Windows 8 UI “disappointing”, says usability expert

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Usability expert Jakob Nielsen has described the Windows 8 user interface “disappointing” for both novices and power users to Windows; claiming that Microsoft’s dual approach for the OS – making it work for both tablets and PCs – is making things difficult to find needed features on the PC.

Describing the entire thing as a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” duality; he claims that the interface’s usability problems include inconsistency of the user experience, lack of multiple windows and the simple flat style reduces “discoverability”.

His study does point out some frustration – like Live Tiles being “too active” and that the charms work very poorly (for new users) since they are hidden and aren’t easily accessible. And I should stress that he hasn’t just criticised Windows 8 for the heck of it, he has done the same for other products like the iPad and the Kindle Fire.

However, Nielsen’s usability guidelines can go both ways – his approach for mobile websites has been somewhat controversial with some web developers. He has called for two different websites – one for the desktop, another for mobile – and those websites to be unique. This advice ignores the latest trends to adapt to the different screen sizes – such as responsive web design, and even some designing for mobile first and then scale up.

Given that Windows 8 does introduce a brand new user interface, then of course there will be some problems. It is a huge learning curve – but then again, the Ribbon user interface for Office had been a huge learning curve for many and despite user complaints early on, people have gotten used to the interface.

Windows 8 blurs the line of tablet and desktop – whether was that a good or bad thing is something we cannot answer until a few years from now.