The Mailbag: What you said about '90 percent of users hating Windows 8'

The Mailbag: What you said about '90 percent of users hating Windows 8'

Summary: 48 hours ago I published a piece about the mistakes I felt Microsoft had made with Windows 8 design. You replied in your droves. Here's a summary of what you shared...

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TOPICS: Windows
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Regular ZDNet readers will know that myself and my ZDNet colleagues all like to get feedback on the pieces we do. The comments are one way to do that, but you can also click the "contact" link in the author's bio at the bottom of each piece.

I usually get three or four emails per article. Some emails are a little -- uh -- unpublishable. However, my "Will 90 percent of users always hate Windows 8" piece got some very unusual feedback. Firstly, there was an awful lot of it -- way, way more than usual. Secondly, with only one or two exceptions all of you agreed with the general premise: mainstream users should not have to learn Windows 8, and Microsoft had made a mistake basing adoption of the OS on that premise. The article also got a lot of comments -- 592 at the time of writing this one. 

To that end, I present quotes from a good chunk of the email feedback that I've received over the past 48 hours. I've kept them anonymous (as it's implied communications with an author through the site is confidential), and I haven't cleaned up any of the text. You can tell much about how people feel from odd capitalisations and other typos -- it shows intensity of feeling.

First up, here's a relatively simple one:

98% will HATE Windows 8. What was MS thinking when they dreamed up this stupid interface?

This reader first talks about how giving it to parents can be a good usability measure. I wish I'd paid more attention to this a few months ago.

Right on. I have always thought that any new OS designer should have his/her parents give it the first test. If mom can't find a place to start (START BUTTON?), it's useless.

Next, someone who feels that they're having to fit around engineering decisions from Microsoft, rather than Microsoft's software adapting to what they need.

If I install Windows 8, I HAVE to learn to use it before I can get anything done. With Microsoft I always feel I am being forced to bend my needs to their notions of what I need. Of course, Apple does the same. I finally got an iPad last year and I love it. I have to do it Apple's way, but they understand me! I always feel like Microsoft expects me to understand them.

You can feel the frustration from this reader.

I JUST GOT WINDOWS 8. I'M A COMPUTER INSTUCTTOR AND I'M SO LOST. I DON'T SEE THE START BUTTON, CONTROL PANEL, PROGRAMS OR ACCESORIES. ANY IDEAS WHERE TO FIND THEM OR WHO TO CONTACT THAT WILL FAMILIARIZE ME WITH THESE NEW FEATURES???.

A VERY CONFUSED NEW OWNER.

The last part of this comment is very interesting -- i.e. users may be choosing to buy used machines running an older Windows OS rather than go through the heartache of upgrading them.

MICROSOFT is losing massive sales at this point due to the massive number of consumers wanting a new pc coming from XP but are unable to cope with windows 8. A number of them are buying refurbished XP or VISTA machines capable of running w7 with minor upgrades. Dealers here are selling machines including an OEM refurbished w7 disk. I know that w 8 workes fine on the social medias (in some cases easier), but many of my customers have tried w 8 and, quite literally, hate it. they will settle for a used pc rather than buy a new w 8 machine.

A good number of people cited this point about how Microsoft had already made this mistake with Office. With regards to his last point, would he/she really go to Linux and OpenOffice rather than learn new versions of Microsoft tools?

I prefer Word 2003 because Word 2007 and 2010 require me to relearn what I already know and what already works. I am all for making a produce BETTER, and I'm against making the same product DIFFERENT. Something is wrong with Microsoft. If I have to learn something new, I'll go to Linux and Open Office.

This one is quite sad -- but it illustrates an important point. Computers, both PC and post-PC are part of our lives and they have the power to upset those in our lives that we care about.

I feel somewhat savvy with computers. I have Win 7 and my wife recently got a Win 8 laptop. She is having a very difficult learning curve and asks a lot of questions and mumbles a lot. Unfortunately I'm not much help anymore. She hate's it if I poke around in her computer looking for answers so she spends a lot of time frustrated with both me and her new computer.

A couple of people made this point. Car manufacturers could not pull off what Microsoft did. Well, actually, they wouldn't even try.

