Usability expert deems Windows 8 as “weak, terrible, and disappointing”

After the unveiling of Windows 8, there has always been the question of whether or not Microsoft could successfully create an essentially all-new form of Windows that is both fresh stylistically but also usable in multiple form factors, such as the tablet and more traditional desktop. Jakob Nielsen is a “usability expert” who has published a study on the usability of Microsoft’s new OS. And, according to him, Windows 8 fails. In fact, he calls it”disappointing usability for both novice and power users… weak on tablets, terrible for PCs”.

Nielsen writes in his study that things like low information density, hidden functions, and convoluted gestures severely hamper the user experience. Quite notable is the mention of the “Double Desktop”, which is the existence of the traditional desktop and the new Windows 8 Start screen.

The problems with Double Desktop, Nielsen says, is that “users have to learn and remember where to go for which features. Switching between environments increases the interaction cost of using multiple features. The two environments work differently, making for an inconsistent user experience.” Nielsen’s remark are similar to what Raluca Budiu, user interface expert, said earlier this year.

Jakob Nielsen is careful to note at the end of his study that he is anything but a Microsoft hater, seemingly want to dispel the notion that his anti-Windows-8 remarks are fueled by hatred of Microsoft. He mentions that he even made the switch from Mac to Windows — which is quite opposite to the transition we always hear about these days, people going from Windows to Mac.

Despite questions about his bias (or lack thereof), for the most part, I’d say Nielsen’s study is an interesting read as it isn’t just simple gripes from a critic, but criticisms on usability by an expert in that field, with the reasoning to back it up. Check out the full study for yourself at the source link, if you are interested!

[via BGR, Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox]

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7 comments

  1. Coyote

    Really having any branded OS at all is a bad idea. Eventually we will get a unified platform that all apps/games/etc can run in.

    Microsoft however has taken this and got it completely ass backwards. You don’t write apps specifically for an OS that is brand new and is getting tons of criticism. You also avoid at all costs writing one for a CPU architecture no one else uses (ARM ahem). If they had somehow jerry-rigged x86 to run on a tablet/phone and let the user decide on the UI they would be heralded as innovating. Even though, in truth, they would have stayed the same and had 20+ years of a back-catalog of everything Windows.

  2. Enrique

    @naveed: That’s true but that’s where the confusion will come in for more customers. RT will only run apps for the Windows 8 UI and an exception with Microsoft Office in the desktop mode. Full Windows 8 can run both new and legacy apps. One is made for ARM and one for Intel. Not exactly the smoothest way to do it I think.

  3. Tom

    @Paul: I agree reminds me when Microsoft came out with Vista and how it morphed into Windows 7, after heated criticism.

    Microsoft is risking it all with their bet to make the desktop act like a phone app, and they are experimenting with devoted users, the backlash will be bad.

  4. Paul D

    @David: Seriously? So that would be why anti-virus and anti-malware writers are forever updating THEIR software to keep up with the flaws in M$.

    Windows 8’s successors may well morph into good software, but currently for PC users it’s just plain bloody terrible. They’ve tried to provide single OS for everything and have failed miserably. And once again they’re usong the poor long-suffering public as guinea pigs.

  5. David

    Windows 8 is the solution to a problem! An operating system for both PC’s & more mobile computers such as phones (smart}, tablets, perhaps in the future watch devices, etc. Is this the complete answer, of course not. Windows 8 will continue to evolve as all Microsoft OS systems have in the past.
    We don’t need nor want to continue down this road of having to buy two separate apps. for our phone & PC’s. One app. to do it all is the future. Of course $$$$$ will come into play here for Google, Microsoft, & Apple Stores. This is what Windows 8 is all about. Yes, Apple, Google & even Amazon hate it. This is the reason for most of the bad publicity, and of course its something new and people are lazy and perhaps a little apprehensive about learning a new operating system. No one on this planet can design and write better software than Microsoft. Some of the best minds in the country work there. No one updates their software better than MS.