Desktop. Crap, back where I began. *hover, click*
    OK, let's see...oh, this barely-filled screen has a scroll bar. I'll scroll around a bit...well this isn't helpful. I'll try right clicking on the background TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS.
    Hey, an "All Apps" task bar has appeared. Great. But I'm looking for Windows Defender. There is no search feature. THERE IS NO SEARCH FEATURE!
    *taps a random letter on the keyboard* Seriously? You start typing in order to bring up Search? I guess if you know that's what you do, it's fine, but if you don't know how to work Search...
    Great. So..."Windows Defender" isn't an app. I'm back to square one.
    How do I get out of here?

    Anyway, after MUCH LONGER THAN IT SHOULD TAKE, I found everything I needed to and uninstalled the one app I was trying to get rid of. I did not use Windows 8. Windows 8 used me. It's trying to force me to use a computer the way it thinks I should use it. This will not fly. This is unacceptable.

    I'm sure for some users, Windows 8 is great, and that's fine. But for some of us, we don't "use the computer". We perform tasks with the computer. The operating system needs to be invisible and not a hindrance. The fact that I had this many issues on my first experience with this version of Windows after 2 decades of using computer interfaces should indicate that yes, Microsoft's approach does creat a "cognitive burden". I'm wasting too much time figuring out how to get simple tasks done, not because it's hard, not because it's a little different, but because it's too different while at the same time lacking visual cues.

    What I would like to see, at minimum, would be a tiny "Start" screen icon in the bottom left of the task bar, to help me remember it's there. I would like things like Control Panel, My Computer, Action Center etc easily accessible from the task bar in an unobtrusive way; i.e., not as icons that I pin on my own to the task bar, but (for example) as their own Toolbar that I can turn on. I would like a computer search bar that does not involve opening a window, clicking on the path/to/file, and typing it in (has never been intuitive).

    I will give props to Microsoft for FINALLY allowing me to create a new window with Control-N, and a new folder with Control-Shift-N. It's about time they borrowed something so basic and useful from Apple.

  • DontBuyBigMonitor Says:

    Sadly, we are still looking at this all wrong. If I have a 12 inch monitor, mouse movement isn't that much. If I have a 26 inch monitor, I really have to move the mouse a lot, and dual monitors - I had to get a bigger mouse pad almost 3/4 the length of my keyboard - that's too much. Click high left, roll mouse around high right, click lower left - etc... all this navigation is wearing people out. For years we've been following the status quo - Windows 8 hasn't done much for us in terms of productivity. Yes I read the comments about using common Windows shortcut keys, but this article is about the masses, not a few thousand smart users. I'm employed as a tech and I can honestly say that Windows 8 has been a blessing in driving up tech support calls and the fallout revenue from that, but I don't like that Microsoft is saying - abandon the PC and buy a tablet in its war for dominance with Apple iOS and Google Android.

    When I think about the millions of regular, non-techie users, the author's statement "Windows 8 is optimized for content consumption rather than content production and multitasking. Whereas content consumption can easily be done on other media (tablets and phones), production and multitasking are still best suited for PCs. Windows 8 appears to ignore that." makes sense because users are saying the same thing, not just the author. A cognitive burden, for those that don't understand what that means, is that the user has to change dramatically from the old way of doing things to the new way. As a business, not a home user, the business needs people to be productive and while some would say this is progress, in a bad economy, Windows 8 could cost the business a lot of lost revenue in reduced production. Think of it another way - Business ABC has a web form with 15 questions on it that employees complete everyday all day long when speaking to customers. Company ABC decides to change the questionaire to 30 questions, changes the order of questions, changes the verbage, moves some questions to a different web site, and then requires employees to keep up production. While this task is simpler, it will still result in lost productivity and "all employees" will have to "relearn" the questions, which they will do in time, but will have to think harder, harder in the changed verbage, harder in trying to find all the questions, and ultimately, not everyone will relearn these things at the same rate, so some of the company will still be trying to figure it out while other have. Windows 8 will cause the same headaches and eventually most will conform or will find other jobs, but that still leaves us with my original comment - how about making it easy to use more space in a large monitor - how about the ability to look at an app and have it open, how about the ability to have controls closer together to reduce scrolling, how about less clicks and more intuition. Remember, Windows XP at one time was an "upgrade" at Dell, HP, IBM, and other PC manufacturers to Windows Vista, which many businesses skipped over. Of course even in Windows 7 XP Mode was available, why, because Microsoft was smart enough then to say our customers still need to be productive and we won't sell Windows 7 if we can't support Windows XP applications. For many businesses - I think you'll likely want to wait for Windows 8.1 to minimize the "cognitive" burden, which Microsoft recognizes now in hindsight and will be addressing. Now if I could still have dual monitors and eliminate all the mouse dragging.....can't imagine what using a couple of touchscreens would be like all day long moving my hands and arms around in circles, swipe here, push there, touch this move that....

