Update: We've made a Start button for Windows 8 that brings up a Start menu. Click here to sign up.
So here’s my Metro desktop. Now, I’ve only been using Windows since v2.1 so maybe I’m missing a few things like…
1) How do I sort the tiles?
2) How do I organize them into groups?
3) How do I change the size of tiles?
4) How do I change the color?
These aren’t customization requests, these are basic organizational features people expect.
I like the Metro style. So I’d love to be able to color code tiles based on how I might use them. Intuitively, I’d expect to be able to drag select (or shift select or ctrl select) a bunch of tiles, right click and choose various options. Except, there are no context menus. Instead, you get an option to unpin or uninstall at the bottom of the screen – great for tablet use but not real useful here.
Android and iPhone users are used to being able to put their stuff in folders/groups/whatever. What about here? This seems pretty basic stuff.
The tech is good
Here’s the maddening part, Windows 8 is the best version of Windows yet – technologically. WinRT is great. The memory optimization they’ve done is fantastic. It’s faster. It’s smoother. But it’s also unusable for trying to get a lot of work done.
This isn’t a case of “just get used to it”. There’s not a lot to get used to. This would be akin to taking away the keyboard on a tablet/smart phone and telling people to just use a stylus to draw what they want and accuse them of not “giving it a chance” when they complain.
What’s the usage case?
In Product design, we typically create use cases. How we expect people to use what we’re making. I honestly can’t see what their use cases for this is. How is a user seriously supposed to do serious production work if all the “new” apps are full screen with no quick way to switch between them?
And I’m not talking about power user stuff here, I’m talking what is the use case of someone who is trying to use Power Point, Word, and Excel together in a Metro environment?
That is an example of an app (the reader app). The back button does not take you out of the app. It’s disabled. To get out of the app, you move your mouse to the top left or bottom left of the screen.
To switch between your running apps you move your mouse to the top left and then to the side:
And you get a list of tiles.
Now, again, I am not trying to beat up on Windows 8 here. I would like one of the Windows 8 fans to make the case on how that metaphor is faster or better or more intuitive than the case where I could have all 3 apps up on the screen at once. Note that I used the word OR. You don’t even have to make the case for all 3. Just one of them would be fine.
Heck, even my Iphone is easier to switch apps than this (double tap and pick the app).
And the PC is not designed to run everything full screen. How many people choose to run everything full screen?
It’s not all doom
The problem with Windows 8 isn’t technical. It’s political. Someone, way at the top, almost certainly over the cries of developers and designers, is insisting on this. Here’s why I say this:
- They could easily let the Windows desktop load Metro apps in a window, on the Windows desktop. How do I know that? Because we’ve already done it internally here. So it’s definitely doable. So why not? Why force desktop users into Metro when the current Metro experience is a big step back for 90%+ of PC desktop users?
- A lot of the problems with the Metro experience boil down to trying to treat the mouse as surrogate for a giant pointer finger. Hence, no context menus – no menus whatsoever. These could be overcome by treating the mouse as a different class of input device.
- There is technically no reason to force users into Metro to launch apps or to interact with Metro apps. Under the covers, they’re just full screen windows.
A warning to the fan community
You’re not doing Microsoft any favors by shouting down people’s complaints with Windows 8’s consumer preview. I have a vested interest in the success of Windows 8. Professionally, I need Windows 8 to be a huge hit. I can tell you straight out, unless these things are addressed, few enterprises will move to this and few consumers will voluntarily move to it. And in an age where “Getting a new Dell” is no longer automatic, those Mac Airbooks start to look compelling to a lot of consumers – and it will be a lot more familiar to use than the current Windows 8 experience.