User interface expert says Windows 8 is less user-friendly than other Windows, a “cognitive burden”

Giants from gaming industry have already expressed their dislike of Windows 8 (and Windows 8 Store). Add Raluca Budiu, User Experience Specialist at Nielsen Norman Group, to the list of naysayers. In an interview with Laptop Magazine, Budiu, who has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie Melon University and has worked at Microsoft and Xerox in the past, throws the gauntlet at Microsoft’s latest creation.

While admitting that Windows 8’s new Metro/Not Metro interface is great for tablets, Budiu feels the duality of Metro and traditional desktop in Windows 8 for desktops/laptops is a “cognitive burden”:

Users will need to remember two different interfaces. They will learn Windows 8, but won’t be able to forget Windows 7. And they will need to keep track of which app goes with each framework. [It's] definitely a cognitive burden, but not an insurmountable one.

Budiu feels that the way Microsoft designed Windows 8 makes Windows 8 more of a content consumption mechanism rather than content creation, and, while content consumption is ideal for mobile devices, desktops and laptops have always been used for “content production and multitasking”:

Windows 8 is optimized for content consumption rather than content production and multitasking. Whereas content consumption can easily be done on other media (tablets and phones), production and multitasking are still best suited for PCs. Windows 8 appears to ignore that.

Other issues Budiu has with Windows 8 is how many of the menus, toolbars, and buttons are hidden from sight, which not only results in users needing to do more work to access the menus/toolbars/buttons but also forces “extra burden” onto the memory of users since they have to memorize which menu/toolbar/button belongs where and contains/does what. Further, the ‘hotspots’ in the corners of Windows 8 clash with traditional software design elements, such as scrolls bars, that are typically placed at or close to those hotspot areas.

While overall Budiu feels Windows 8 is less user-friendly for traditional PC tasks, she does concede there are some things that Windows 8 does better than its predecessors, such as social media integration. Also, in light of the inclusion of Windows 8’s Start screen (“Metro UI”), Budiu sides with Microsoft’s decision to remove the Start Menu from Windows 8 desktop. She feels that since Microsoft insists on having the Start screen, there is no reason to keep the traditional Start Menu since the Start screen and Start Menu serve the same purpose.

While I personally agree with Budiu that the Metro interface is not well suited for traditional PCs, it could be said that the reason why Windows 8 is/will be a “cognitive burden” is simply because it is different than what we are used to. Does different necessarily mean worse? Only time will tell. You can also tell what you think about Windows 8 in the comments below.

[via BGR, LaptopMag | Image via LaptopMag]

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17 comments

  1. Bob

    If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
    WIndows 8 was developed strictly for touch screen components. 99% of computer/laptop owners do not have touchscreens and therefor, this metro interface is very confusing and unnecessary. I tried Windows 8 and got stuck on one app and could not find a way to go back to the main metro screen.
    Interface is horrible. I will not be switching to Windows 8 anytime soon.

  2. Janetb

    Touch screens are not at all suited to PC’s—the distance your finger has to go for each move is 10 or 20 or 30 times more than on a phone or tablet….peoples arms would fall off half way through the workday! You can get all te way across a screen by moving a mouse 1″. I sure hope they don’t make a total switch to touch screen PC’s….!

  3. Evil Mark

    Reviewers of Win8 often do so from the wrong perspective. The interface is evolutionary, not the same old same old.

    Think about the last James Bond Movie or pay attention to the next one. In the US, think about all of the Star Trek variations or take note of what NCIS Los Angeles thinks is cutting edge. Who uses a mouse and a plain old monitor?

    “Metro” should come alive for desktop and laptop users that can incorporate touchscreen displays. And it could potentially become downright sexy once a “Kinect” service pack* is applied!

    *Such a service pack is pure speculation on my part – but it sure seems plausible!

  4. Ira

    Please remember the fate of Steve Jobs “NEXT” computer. One reaon it failed was no Floppy Disk Drive, it only had a CD Drive.

    How the world changes. Now PC’s have no Floppy Drives.

    When PCs have touch screens as do Smartphones and Pads Windows 8 will become second nature. As the world turns Microsoft may have hit the “target” with Windows 8.

  5. sliqdice

    Basically, Microsoft has done the right thing to change it UI. This is because, in the near future, we actually would use multi-touch screen computer (just like the all in one computer). Therefore, Microsoft took the early stage in order for computers manufacturers to fine-tune their products with this new so-called MetroUI Windows 8.

  6. Peter

    It lasted a while until I got it into my fingertips to press Win-Q to get the search in most apps. Now the Wikipedia-program makes sense to me and – much better: I am able to search for “Chess” in the store; every day 7/24 :(
    OT:
    How nice that Google has got that. You can even use it running Linux.

  7. meldasue

    I haven’t tried Windows 8, but some of the objections remind me of the issues with the ribbon interface when Office 2007 rolled out. It bugged me at first, but now I miss it when I’m at home using Office 2003.

    Of course, I’m also a mad customiser, so if I don’t like something, I figure out how to make it work better for me (or wait for dot-tech to tell me how to do it).

  8. Janetb

    If the START screen shots above are anything to go by, Windows 8 IS worse than Windows 7—it contains a fraction of the information in three to four times the space…I think making everything more and more condusive to social networking is a disaster for those of us who actually use our computers for WORK!!

    I think we should have a worldwide Facebook revolution demanding a return to XP–or rather an updated version of XP!!!!

  9. Don

    Does’nt bother me, as I’ve no intention of using it. Already have an Android tablet, and since 8 is stunningly unsuited for any non-touchscreen usage,I see no reason to.
    Of course,independent programmers already have programs to restore much of what the idiots at MS took away. I’d bet that within a year,you’ll be able to make 8 function pretty much like XP/Vista/7, and if not there’s always iOS (or for those of us who despise apple,ubuntu-in an earlier version before they tried to make it look like iOS) When are the folks at MS and Canonical gonna realize if we wanted a mac,we’d buy one of the dammed things?

    Win8 – a WinME for a new generation !!

  10. AU

    Removing the start menu not a good idea for non touch screens but otherwise fine if only using a tablet.

    Better if people have the option to stick to interface they are used to rather than being forced to relearn a new operating system way of doing things. Once people are used to it though it may be fine.