  • ScreenEstate Says:

    the only real advantage of the start menu vs the start button menu is that tiles provide more information, a start button menu with pinned icons does the exact same thing. Start button click icon.

  • ScreenEstate Says:

    There is no reason for anything to be full screen by default(non resizable) on a laptop, it waste screen space and I want to utilize as efficiently as I can. If i wanted full screen apps, i can use my droid.

  • arshad Says:

    Hard drive has space, but it keeps telling me that its full and asks me to delete files. I checked. There is nearly full C drive (8GB) but when i am open c drive and check than nearly 2GB USE show . The problem is I cant neither download so solve my problem plzzzzzzzzz

  • arshad Says:

    Hard drive has space, but it keeps telling me that its full and asks me to delete files. I checked. There is nearly half space on C drive. The problem is I cant neither download

  • Bob Flanuer Says:

    I have Ashberger's and ADD and I am clumsy.
    Win8 with all its flashing huge tiles and gizmos, forced connections to distractors, and dependance on gestures and fine motor control needed to hunt out sensitive corners has created a PC interface that is about as close to Hell as can be imagined.\
    Basically all of my carefully acquired coping mechanisms that allowed me to function and actually successfully compete at work have been shot to hell with this new OS. My company did a forced migration to Win8, the sales and marketing people and the administrative overlords love it since it mimics their little pocket phones and lets them communicate and watch vids all day. However the people who actually do work and make the products and do the intellectual maintenance work that keeps the company in business feel like they have been assaulted. It was a bit of a hassle to get past the lock downs the outside consultants the admins hired to try to prevent adding third party Start Button replacements, so everyone would have a uniform and egalitarian computing experience, and the sales and marketing types would not be intimidated by the techs computers.
    Working with Win8 is act of self punishment Desktop metaphor is for people who use their computer, Win8 telephone metaphor is for non producers and droolers who are used by computer.

  • VianleNutria797 Says:

    I'm sorry but whoever wrote article is 100% CORRECT AND IS ALSO A GENIUS!
    Finally, somebody realizes how terrible Windows 8 is!

  • gp Says:

    I'm using windows 8 now, so how the hell do I shut down without forcing it to at the mains? I also can't play any games without crawling through my documents, due to the lack of a start menu.

  • MarkH Says:

    First off, I am a developer and software support specialist. I use the start menu to organize my many clients systems, remote desktop shortcuts, etc. I run multiple sessions of my development languages concurrently, and I often copy information between them. This is a HUGE step BACKWARDS for functionality, all for the sake of a showy new interface, meant more for a phone or touch screen tablet, not a triple-monitor using programmer/support person. It's a stupid system. I will stay on Win7 for my main computer, and only use Win8 for client testing. One "minor" thing they made very difficult in Win8, which is ridiculous, is the simple mapping of drive letters. You get into all sorts of permissions conflicts. It took me 3 hours to get a simple app running, that normally the client can setup by him/her self. Office 2007/2010 should have been made with backwards compatible menus, and even Windows 7 messed with the start menu in ways that made it very difficult to setup my usual support environment. This dumbing down of Windows operating systems appears to start at the top of the organization. I want to control my computer, not be controlled by it. Windows 8 Pro is about the worst system Microsoft has ever made, and that includes Windows ME (codenamed: "Windows Multiple Errors"). Vista stunk when it came out, but it's still light years better than this load of crap. Corporations are going to be VERY SLOW in adopting it. Welcome to Vista Redux, Microsoft. You earned it, you stupid idiots.

