Our user group (Gwinnet, Georgia, Microsoft User Group – GGMUG) had a spirited debate last night about Windows 8.
Oddly enough the factions were almost split by the side of the room they were on (tastes great, less filling). Essentially the left side argued that the UI changes in Windows 8 will be rejected by users and the right side of the house argued that users will simply adapt to the changes.
The bulk of our conversation centered around the missing “Start” button.
As I mentioned in my previous Win 8 post, I think the scariest thought is deploying Win 8 in a large corporate environment to thousands of users. To sacrilegiously misquote Star Wars: "It was as if thousands of voices cried out at once, ‘Who Moved My Cheesey Start Button’".
GGMUG member Curtis Wellborn pointed out on our Meetup.Com page that in Windows 7 the “Start” button no longer said “Start” and he is absolutely correct.
I'm going to quote my response to him here since I can a) put it in one section unlike the multiple comments on their site, b) change “hid” to “hide” and other fixes to my egregious spelling, and c) use italics because I love to use italics.
In general use I think the hover over spot to trigger the start screen is fine, but what I'd like to see is something in that spot (start button, windows swirly, or even a smiley face) that pops up a message the first time you click it saying, “Hey, you know you don't need this? Would you like to hide it? By the way, you could also just hit the Windows Key on your keyboard.” I think that would settle the issue.
My point here is that it would be easy to leverage the user's existing knowledge and experience to help them transition to the new UI. The change from a pop-up menu to a full screen start screen WILL be jarring to them at first, but they will get used to it. Not being able to figure out how to get it the first time will leave them with a bad taste in their mouth, and reduce their willingness to learn the new UI.
When it comes to introducing change, I think the game industry has the best model. Lots of games expect you to learn a new system for interacting with the device, but the game devs have become masters of training users. Most games start with some variation of a tutorial level. The best ones incorporate the experience so seamlessly that you don't notice it is happening.
That's what I'd like to see. Windows 8 on install gently guides you through the changes as you use it.
To your point about Win 7 not having a button labeled “Start”, you are correct. Win 95 needed the word “start” since users hadn't had that UI element before. By the time Win 7 came out users were accustomed to looking for something in that spot and tried the button they saw.
The only problem I have with the Win 8 approach to the start button is the implementation. Once you get the user through the first day, they'll be fine, but they need help with the transition.