The benefit of newer, more robust systems should be felt under the hood and not in the drivers seat. With cars, people don't redesign a driver seat, accelerator and brakes. They might play with the dash board instruments but most changes are along the same lines of what was there before. In other words it's relatively easy to understand dash board changes quickly.

I particularly liked this reader's point about Google benefiting from Microsoft making their tools harder.

Hi, I'm an information-management consultant who has to write a lot of reports and such, and I find Office 2010 much less productive than 2003. Finding stuff in the ribbons is a pain, and some of it disppears in some contexts. In the client office where I'm working everyone just uses Google to figure out how to do stuff in MS Office.

A few people commented on having this sort of post-purchase regret:

I made a big mistake of buying a special offer of Win8 when it came out. I put it on my laptop. I am glad I didn't put it on my desktop computer. I am thinking about getting if off of my laptop and going back to Win7. They didn't tell me some things before I installed it. It screwed up my Microsoft Office program so it won't even work.

This reader talks about "Corporate America", but actually it could be "Corporate Anywhere":

1. Corporate America didn't ask for a new OS, they just want a stable platform that is secure.

2. Corporate america doesn't want to re-train its users on how to user their systems.

3. Corporate america doesn't want to invest monthss of GPO policy development into an OS every 3 years nor do they want to test every application and system every 3 years.

Here's a longer message from a reader that talks to the frustration of being overloaded with information, and also talks to how they just don't have time to bend to Microsoft's will:

I do not like the Windows 8 Start Screen or tiles, they are counter productive. I need to view multiple application screens on multiple monitors and switch and share information between screens and applications easily. And, I need to be able to do that from the first day I use the system.

I don't mind learning new things or new products as long as they provide new capabilities and can be learned quickly and easily. Windows 8 is not quick or easy to learn, nor is it quick and easy to configure it so that it is more usable.

I personally am getting tired of markets and companies trying to herd technology as opposed to markets driving technology. Microsoft for many years has made every effort to control the market with no regard for their customers. I guess they think they can convince everyone they are wrong and should do things the Microsoft way. Well, I don't want to be like cattle and be herded into something I don't want.

More frustration, this time from someone who supports others. The second half of this quote talks about adding a "Old Windows/New Windows" switch -- Start8 and ModernMix can help with that.

I do NOT use Win 8 yet but I've helped many move to 8 and it is Hell to pay, for them. I've started just saying to people that there is a hugely-steep learning curve, non-intuitive and fraught with peril at every turn. NOTHING can just be "DONE" the way you are used to doing it in XP, VISTA, or 7. You will learn and change yourself or you will just be miserable. NOW, my thought is that if MS in all their glory would have started with a tad of empathy for the 90% then they would have installed ONE switch (like they did back when they started grouping icons into what they called categories for the control panel) that lets you "be normal", like you said about that $5 utility that puts back the START button.

Still more frustration, well put:

Us 90%'rs do not want to relearn a new operating system with each release. Once we have become proficient and passing the learning curve to achieve our objectives once, we do NOT want to relive the experience and step backwards. Nothing is more frustrating to see a screen like you described with NO directions. Some of us do NOT want to play around to see what works, we want to KNOW what works.

I liked this idea from this reader. It also would have given Microsoft plenty of telemetry as to what worked and didn't work.

Microsoft should have asked the question right from the beginning of the install ... "Will this be installed on a (select from three selections (for simplicity)), Desktop, Laptop or Tablet (of course, a tablet would already have RT or Pro, but you get the gist!). Then conform to what the user would like to see as a proper install of Win8, and then allow the user to dabble in a Tile World if he wants. And learn. Slowly. Not the draconian approach they did go.

Finally, a very rare piece of positive feedback:

I am a Windows 8 user,and have no problems with it,. to me its just a matter of common sense.Though I guess it does need a bit of computer savvy.

And there we have it. Plenty of feedback from readers there generally agreeing on this idea -- Microsoft needs to back out of the mistakes its made with the design of Windows 8.

Seems like a good time to be a spin doctor.

Grumpy Cat - Sleeping
It's been a busy week for Grumpy Cat. First SXSW and now front-page coverage on ZDNet. Time to sleep.

 What do you think? Post a comment, or talk to me on Twitter: @mbrit.