  • Rick Says:

    I use a 40" LCD TV at home for a monitor. Windows 8 presents me with GARGANTUAN tiles and the horizontal scrolling just makes me dizzy.
    I just don't see the advantages of Win8 gobbling up an entire 1920 x 1080 screen to run ONE app.

  • Daniel Says:

    I use windows 8 on my workstation with 3, 24" monitors + one multi touch monitor
    and in my opinion is a better platform for multi screen productivity,

    I have it on my old laptop ,,

  • Daniel Says:

    att age of 34 i still love new innovative solutions, and windows 8 is spot on now even my grand mother can use the PC,

    it was love at first sight

    Children ar more innovative and flexible in their mind so that wasn't at surprise when a 4 year old run in eights around 25-50 years old dinosaurs, windows 8 is one of the gratest user interface ever, like appels ios but in my opinion much better because of the software choice and Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Windows RT is designed to work for consumers and Enterprise that is a big plus on my scorecard,

    I don't honestly know why people are whining about the start menu button from windows 7, Press Windows Key and type the name of what you need, faster and easier, Use alt+tab and Arrow key,

    If you have an touch screen, use keyboard and touch in conjunction to attain even greater speed and productivity.

    and many of my favorite old dos shortCuts still works even in windows 8 ;)

  • Ray Says:

    I have setup a touchscreen PC with Windows 8... I have another similar PC running windows 7. I am not a big xBox user so the UI of Windows 8 is not intuitive to me like it would be to an xbox user.

    My overall impression is Microsoft is trying to lure back IOS and Android users back to windows for social media platforms (IOS and Android) and I doubt it will be very successful at doing so (except for Xbox users).

    When people develop 3rd party addons to bring back the traditional start button to Windows 8 you know the UI is in trouble. I have added a start button to Windows 8 and it works more like earlier windows versions (only slower).

    I am very confused with all the praise I see in this forum for Windows 8. I think the learning curve for Windows 8 is much steeper than say IOS or Android and find it hard to imagine if people have to struggle (or opt for 3rd party addons) what inroads Microsoft can make with this new OS.

    My kids (6 and 10) are really into all sorts of technology. They were not drawn into Windows 8 the way they were to say IOS or Android... They are much more open to changes than I, they liked windows 7 more than I did when I first deployed, but I eventually "adapted" to it.

    My guess is that Microsoft is focusing on a demographic that they do not currently have at the expense of the current user demographic. Something I expect will bite them in the backside. As I look at Office 2012, I can't help but think that the learning curve for OpenOffice is becoming less steep then the new Microsoft offering.

    I wonder if Microsoft will eventually come to realize that in their attempt to tap into new markets they have to make sure not to alienate their current customer base... In my experience if you want a company to dictate to you how to use your technology you should buy an Apple computer. It used to be Microsoft was for the more technologically knowledgeable, but now I am looking at Linux, Android and Chrome.

    Microsoft is on the verge of becoming like RIM (blackberry) if they are not careful.

  • Philip Yip Says:

    I have got some experience with usability and am a Dell Community Rockstar who has written several how to guides reegarding Widnwos Reinstallation:

    I personally tried Windows 8 with a multimonitor system for a month and downgraded back down to Windows 7.

    Windows 7 with Actual Windows Manager was far superior to Windows 8.

