Windows 8 – Negative User Experience

Windows 8 was launched with a bang and within a few months it was being tagged as the technology failure of this decade. There were widespread complaints about the irritating tile interfaces, and poor incompatibility. The buzzword in most user-quarters was confusion. Here is a review of some aspects that made it a complete flop.

Dual environment translates to cognitive problems and added memory load for users

Whereas human nature is fascinated by duality (examples include Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde), having two operating environments on the same device is a recipe for usability problems and frustration. Windows 8 features a PC-based desktop screen and tablet-based start screen. Users are forced to learn and always remember which screen to go to for whatever features they need to access. Also when accessing web browsers in the two screens, one is only able view a subset of pages they have opened at any particular time. This constant switching between two environments increases the cost of interaction when using the multiple features. Since the two environments operate differently, the result is an inconsistent experience for the user.

Memory overload for complicated tasks due to lack of multiple windows

Windows 8 does not support multiple windows. The user interface restricts the users to a single window. There is an option to show, temporarily, a second part of a window in a small section of the screen, but most first-time users cannot easily work out how to do this. While this may be useful in the smaller tablet screen, a PC user with many applications or websites running at the same time would prefer seeing multiple windows simultaneously. This is important for example when comparing collecting and choosing between a number of web pages.

If user is not able to see several windows at the same time, they must store information from a certain window in their short-term memory as they activate the next window. The first problem is that people’s short-term memories are weak. The other problem is that the very action of being forced to open a window (rather than just glancing at one which is already open) additionally taxes the cognitive resources of the user.

The ‘Modern UI’ style is flat

In Windows 8, Metro style has been renamed ‘Modern UI’. This style does not place a lighting model or light 3D shadows on pages to indicate what is clickable (which is raised over the rest) or where one can type (because it appears indented below the surface of the page).Knowing where to click is a nightmare. Users tend to overlook or misinterpret tabbed components because the tab selection has low distinctiveness. Users complain of not understanding and relating to the icons. In Windows 8, the icons do not seem to help users interpret them or make them click more.Even closing and opening applications is unnecessarily complicated for many users.

Low information density, especially on the tablet environment

Another issue with the modern UI style in Windows 8 is that applications, especially web pages in the tablet environment (surface), contain an extremely low density of information. Users are therefore forced to keep rolling incessantly to access even a modest amount of information available in other operating systems.

Hypersensitive live tiles are a flop
Windows 8 features what are called live tiles. Instead of a tile representing an application using a permanent icon, live tiles provide a summary of updated information within the application. When used judiciously, this functions very well, for instance a weather app indicating current temperature, or a stock market app indicating current levels of the market. However the designers of Windows 8 made the tiles hypersensitive, resulting in an unruly environment of incessantly blinking tiles.

Charms – Generic Commands which do not work well
One interesting innovation in Windows 8 is the use of generic commands, also called ‘charms.’ The charm panel incorporates features like settings, search and sharing. These apply to whatever the user is viewing currently. Ideally, it is useful to have these commands in a uniform design, universally accessible in the same way. However, the charms are difficult to work with especially for newer users. Since they are hidden, most users forget to summon them, even when required. While hiding commands may be appropriate for small phones, it does not make sense on the larger tablet screens and PC screens

The charms are also context-dependent commands that mean different functions on different pages. There are also many other features which are initially hidden on Windows 8-only revealed when the user does specific actions.

Error-prone, complicated gestures
The windows 8 tablet version features a number of complicated gestures that users can easily get wrong. This dramatically erodes the ability of the user to learn about its user interface. When a gesture is wrong, it is hard for a user to determine why it did not work. This makes the learning process unduly arduous, time- consuming and error-prone.

The user interface is replete with swipe ambiguity, and different gestures may have different outcomes depending on execution and activation. For instance a right-left swipe may open the charm bar or result in a horizontal screen scroll. This depends on where exactly your finger first touched the screen. This adds to the confusion for the user.

PC-specific windows 8 problems
Problems specific to personal computers are legion. These includes too much the fact that too much RAM is required to run it properly (needs 4Gigabytes of RAM).Even the Internet Explorer bundled with it consumes over 250 Megabytes of RAM. Another problem is that users need to install widget software, which further erodes the computer speed. There are no shutdown options on the desktop and one has to manually create the shutdown shortcut. The start icon is also absent and users have to update (to version 8.1) to get it.

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