Tag Archives: UX

Microsoft should split Windows into two separate OSes


This is Windows 8’s Metro mode. It literally doesn’t have windows anymore.

Microsoft is trying to walk back some of the polarizing aspects of Windows 8 with updates to the OS, but the real issue is the fundamental mistake of trying to make one OS that can run on traditional desktops and laptops, while also running on tablets and smartphones.

Microsoft needs to split Windows into two separate OSes. Windows 9 should look and feel like Windows 7 with new features and refinements. Forget Windows 8 and 8.1 entirely.

The Metro mode (the entire look on Windows smartphones) should be spun off into its own OS without the Windows name. It doesn’t have to be called Metro, but Microsoft needs to come up with a fresh name for its mobile OS.

I use Windows 8 every day at work. It’s not that bad as some would have you believe, but I like it less than Windows 7. Shouldn’t every release be more enjoyable and better? I consider Windows 7 to be the best version of Windows ever. It has a pretty clean windowing UI, it’s stable and secure and generally just works.

Windows 7 is an OS that really appeals to Microsoft’s core audience. Why mess with it?

I have my Windows 8 machine set to boot straight to desktop mode, and I have the start menu back; so it’s pretty similar to using Windows 7. But every now and then you accidentally open up an app or file in Metro mode, and it’s a really disorienting experience when one of my monitors is in metro mode and the other is in desktop mode. It really is one of the worst and most inexcusable computing experiences you can have today.

The core issue of Windows 8 is that it tries to merge two pretty good UI concepts together, and in the process makes both worse. I like Metro as a tablet and phone UI. I like the Windows 7 UI for desktop computing. It’s when you have to use Metro on a desktop or Windows 7 windowing on a tablet that it all goes to hell.

This is a pretty nice phone UI. I would not want to use this on my dual-monitor desktop in my office.

This is a pretty nice phone UI. I would not want to use this on my dual-monitor desktop in my office.

Microsoft has a new CEO. He doesn’t have to save face like Steve Ballmer might have tried to. He can simply say that Windows 8 was a mistake , and we’re going in a different direction.

The time is now to end this failed experiment to create one OS to rule them all.  Make Windows 9 the best traditional Windows it can be. Aim it at businesses and people who want to use the same OS they use at work at home. Focus on networking and cloud support (integrate OneDrive even further into the OS as a major selling point), improving multithreaded support (make it easier for developers to harness 4-12 and more core computers) and improving the file system.

The UI concepts of Windows 7 are pretty good. You can iterate on the UI and add new features like Apple does with OS X, but there is no reason to get away from windowing for desktop computing. It’s a conceptual model that works well, particularly for power users and work that benefits from multiple-monitors and multitasking.

Microsoft should then spin off Metro into its own OS without the Windows name, while still using the Windows kernel. This is what Apple does with iOS, and it works very well. Apple executives have recently come out and said that merging iOS and OS X into one OS would be a waste of time.

The needs of a user vary drastically by context. When someone is trying to edit two spreadsheets side by side his needs are very different then when they are trying to get directions while walking around a city. There is no reason to believe that tablets will replace laptops, so why not an OS that assumes that?

I use OS X at home, and think Mavericks is what Microsoft should be aiming for, not Windows 8. Mavericks is the best desktop OS I’ve ever used, and, while I really like iOS, I wouldn’t want to use iOS on my desktop computer.

Apple has shown Microsoft the path forward. Make the best desktop OS with windows you can. Make the best mobile OS without windows you can.

It’s that simple.

Episode 85: iOS 7 thoughts and review

My iOS 7 homescreen.

My iOS 7 homescreen.

We discuss our initial thoughts on iOS 7.

Overall we’re impressed. We think it’s a step forward for mobile OSes, but it is a little buggy. It is the best version of iOS 7 yet, and should really improve with iOS 7.1.

Listen to this week’s show:


Download the MP3


Bitly redesign takes service from easy-to-use to convoluted overnight

Count me as one of the many people who really don’t get the bitly redesign from the premier URL shortening service to a social bookmarking site.

I have used bitly every day professionally and personally for several years. I rely on the analytics, and I have appreciated the easy-to-use nature of their Website, API and browser plugins.

I may drop bitly because it now takes several steps to use it as a URL shortening service, where it was lightening fast to share a link with the bitly browser plugin. I first have to save a social bookmark before I can actually grab the shortened URL. While this is an interesting idea to combine social bookmarking and URL shortening into one service, it doesn’t work when I’m just looking for a quick way to shorten a URL, bitly.

That’s a shame, because I really liked bitly as a URL shortening service. I do understand that with the demise of Delicious and other social bookmarking services that there is an opening for a good social bookmarking service. Bitly needs to work on this transition better, because people who are looking for a quick and good way to shorten URLs shouldn’t have to also go through the whole process of saving a bookmark for later (or the process of doing a quick URL shortening with the browser plugin should automatically created a bookmark for later).

If done properly, this could really help expand bitly’s usefulness and bring in new users. I get what they are attemping to do here, but the execution has been very poor. I was not notified of the changes coming, and I haven’t seen a really good explanation of why the changes were made.

The biggest issues with the switch are on the UI and UX front. Bitly feels unwieldy right now, and the site needs to become smarter if it wants to combine the two functions. Wwhy not have one step for creating a bookmark and shortening and sharing a URL? Before you could shorten and share a URL in one step with the old bookmark. Why do we need to jump through several steps now to also do a social bookmark?

Bitly needs to work on a way to make this service work well as a social bookmarking site and as a URL shortener. Right now, it has a lot of potential for a social bookmarking site — could even be the best — but it’s too cumbersome to use a lot for URL shortening.

The one saving grace of bitly, and what will make it hard to replace, is its API. Bitly integrates beautifully with a lot of services and websites, allowing users to keep all of their shortened URLs in one service. Ironically, once I link up my bitly account to Twitterrific, it’s exactly the kind of fast and easy service that just works that the rest of bitly should be.

We’ll have more coming on the bitly redesign. As it stands, it’s a great example of how to take a fast, easy-to0-use service and make it hard-to-use and slow overnight.

Jakob Nielsen: Kindle Fire’s 7-inch screen causes usability problems

Jakob Nielsen has put the Kindle Fire through usability testing and is not impressed:

Amazon.com’s new Kindle Fire offers a disappointingly poor user experience. Using the web with the Silk browser is clunky and error-prone. Reading downloaded magazines is not much better.

The most striking observation from testing the Fire is that everything is much too small on the screen, leading to frequent tap errors and accidental activation. You haven’t seen the fat-finger problem in its full glory until you’ve watched users struggle to touch things on the Fire. One poor guy spent several minutes trying to log in to Facebook, but was repeatedly foiled by accidentally touching the wrong field or button — this on a page with only 2 text fields and 1 button.

Nielsen’s research finds that 7-inch tablets are too small to use full websites properly. 10-inch tablets, on the other hand, work quite well with full websites. Nielsen suggests that the only way for 7-inch tablets to succeed is for websites, apps, magazines and services to be designed specifically for this form factor. “Optimize for 7-inch or die,” he said.

Despite being a Kindle, Nielsen also found the Kindle Fire to be an overall poor reading device.

Personally, having spent a long time using a 10-inch tablet and a smartphone, I can’t see where a 7-inch tablet would fit in my life.

Source: useit.com.