    Firstly the second taskbar in Windows 8 is useless, you cannot pin items on it. One secondary advantage of Windows 7 and Actual Windows Manager is that you can choose programs to open in a monitor that has the mouse. Thus if I open Word from the start menu on the left handside or from the pinned word icon on the left hand side, Microsoft Word will open on my left hand monitor; likewise if I open it from the start menu on the right hand side or the right hand start menu it will open on my right hand monitor.

    In addition with this software I can select for a specific program to always open in a specific monitor.

    Some of the apps especially the reader app which I was quite excited about (Windows having a native pdf reader) only opens 1 pdf at once and this takes up the full screen, for productivity many users like to read pdfs side by side. Often I have 4 pdfs open side by side for example.

    The metro version of Internet Explorer 10... its completely awful.
    For productivity Desktop users often like having an IM Window open at the side or at the bottom of one of their screens. With metro Skype and Messaging like to have one huige app open this is totally inconvenient. Likewise with the mail app, the news app and pretty much all the apps.

    We have many users on the Dell Community becoming confused with the new interface and most notably desktop users, users that purchase the XPS 8500 want to exercise their downgrade rights to Windows 7 Professional immediately.

    I have also recommended the following 3 programs to many users:
    • StartIsBack
    • Start8
    • Classic Shell

    However none of this are up to a par with Windows 7 and Actual Windows Manager for multiple monitors on a desktop system. I was disappointed that Microsoft didn't include many of the features incorporated within Actual Windows Manager in Windows 8. Giving a second Taskbar and not allowing pinning to it is ridiculous.

    In conclusion I agree with this article and find Windows 8 to reduce productivity in comparison to Windows 7 and more so Windows 7 and Actual Windows Manager. I will be assisting Desktop users downgrade to Windows 7 as much as possible.

    Finally tutorial videos had to be made in order for the user to find simple things that they could locate easily in earlier versions of Windows, e.g. shutting down or restarting the computer, the Control Panel, evem Windows Media Player isn't easy for users to locate. Users have to manually figure out what they want to pin.


  • Paul Says:

    I agree with the reviewer. I've used computers for decades - Mac and PC and find this new interface to be absolutely horrendous. Having to hunt for hidden commands to do everyday tasks that for years I never had to think about is just plain dumb. (No "Start" menu any more??? Bury the "Shut down/Hibernate" commands?? Come on!!!)

    The aesthetics of it are horrible too. It looks look like something designed to run on a minimal hardware 1980's 8bit lo res display. Even in Desktop mode the Themes are blocky and ugly. In many cases the scroll bars, buttons, etc. don't stand out enough and aren't as easy to see and use as in XP or 7 and there's no "Classic" theme to help users of prior systems. IMO that's the least they could have provided...

    Win 8 is just too much work for zero return. It's like someone re-arranged the pedals in my car just for the hell of it.

    I HATE this interface and while I probably could take more time to learn it better, why should I?

    The only way I can use this is to install a start menu imitator like "Classic Shell" - which I shouldn't have had to, and to stay far the hell away from that stupid "Metro" UI...

    I can't see this being taken up in the corporate world any time soon either. Imagine the headache, time and expense that companies will have to go through to retrain their staff???

    It's a cliche by now, but this truly is a train wreck of a release...

  • Vladimir Says:

    I fully subscribe to Expert's opinion. Next, it is not a great idea to make something different just because you want to make it different. The only one true reason is to make this something _better_ (faster, easier, smarter).

    Win + typing starts a search - yes but whole desktop changes. Software I work in then totally disappears and I see the tiles. This is more confusing. In Win7 I was able to do whatever without loosing focus on my primary task and in 8 I'm not.

    Best idea in the interview for me is this "win 8 is optimized for consumption of the content and not for creation". Exactly! I'd like to add one more statement: when creating a content you don't work IN your operating system. You work in specific software (sometimes very particular) WITH A HELP OF operating system. This means OS interface must be quick, compact and not obsessive. Huh, semitransparent Start Menu with integrated search from this perspective was much much better.