Image credit: Thanks very much to the owners of Grumpy Cat for their kind permission to use their kitten's likeness in this article

Topic: Windows

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163 comments
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  • Competition?

    Is there some kind of competition between ZDNet writers to see who can publish the most articles bashing Windows 8? What's first prize? A Chromebook Pixel? What's second prize? Two Chromebook Pixels?
    Sir Name
    • Perhaps not

      There do appear to be a lot of people who don't like Windows 8, many of them ZDNet writers. It's possible that they're all being paid by Google as part of a sinister plot to embarrass PIPMS, but I think it more likely that they're giving their honest opinions.

      Personally, I haven't tried it, so I couldn't tell you whether or not I agree.
      John L. Ries
      • The funny thing is

        the author of the article says he likes it in the original piece. So I don't think he's being paid to bash it. That's just silly. Of course, there were more than one post of people saying they like it. I not only mentioned liking it, I gave some very constructive feedback on how to improve it.

        I believe the future of computing will be a single device that adapts to different usage scenarios. I don't think it will be a single interface. It will change interfaces based on what you're trying to accomplish. Windows 8 is a very rudimentary step in that direction. And while I think someone at MS had the proper vision, I'm not sure they have the leadership to pull it off.
        LiquidLearner
        • Its the oldest ploy in the book.

          "I loved product "X", that is until I found out everyone else in the world hates it and I was all alone. I'm now realizing just how bad product "X" is and I am here to help prove it."

          Its the oldest trick in the book. Say you’re a fan, or used to be a fan then start to explain how bad the product you are a fan of is. Its supposed to bring an air of truthfulness to your complaints because someone who loves the product wouldn’t unfairly bash it would they?

          The problem with an approach like that is, it only works on the people who want to believe the product your bashing is bad, and for good reason.

          Firstly, if you really thought the product was a really good product, something would have lead you to believe that. You would be able to provide evidence that there are good reasons to love the product and almost always it would provide for significant evidence as to why many of the complaints are unfounded or seriously overblown.

          One example is the email depicting a computer instructor who is "lost" with Windows 8. Wow. I thought that old hack of a type of comment had worn thin years ago, along with, "Im an IT expert and I have to go over to Aunty Petunias house every weekend to clear the viruses out of her Windows box. I find it impossible to secure this stupid thing for her".

          Ya. Right.

          We are supposed to believe a computer instructor is "lost" on Windows 8. Ya. That would be bad. That would be real bad. It would be ridiculously bad. Its odd how I know a few people now with Windows 8 who dont know their butt from a hole in the ground when it comes to computers but they seem to be getting along fine with Windows 8. If ever a complaint didnt pass the smell test, the old "Im an instructor and I dont get it" is one of them.

          Sometimes the Windows 8 bashing just gets far far more embarrassing for the basher then for Windows 8 and this article is one of those times. A close and thoughtful reading of the article leaves it with practically no credibility at all.

          The problem the bashers have and cannot get around is that there are many now with Windows 8, and most of them are getting by just fine and many DO speak of how great it really is. This leads to the unfortunate situation for the bashers that like it or not, hard bashing is just a pile of lies and using hard bashing as a technique to discredit Windows 8 at this point is too late because its already gotten too much positive feedback from reliable sources to be anything nearly as bad as to be so awful that a computer instructor can become "lost" when trying to adapt.
          Cayble
          • "Bashers" = "Liars"?

            Are you incapable of accepting that there might be people in the World who really don't like Win8? Are claiming that Win8 has achieved Universal Popularity, so that you can categorically assert that "bashers" must by lying?

            Personally, I think *that* strains credibility. How are the sales figures for new PCs these days?
            Zogg
          • Sogg,

            Are you incapable of believing there are those that like Windows 8 and think it's a fine OS?
            Obviously so. You claimed that Windows 8 has acheived universal unpopularity, and that you can therefore categorically assert that "pro win 8 people" must be lying.

            Personally I think *that* stains credibility. How are the sales figures for Windows 8? Actaully very good and on par with Windows 7. Any questions?
            xuniL_z
          • Now you're just being silly.

            I have no difficulty in believing that some people like Win8 and Metro, hence I don't go around calling these people "liars" and "morons".

