It's now too late to whine about the user interface changes in Windows 8. They may be "confusing" and put a "cognitive burden" on ordinary users, but for now at least, these changes are there to stay. That means it's time to put down the pitchforks and flaming torches and help people get used to the changes.
Windows 8 represents the biggest and most dramatic paradigm shift for the Windows platform since Windows 95. It's a melding together of desktop and mobile platforms in an attempt to create a single operating system that will work on the desktop, notebooks, and tablets.
Given that these interface changes have been spearheaded by Microsoft, you'd think that the Redmond giant would be the company putting the most effort into communicating these changes to users? One way that it could do this would be to offer a few step-by-step tutorials outlining some of the major changes that users will have to get rid of.
Imagine my surprise when I first booted up the final Windows 8 code onto a system to find that the tutorial led with this:
That's it. No explanation of where the Start Menu has gone and what replaces it, no tips on using the new Start Screen, and no tips on using Metro -- sorry, I mean Windows 8 style apps.
"Move your mouse into any corner". That's it.
It doesn't even explain that moving the mouse into different corners does different things, and leaves anyone using a Windows 8-powered tablet a little bewildered as they look around for the mouse.
When Apple decided to introduce reverse scrolling into Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" the company put a great deal of effort into communicating this change to users. It also gave users a chance to disable the change and go back to the old way of doing things. While I didn't expect Microsoft to put a kill-switch into Windows 8 that would rollback all the changes, I did expect that users would get a tutorial to help them make sense of the changes.
It seems that I was expecting too much.
Back in June, I called Windows 8 a "design disaster." As much as I like the speed and performance gains that the new operating system brings, and despite being rock-solid, snappy and responsive, as a platform to do real-world work on Windows 8 feels utterly unusable. There's too much mystery meat navigation and the last thing I want is for my PC to force me into playing "hunt the app" every time I want to get something done.
If I feel like this about Windows 8, I hate to think how Joe and Jane Average is going to feel.
A bit like this, I bet.