    Win 8 is desktop OS with phone UI so I expect its epic fail in corporate markets. At he same time it can help Microsoft to promote Win Phone 8 and to compete iOS/OSX ;)

  • DecRainbow100a Says:


    Touch screen interface on the desktop will die as a short lived fad, if it even gets that far. Having to use the mouse to emulate a touch screen gesture, i.e. swiping, is insane. When I had to click to switch from desktop to the Tiles, swoop over to find the charms, then slide down to find the Settings "charm", click on Settings, then Power, then Shutdown, I realized that this is madness. Yes, I put a shutdown Icon on my desktop but shouldn't have had to. That's at least 5 actions with the mouse rather than the 1 it should have been. This is not progress in User Interface Design.

    Windows 8 is, yes, a bit faster and snappier in its video coding. But otherwise its a chimera, half horse/half fish, and like all such bizarre genetic hybrids, can't survive very long. I won't dump it from one of my machines as I need to know how it operates for professional reasons, but it won't be my OS of choice.

  • sean Says:

    love win8 on pc, learnt it in 3 days just after learning win7 (4 weeks) (both 64 bit), have been using windows since 3.1 days. running 3 o.s' on my pc now xp, 7, 8, rarlely bother with the first 2 anymore, must say though i just simply detest that damn humungous clock that comes up on the destop everytime you acces the charms. it was'nt there to start with - how do i get rid of it????

  • pzkpfw Says:

    The interviewee seems spot-on in my experience.

    Using Windows 8 on my desktop PC, and hating it. I'm sure it'd be great on a touch screen tablet (I'll probably even buy one soon), but it's just plain silly on my PC.

    e.g. Forcing mouse users to mimic touch gestures to get things done. On a touch screen tablet, closing an app by dragging my finger down the screen might make some sense. I'd perhaps like it. But doing that gesture with a mouse is painful. I happen to have two monitors and happen to like them landscape and vertically stacked. My choice, right? Well, I find accurately targeting the top of the window (top of bottom screen), then dragging all the way down (on a 24" diagonal screen) to be a "difficult" chore. Sure, there are other ways to do it by mouse, but they are clunky. Sure, there are keys like Alt+F4 that will do it, but if I'm doing something primarily mousey (like click-clicking through news items in a news website) it's a chore to switch to keyboard. They've made simply closing an app, into a chore.

    It's a full HD monitor, I'm using a mouse; what's really so bad with giving me an always visible "X" to click?

    For goodness sake, on my twin monitors if I happen to want to view two web pages full screen (my PC, my choice?) I have to go to the supposedly archaic desktop and view them in IE over there.

    The Metro interface seems a knee-jerk reaction to the emergence of tablets, and forgets the lesson from WinCE; where they tried to put the Windows desktop view on small-screen devices. One interface doesn't suit all usage patterns. They dumped the small-desktop and made a great phone UI. Going full circle they've now stuck that phone UI on my desktop. Darn.

  • Gabriel Rodrigue Says:

    I just return an Acer laptop with Windows 8 and touchscreen. I have always used windows and never owned a Mac, but I am sure I'll buy one this Christmas.

  • Vandersar Says:

    I have 2 pc at home with W7 and W8. My bro bought W8 to upgrade his OS from W7. I always excited to try the new Windows OS Win3.11-Win95-Win98-Win2000-WinME-WinXP-WinVista-Win7-W8. I really like new improvement. But with Windows 8 i think that I've move backward. The new Good looking Metro is nice but not user friendly if you are using PC with mouse and keyboard without touch screen. I don't know what future hold, but I think reaching your hand to screen to touch is not what I want on Desktop PC.

    Why would I want to do that if I can only move my Mouse to click anything on screen? Big Tiles on Big screen is stupid. There's time when you can't hover your cursor to left or right to navigate, you will definitely need to swipe! or drag the bar at the bottom..

