]> Windows 8 Usability test 🌐:aligrant.com

Windows 8 Usability test

Alastair Grant | Monday 19 September 2011

The Windows 8 developer preview has been kicking about for a week or so now and being vaguely interested in this I downloaded it off MSDN - hitting in at 500MB over a single-layer DVD - really not helpful there MS.

As sprawling across the sofa and watching TV was the primary objective for the evening I decided to install it on a VM running on my aged laptop. Big mistake. Giving it 1.5GB of RAM and 2 cores wasn't enough. For all this talk of being fast - you need some modern hardware to facilitate. Once loaded it's acceptable for the sake of previewing.

I introduced the install to the rest of the IT department the next day and with much clicking and ooos and aahs I settled on the usability challenge:

* Logon

* Run paint

* Shutdown

Seems simple eh? Logon was the easiest, but the average was about 30 seconds to figure out that you had to remove the pretty picture to find the logon box. Pressing Enter is the fastest way discovered so far.

Run Paint - critically though, without using Start/Run; or browsing the file-system etc to find it. Half a day later the Application Search menu was discovered - Paint followed shortly afterwards.

Shutting down - this was Google'd in the end. Nobody thought of looking in "Settings" for shutdown. We appreciate that a lot of people will just hit the power button and have done with it, but still, things appear to be getting more complex.

Initial Impressions
Looks very WinPhone 7, I get it. I'm sure it'll be lovely for a tablet - they are doing Apple Microsoft proud. Alas, nobody had a tablet to hand (and was willing to wipe it) to try it out in tablet form. As most of us use our computers as tools and not to play Angry Birds it just seemed pointlessly complex and infuriating.

Microsoft are trying to unify two devices worlds in one UI. This may be possible, but I'm not sure if it's worth it. I really expect that the Metro UI will be wonderful in my lounge when I want to do all the things that my phone already does perfectly well. But what I really want Windows to do is two things: Provide a easy way to control my hardware an run applications; and make my work easier.

My gut feel would be Microsoft would be better off simply packaging Metro as an alternative shell for tablet devices. We used to change our Shell in Windows 95 days for various third-party attempts to great success. Being able to select your shell at installation or logon would allow the same OS but with tailored user-interfaces.

Microsoft's desire to chase the highly successful Apple fad is understandable, but apart from wooing the trendy middle-class with their fashion accessories, Apple products offer little in the way of tools and functionality, which is really what computers are for.

Breaking from the voyeuristic norms of the Internet, any comments can be made in private by contacting me.