Over the week-end I installed Windows 8 on my laptop. For the most part it was a pleasant experience. Setting it up was quick and painless. For me, this is the first installation of Windows that felt new since Windows 95. Most of the Windows versions since 95 have been the same implementation, with just some tweaks or superficial changes. Windows 8 attempts to break the mold that it’s predecessors created. For proof of this look no further than the removal of the start button, the once iconic symbol of the Windows OS line.
That break from the norm does come with a cost however. The system does feel a little disjointed. Having some applications run in a desktop view, while others run in a full screen metro view contributes to this feeling. There are reasons why desktop apps had to be designed this way based on the current desktop application architecture, which are mainly centered around accessing system resources. However it would be nice if in the future they could come up with a solution that allowed desktop applications to run in their own Metro view, and just remove the desktop all together. The start screen would be considered the new desktop, and you would work with your applications within this environment. I believe that would give the workflow a more unified feel.
The look and feel of the system is nice. It has adopted a minimalist approach, with a very concise use of space. The data that an app considers to be the most important is presented foremost at the left of an application. Extraneous information that needs to be accessed a little less frequently is typically off screen, and can be accessed by scrolling the view. The interface does take some getting used to, but once you memorize where to put your mouse to invoke menus like the systems menu, it becomes fairly easy to use. The metro apps do have a bit of an Android feel to them, as they explain the resources that they will be using while they are running. The nice added feature to this is you can actually disable access to unnecessary services.
Overall my experience with Windows 8 has been fairly positive. I am enjoying exploring this new take on their OS. I look forward to seeing where they take this down the road.
Many of you are aware that Apple held a press conference last week where they announced the new iPhone 5. If you didn’t, you must be living in a cave in Siberia or something. The announcement wasn’t mind blowing. There had been rumours circulating for a couple of weeks prior to the press conference which were pretty bang on. Besides being a little thinner, getting a larger display, and some hardware performance enhancements, the UI and functionality as a whole remained pretty much the same.
I was hoping Apple had “one more thing” before the conference was over but to my shagrin they did not. So then I started thinking that maybe Apple was starting to loose some of its steam (what ?!?!? blasphemy). Don’t get me wrong, the new iPhone 5 is a sweet looking piece of hardware but was that enough for individuals to dish out another chunk of change being the iPhone 4S is still relatively new? Well apparently it is enough … “AT&T says it set a sales record for the iPhone 5, with customers ordering more of them than any previous iPhone model on the first day of preorders and over the weekend”.
So what is attracting people to fork out all this dough or to break contracts and paying stupid penalties to get their hands on the latest and greatest iPhone? Is it just the “me too” effect or the Apple fanboys (you can’t tell me there are that many of you out there 😉 ) creating all this buzz? Or were the minor hardware tweaks enough to satisfy everyone out there on the verge of buying an Android or Windows phone? You can’t come and tell me it is the UI. It has been pretty stale since it was first introduced in 2007. Wicked at the time but now that functionality or that way of interacting with the mobile device is expected.
That brings up a good question … what will be the next or new expected way of interacting with mobile devices? Will the UI be there to be physically manipulated with or will it be more of a feedback mechanize to display requested information by some other means? Will speech be the new way of communicating with the device like we are starting to see with Siri and other Android devices? Maybe it will be via facial expressions or maybe we will skip all that and plug the sucker directly into our foreheads 😉 A discussion for another blog post I guess … “Plugging Stuff Into Our Foreheads”
It just frightens me when a company has such loyal followers that they can change the colour of a button on a device and individuals storm out to buy it This all coming from a fella who still owns an iPhone 3GS which got discontinued last week … sigh.
I was playing with my wife’s phone this weekend, trying to find some information and the subsequent aggravation got me thinking about 3 ‘C’s which should really always be obeyed when designing a UI, all of which tie together pretty nicely.
Consistency: Once your user has performed a task, it is crucial that similar tasks are performed in similar ways. This seems obvious, but I see it ignored all the time. One of my frustrations with the phone was that it always seemed like it was a different button I needed to hit to navigate to/from screens.
Clutter: More accurately, a lack thereof. It can be so easy to add bells and whistles and fancy things to a UI which can overwhelm and make it both confusing and frustrating for the end user to accomplish what they are trying to do with your UI. This leads to me a bigger, broader point, which is…
Clarity: The most important thing with any UI, in my opinion, is clarity. It is so important that the purpose and use of any given screen is clear to the end user. When my wife first got her phone she spent 30 minutes on the bus trying to figure out how to unlock it because it was the opposite of clear and intuitive.
Any time your user (and you need to consider all possible users, not just the ones who are already accustomed to the type of UI you are designing) struggles with the clarity, consistency, and clutter of the UI, it leads to a frustrated user who is less likely to continue to use or recommend your product, and less revenue is always a bad thing. Relating back to the aforementioned wife’s phone, the frustrations she/we have had will result in me purchasing a different type of phone in 3 months, instead of buying the same phone she has.