    There's lot of improvement in W8 such as copying files, new task manager etc.. and it's good. But I won't upgrade to W8 yet. I mainly use my PC for gaming, I don't need touch environment. I'll definitely buy W8 Tabs!
    Windows 8 is not meant for PC, maybe for Laptop, and yes it is for Tabs. What's Microsoft think??

  • M8Wait Says:

    Hmm, seems to me when I used to argue the point about how good some Linux distros were becoming-(Ubuntu especially) I was shot down a zillion times by windows users who were saying:
    You can keep your Linux OS,, imagine having to search & type everything just to get around an OS, How backward. I'll stick with the ever faithful Point -Click-n-Go windows.

    Now these same deluded people who have paid for their Windows 8 are doing the exact same thing only it has been multiplied by 10 times the amount of extra effort that you have to do in a Linux system.

    Now, just because they have all jumped into this Mess of an OS with their eyes closed,, instead of being truthful about it they are are trying to justify their mistake by saying it is the best & most productive windows ever. Which is bollocks, it is as slow as treacle & they are in denial.
    They should have called it "Windows SHEEP" instead of 8

  • Kruton Says:

    I wonder how many people in this thread are paid Microsoft bloggers.
    The first poster is because I've seen that reply pasted almost word for word in other places.
    Also, I'd suspect anybody who wrote several paragraphs.
    This is not Apple. There are no Microsoft fanboys. Nobody cares this much unless they are being paid to.

  • Spector Says:

    Well I'm typing this from my Nokia Lumia 900 Windows phone. Because my laptop is now at the local Microsoft Store having the Win 8 upgrade removed and rolled back to 7. This woman is absolutely correct. And as a scientist in the field she knows what the hell she's talking about regarding ergonomics and usability -- any other Ph.D.s on this blog? Hmmm? She's right and the fact people here are arguing is only proof of it. If nerds can't agree on this mess is the general public going to find 8 easy and intuitive? Hell no. Because it's neither easy, nor intuitive. Even MS store employees had problems figuring out some of the swipe gesture features on the demo units. 8 is great on a tablet or phone, but the schizophrenic, dual world switching between widget apps in 'tile world' over to the desktop world of real programs is mentally and visually exhausting and so unnecessary. Serious business users with desktops and laptops have ZERO reason to upgrade. Metro is simply juvenile and visually overwhelming. Not something you want in a workplace. The user's eye is forced into gymnastics just to find something in a band of tiles, versus a simple, albeit, mouse-centric list of simple drop down text.

    Microsoft could have spared itself this backlash if it had only offered users the choice of themes. Metro or Classic. Instead it has forced metro on everyone, tablet or not. I bet within a year they will be forced into fixing things.

  • Ackman81 Says:

    I used this type of interface on my phone, for a day. Besides that fact that I found it bland and ugly, the lack of any meaningful customization drove me crazy. It grows old in hours, I found myself hating my phone. I traded it out for an android and have never looked back. As for the desktop experience, it is totally different from a tablet or phone. Trying to meld the two is insane. As I said before, I hate the design, Its ugly and old fashioned. Who goes to a train or bus station and looks at the bureaucratically designed signs and thinks that is the future of computing? I will continue to use win7 until they give me a real adult desktop. At least give me the choice as other versions of windows have done, to use the program the way I want to, to customize it the way I want to. I am the customer, I am always right. Not for everyone else, but for myself. Microsoft will not get another dime of my money while this interface is mandatory.

  • Bergyhoffen Says:

    Also, @Filippas
    One of my good friends recently received his master's in "Outdoor Recreation." Soon, he will make six digits a year designing playstuffs. Just because you're an "expert" in something doesn't make you "knowledgeable."

    Budiu didn't even address the horribly-muddled file system of Windows 8, which has been a long-standing and completely-unaddressed problem since Windows XP.

