Yesterday I made a post linking to an article on MSDN where the Windows 8 devs are showing off their new improvements to the Windows 8 Explorer. I thought long about this after I read the post, and I decided to make a few more remarks in hope this gets to at least one of the devs.
I’m not going to rewrite the article, you can read it for yourself here, the team basically explains a bit about how the Windows explorer interface has evolved from early Windows 1.0 up until the un-released Windows 8.
What They Measured
This is where we start to go downhill: First they focus on “power users” and how the usually install add-ons to enhance their UI, error #1. Secondly, they set up a test to see what the “Top 10 Commands” people use while using Explorer, this is actually pretty useful data, except they went about it the wrong way, which brings me to my next point. Third, they used the data to add in all of these commands to the Explorer toolbar aka “Ribbon”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all into testing UI, gathering feedback and iterating, and they did this, and actually established a nice set of goals for their new Explorer: Optimize Explorer for file management tasks, Create a streamlined command experience and Respect Explorer’s heritage.
Dandy! But how on earth did we go from setting those goals to this:
I was just blown away, from all the data they collected on Explorer usage, the conclusion was to add in all of the top 10 commands at the same time, in the form of large icons, eerily laid out?
How is this an improvement form the Windows 7 interface?
Yes, I’d go for Windows 7 on this one.
Why they went around this user test the wrong way
I’ve spoken and written many times about user testing, there is definitely no wrong way to user test an interface, but there is a wrong way to interpret and incorporate results.
From the article:
The telemetry data here shows that 54.5% of commands are invoked using a right-click context menu, and another 32.2% are invoked using keyboard shortcuts (“Hotkey” above) while only 10.9% come from the Command bar, the most visible UI element in Explorer in Windows 7 and Vista.
Is there really a need to “streamline” for these power users by adding a behemoth of a toolbar to the Windows file explorer? I Think not. Users for years and years have been used to right clicking or using their keyboard to get tasks done. Sure, not easy at first to learn all these commands, but even my mom knows her way around keyboard shortcuts most of the time.
Thinking a bit more on their results, their 10.9% usage from the command bar may be a direct effect on the missing actions up there, but this does not mean that they need to “improve conversion” by adding in all the bells and whistles.
It may just be me but I fail to see the need to add the keyboard shortcuts to every toolbar on every app, we have contextual and right click menus for that.
About these power users
We knew that using a ribbon for Explorer would likely be met with skepticism by a set of power-users (like me)
There is a lot more to the Windows user base than “power users” and these “power users” should not be your main area of concern, they will probably be the ones to add in or transform their Windows UI into complicated pieces of machinery. How about the average user? How about your aunt? Your mom? Or anyone who is not as tech savvy as many of us around the design/dev world?
This is the main point of me writing this. You don’t design to please the tech savvy person, you design to make it easy and simple.
Simple is better
For my closing argument I just want to say that simple is better, I’ll take an unobtrusive, simple UI over a complicated one any day. As you’ve noticed I’m not bringing Mac OS X into this argument, I’ve recently used Windows 7 for a few tasks and actually find the os quite stable and easy to use, so bringing in Windows 7: they made it simple, it works so what are they fixing?
Before I start a flamewar here, I know that Windows 8 is under development and the end product will probably (hopefully) look better, but early feedback is the best right? Windows dev team: how about simplifying a notch? Measuring actual data that will improve the UI and not coming up with UIs like this from misinterpreted/misplaced bits of information?
I will not propose a redesign because as a designer, I think it’s rude to tell another designer how to do their job, we are all good at what we do. The nailed a pretty sweet interface for Windows 7, I just hope they nail a pretty good one for Windows 8 as well.
As Lyons fiddles, Apple isn’t burning, but it is on fire. Maybe he saw the news that they recently became the most valuable company in the world. That sure sounds like a company with a lot of problems. One in “panic”. One that should be listening to Fake Steve.