            And the rest of your post is ridiculous to the point of childishness.
            Zogg
          • BTW, you should actually read the article.

            This article is a follow-up to a previous one:
            http zdnet will-90-percent-of-users-always-hate-windows-8-7000012348

            which explains the context of the "90% of users hating Metro" statement.
            Zogg
          • agreed

            I belong to a small group of Android tablet fans, most of which have switched or is in the process of switching to Windows 8 and aside from a few small bumps on day one or two of ownership each of them loves it now. None of us are IT pros or anything like that. I picked up Windows 8 and just got it pretty much instantly. If an IT pro feels truly lost in Windows 8, perhaps this person was never a well grounded Windows user in the first place.

            I do have to agree with you. A lot of this bashing smells to me. A bunch of so-called, writers, and I use that term loosely, just going for the obvious link-bait.
            sfoalex
      • Nope the complaints are merited!

        I don't work for Google, and I own everything Microsoft, but I can still say that everyone's complaint's are extremely merited. I feel so lost with this Microsoft 8 program that I feel like Microsoft has dropped me off on a far away planet with only a bottle water , a paper clip, and a shovel and told me to find my way back to earth using these three items. If I cannot easily find the "my computer" file to delete these unwanted programs, all I have is a $700 paper weight. Basically, this program is terrible!
        miayawhitehead@...
        • for everyone having problems with beginning to use windows 8!! please read.

          Personally I disliked not feeling right at home when I first turned on my new windows 8 pc. After maybe a day I figured it out and now I get around as quick as I did in win 7 and older. Here is some shortcuts for anyone having trouble.

          This is sort of a big common sense thing for anyone saying they've used all Microsoft OS's but all of a sudden cannot figure out windows 8. For me I usually reformat my PC once every couple months to start fresh and get rid of bloatware. The first thing I always do is, the second Im at my nice clean desktop with just a Recycle Bin is right click the desktop and click personalize. Then on the left I click customize icons and I usually tick every option there giving me icons on the desktop for My Computer, Network, User files, and control panel, which equals problem solved for many peoples complaints, and has been around since windows xp.

          Next tip for Windows 8 beginners who believe that without the start button, everything is just so much harder to get to and find...I would like to get you acquainted with a button that has been on keyboards for years but has never really gotten use until windows 8. The Windows key, located at the bottom between Ctrl & Alt keys both on the left and ride side of the space bar. A quick press of this button will send you from windows 8 desktop mode to the start screen, and before you start thinking thats the last place you want to be, finish reading this please! Quickly tap the windows key and then start typing the name of whatever you want to open, after two or three letters you will see a list pop up on the left and your program will be there.

          To me navigating through windows 8 is a breeze compared to previous versions because its just so much more streamlined. Literally pressing 3-5 keys on my keyboard and one click of the mouse is all I have to do, and I only have to do that if its shortcut icon isnt already on my desktop.

          After saying all this I do have to also say though that I do not use the start screen at all for anything other than quickly opening a program, from the second my computer starts up to the second I shut down I spend 99.99% in desktop mode because I do not have touch screen so the start screen doesnt do much for me. Other than that I love not having to use the start button anymore, and quite honestly I personally think windows 8 is quicker than windows 7 with most programs. One other option that I disliked and immediately figured out how to turn off was the automatic & forced restart for updates....my computer did that one time and to be quite honest that's probably the only thing about windows 8 that really pissed me off, forcing my computer to restart with little warning and with no way to stop the shutdown sequence once its started, no matter what your in the middle of doing....Not cool Microsoft, I tell my computer what to do, not you!
          cdurkinz
    • during communist erra....

      .....many parts of the world, the communist dictators would use writers like the author of this article to simply instigate fear upon the unfortunate ruled majority. The fear would be used to keep them to live under dreadful regimes, like this author enticing us to use outraged and yielding OSs.

      But them one day, the oppressed majority succeeded to find out what was going on at other side of the wall. And they demanded to get what they were told was not right thing to have.

      Now, no matter how many fear propagandists say about one of the yet most elegant, stable and futuristic operating system, I mean Windows 8, consumers and enterprises will continue finding out the facts about Windows 8 and buy it.