  • Bergyhoffen Says:

    Whether or not Apple was mentioned in this article, laptopmag is really beating a horse that isn't there. Budiu, the "usability expert," notes that "They will learn Windows 8, but won’t be able to forget Windows 7. 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."

    In other words, the entire rant of this article refers to something fleeting that users will overcome in (at most) a matter of weeks. Budiu blows it far out of proportion, but only emphasizes the alleged time frame of cognitive transfer with a single sentence.

    As far as Windows 8 goes, it isn't even fully released yet. The self-entitled internet can piss and moan about it all they want, but until it comes out, we won't be able to really know how good/poor the app store is, how robust/gimmicky the Metro frame becomes...we won't even know how stable the operating system is until months after its release.

    In other words, don't hire a usability expert to cry the woes of a product that isn't fully-dispatched.

  • culheath Says:

    I'll stick with 7 and wait for Windows 9 (or even 10) after MS gets spanked for the psuedo-Modernism of 8 and simply allows the user to select which UI they prefer. Right now we're seeing form supplanting function for no good reason at all except to let the tech fashionistas pretend to be leading the way. Remember: Being efficienct is not at all the same as being efficacious.

    8 will end up the new Millennium.

  • Anurag Birthare Says:

    Hi Everyone,

    I just installed the Microsoft’s Windows 8 Developer Preview. I found an astonishing experience especially when I ran the Windows 7 OS with it in equal. I also experienced an enormous screen light difference for day & night among Windows 7, Vista & XP. Some say Windows 8 an “OS for Tablet” but I personally suggest that it can work with Notebooks & Netbooks tremendously.
    Some special points I caught are it’s:
    • Startup Duration: Max 17 Seconds
    • Shutdown Duration: Max 9.9 Seconds
    • Ease of Access
    • Inconsistent Scrolling
    • Easily Understandable Icons
    • Customizable Dev Tools
    • Foreseeable Performance & Updates

    It's just immensely incredible. I individually recommend it to you.
    ..Thanks to Microsoft’s dedicated Developers!!
    Anurag Birthare - India

  • Filippas Says:

    It's so obvious 90% of the comments here are made either by geeks / early adopters or by microsoft haters. None seems to appreciate that the interviewer is a Usability Expert and her (and mine) profession is to ensure systems and services are as usable as possible. To those of you saying "it's not slowing you down to use Alt+Tab to switch apps", I'll just say that keyboard shortcuts are used by less than 10% of the users. Only what we call Expert Users make use of them and what Raluca pinpoints here is the problems that the majority of the average users will have.

  • Sohaib Says:

    All people i don't know why u like Windows 8 . Don't push yourself because it is clearly touch type . for Desktop pc users .this is a disaster. OK lets take an example
    i have a windows 8 touch device i will slide my finger from the side of device wala when my finger touch screen the the new screen will appear.
    now a pc with mouse what will i do first if i don't know right places to click then what i will be clicking all over the place to find the exact location. for my desire happening.

  • Cargo cult Says:

    Prepending everything with "simply" doesn't make the experience simple.

    I'm an MS user since DOS, a user of Red Hat, Fedora, Slackware, Amiga and Apple II through OS X, but every time a new OS comes out from MS, they turn the screws a little more.

    Try sitting down with windows 8 without anyone helping you and try to get something done. Not pleasant.

    Try it in a virtual machine for a real party (hitting those corners when they're in a window on a high-res desktop is like playing Operation.

  • MIke Says:

    @sss: It's nice that you guys from Microsoft is here spinning the wheel, but let's face it. You dropped the ball big time. Why is it that every other Windows version is utter crap? If you enjoy low stock values then by all means, continue not listening.

