Jakob Nielsen on Windows 8: “Disappointing Usability”

Microsoft Windows 8 Logo

Recently, user experience (UX) guru, Jakob Nielsen, delivered his analysis of Windows 8 on both tablets and PCs. The verdict, in typical Nielsen style, was blunt:

Hidden features, reduced discoverability, cognitive overhead from dual environments, and reduced power from a single-window UI and low information density. Too bad.

Nielsen lays out the reasoning and the usability testing he performed to back up his assertion. Fundamentally, Windows 8 suffers from two problems:

  1. The Metro UI has several issues related to being optimized for different sized screens, information density, gestures and feature discovery. Some of these issues will probably be smoothed over as users become trained on the new OS, but the fact that Microsoft has to retrain the user base of tablet and PC users doesn’t bode well for adoption of the product.
  2. Microsoft took the Shimmer Floor Wax strategy with Windows 8, trying to be the first über-OS to run on both tablets and PCs. Consequently, it ends up suffering for users of both.

Nielsen also pointed out that Windows 8, like many other tablet operating systems, is optimized for display of a single window on screen at any one time rather than the multiple-overlapping-windows paradigm that has characterized traditional personal computer operating systems. Nielsen writes:

One of the worst aspects of Windows 8 for power users is that the product’s very name has become a misnomer. “Windows” no longer supports multiple windows on the screen. Win8 does have an option to temporarily show a second area in a small part of the screen, but none of our test users were able to make this work. Also, the main UI restricts users to a single window, so the product ought to be renamed “Microsoft Window.”

So, I think it’s fair to say, from a Leverhawk perspective, Windows 8 is NOT a lever.

(via GigaOm)

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