      Surely, unless you have bought it and lived with it, there is little you can say about Windows 8, apart from being depend on what the author of this article and his ilk wrote. But do not fear when the day of reckoning comes, where you would be surprised to found out what you have been missing - the opportunity of using Windows 8.
      Wonder.man
      • Sarcasm?

        After all, there's a considerably broader ranges of opinions one can hear and read here in the U.S.A and other western democracies than there ever was in any Communist dictatorship.

        And Windows is what most PC users have been using for the past 20 years or so (ie. it's the incumbent).
        John L. Ries
    • I do not consider Ed Bott is a Windows 8 bashing person.

      When Ed Bott talks about rescuing Windows 8...

      there should be no doubt Windows 8 is in trouble.

      http://www.zdnet.com/pcs-learn-new-tricks-but-can-tabletnotebook-hybrids-rescue-windows-8-7000012508/
      ac1234555
      • I don't normally read Ed Bott's blog.

        Do the talkbackers call him a stupid, MS-hating shill for saying Windows 8 needs rescuing?
        Zogg
        • No

          At this point the talkbackers love any blogger that gives Windows 8 even a mediocre review.
          YaBaby
    • Not Enough Cloud Buzz Words

      Other than a few select articles, ZDNet has become the same sledge as all the other tech websites. The find some random unicorn product that isn't close to ready for market, and ride it's hype until is disappears as vaporware.

      I use Windows 8 Professional as the primary operating system on my desktop and my Macbook Air (works like a dream with bootcamp). I also run server 2012 with the same Metro interface on my server. I have no idea how people have such a hard time figuring out the interface.

      "THERES NO START BUTTON!?!"
      -Bottom left corner (same place where it used to be)

      "Where's my applications!?!"
      -One right click further from the metro screen. Just a hint, add all you used apps to the metro screen.

      "Why these squares?!?"
      So that microsoft can offer a GUI that remain consistent through all their products. I honestly down see how the metro is any different than pinning apps to the start. Same amount of clicks, and one additional click to run a layer deeper.

      There's all three complaints. The didn't change very much. The made the pinned start apps a whole page and dropped the deeper applications a layer further. If you can't figure that out, you are a moron.
      rnauman821
      • Completely Agree...

        The Start button isn't missing... it just goes full screen. Big deal.
        condelirios
        • It IS missing, though

          The fact that there is start button-like functionality present in Win8 does NOT mean that the Start button as we knew it from Win7 and earlier is not missing.

          What matters is that the actual, visual button is missing. This means that users who are looking for a point of recognition, a signpost if you will, are being left in the dark.

          This goes for many aspects of Win8. Visual cues and affordances are definitely lacking, and I find it rather surprising that people comment on this by saying that "people should just get used to The New Way of Doing Things (tm)" when usability experts make a pretty good point about showing possible actions on screen, where they make sense.

          Calling people morons, computer-illiterate or resistant to change because they can't seem to figure out how to use some software is really putting the blame on the victim.

          I consider myself to be a person of adequate intelligence, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to make the Win8 mail app show emails from more than 2 weeks ago.

          After some Google searches, it turned out that I had completely missed the fact that there was such a thing as a well-hidden "charms bar" which I had to use to change (the rather arbitrary default) settings, and another hidden "App menu" that allowed me to re-sync with my hotmail account.

          There is really no objective argument to support hiding these crucial things (the hidden menus) from a user, other than "it seems to make sense on a touch interface".

          Well, guess what? I'm not using a touch interface, and I'm pretty sure that Visual Studio or Adobe Photoshop, which are my main productivity applications, will never be operated by touch. I will therefore probably NOT upgrade my PC to a 24 inch touch-enabled monitor.

          The fact that some people are willing to spend time figuring out how stuff works does not make obfuscating BASIC OPERATION a good thing.
          Danny van Kasteel
    • Totally Agree...

      I remember one on the first articles I read well before the release of Windows 8 - Why Windows 8 will fail! From that point on, a massive campaign to force readers to believe that Windows 8 is a bad OS. I've been in the industry for over 35 years and worked for many business and manufacturers in Western NY and my experience has always been that ZD is only favorable to those who advertise heavily in their publications.
      danhrub