  • notachance Says:

    Its just like they've torn a few books, not just pages out of apples system. I like windows because its not a mac and I grew up with it. I really did give it a chance and was excited at first But with how confusing the windows 8 is for my pc I'm seriously considering going to Mac if they dont fix it in 90. Macs they have there problems. but its not like how windows 8 has combined all the problems of the mac and all the possible problems with a windows. >.> this is sad. it took me nearly an hr just to run a few simple programs that took me about 5 minutes in windows 7. I already re-found my windows 7 disk and re installed. This is actually worse than Vista and not in a small way.

  • Wrongwrong Says:

    I totally disagree with this.

    Out of the box the experience may or may not be good but like any os you customize it (in my case it took maybe 15 minutes). This consists of unpinning garp from start, and pinning stuff to the task bar.

    Once you're done it rocks. 99% of the time I can hit the Win key and then click the app I want. This is hugely more efficient than win 7's start menu. I don't care if the new Start menu takes up the screen - it no longer forces me to walk through this folder nightmare click-click-click to start an app

    a) one keypress
    a1) move to lower left and click the mouse


    b) click the app icon


  • PrathviRaj Says:

    May look confusing and seem like cognitive burden but people will get used to it. This age people are well educated with computer stuffs so it wont be a challenge for users.

  • Patrick Says:

    I'm staying with Windows 7 until they replace Windows 8 with Windows 9 and bring back a desktop-friendly UI again.

  • Pointless Article Says:

    So some expert does not like Windows 8 UI? Big deal. Sure there will be some that do not like it, but then there are others that do.

    Does it really matter anyway?

    Reason is that there is an article on this very website saying how you can deal with these "annoyances". On page 1, it says to get a start menu alternative like the open source Classic Shell. So what happens when you install Classic Shell? Windows pretty much acts like the old version. Thus, no learning curve. From the few replies on that article though, it looks like people do not care if 8 can be "fixed". Instead, it seems as if their goal is to be against 8 no matter what. Why they are doing this, I have no idea.

  • Mike Says:

    Most rah rah comments here are from an individual single perspective of an early technology adopter.

    I pity if any of you were put in charge of a organization with 100's of PC's and told everyone the Start Screen is that same as the the start button, just get used to it. You would be out of a job pretty soon!

    This will be a disaster to install in any size of organization! Very few large scale companies will tackle this!!!

  • phunkymunky Says:

    The problem is, Windows 8 is a transitional OS. You CANNOT alienate your existing customer and application base in one fell swoop.

    The need to maintain the existing interface is pretty obvious. The people poo-pooing Windows 8 aren't looking at the future. Windows 8 introduces the new UI and gets you used to it, while maintaining the ability to continue using the existing apps you have. Windows 9 (possibly the mid year update 2013) will drop desktop and be modern UI all the way.

    You would probably pan Windows 8 more if Microsoft didn't leave the desktop interface there and stopped you from using your existing applications!

  • paul Says:

    I think my issue with windows 8 interface is that its forced change, i really hate the offscreenness/corners invisability too, i kinda bumble about and without those hints its annoying.

    and its jaring to go to start menue then back to desktop.

    i do like it for some stuff, but really id want the classic start menue too for when im on desktop, or a option. cos for some workflow/devices/people old style is better, sometimes new style is better.

  • Fritz Ohman Says:

    In reply to Gert-Jan August 23rd, 2012 at 3:42 am
    "Another thing I noticed is that getting to the control panel has become difficult"
    Try right-clicking in the lower left hand corner, and you will find a wealth of easy shortcuts.

    "I also use the start menu to hibernate my PC when leaving work; that is now also in the metro stuff."
    Mouse to the right hand corner, top or bottom to get the Charms bar, then Settings, then Power. Not sure what the huge difference is between this and clicking the Start button. It is not like it is obvious that you should click Start to shut down, unless you know so beforehand.

    I can highly recommend this review, it covers a lot of features and does a good job of explaining how to use Win 8 even if you just do not like the Modern UI (formerly known as Metro).

  • Big Bird Says:

    I hate it.
    I'm not going to buy it.
    This could be the death knell of windows.

Back to top