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Why Windows 8 Has New Start Screen and Metro Apps

By - Source: Neowin | B 99 comments

A Microsoft UX designer talks about why we need the Start Screen in Windows 8.

Jacob Miller, a UX designer for Microsoft, recently took to Reddit to explain why Microsoft chose to use the "Metro" Modern UI-based Start screen in Windows 8. He says that the Start screen is a "content consumption" space meant for casual users to check Facebook, view photos, or get caught up on the latest episodes of Supernatural.

"It's designed for your computer illiterate little sister, for grandpas who don't know how to use that computer dofangle thingy, and for mom who just wants to look up apple pie recipes. It's simple, clear, and does one thing (and only one thing) relatively easily," Miller writes.

He said the Metro interface is the antithesis of a power user, who is a content creator who may have more than one monitor displaying more than one open application. Prior to Windows 8, both the casual consumer and pro user shared the same space. Windows 7 and earlier wasn't even tailored to one group or the other.

"Whatever feature we wanted to add into Windows, it had to be something that was simple enough for casual users to not get confused with, but also not dumbed down enough to be useless to power users. Many, MANY features got cut because of this," he writes.

Previously, Microsoft wanted to please the power user by providing multiple desktops, but each time the company tried to implement this feature, user tests showed that the casual customers became confused. So the company decided to make two "playgrounds" for the Casual and Power groups. The Casual group would have Metro apps, and the Power group would have the desktop.

Yet why did Microsoft make the Start screen the default? And why didn't Microsoft provide a boot-to-desktop option in the original Windows 8 release? His short answer is that casual users don't go exploring. If the platform loaded straight into the desktop and offered the Start menu, then they would have never experienced the Metro side of Windows 8.

"They would still occupy the desktop just as they always had, and we would have been stuck in square one. So we forced it upon them. We drove them to it with goads in their sides. In 8.1, we softened the points on the goads by giving users an option to boot directly to desktop," he writes.

Now that the casual group is aware of the Start screen, Microsoft can now start tailoring. Unfortunately for the power users, it may be a while before they start to see benefits.

"Right now we still have a lot of work to do on making Metro seem tasty for those casual users, and that's going to divert our attention for a while. But once it's purring along smoothly, we'll start making the desktop more advanced. We'll add things that we couldn't before. Things will be faster, more advanced, and craftier than they have in the past - and that's why Metro is good for power users," he concludes.

Later on, Miller talks about how familiarity will always trump good design. The Windows 7 Start Menu is better than Windows 8's Start Screen because it's familiar; Microsoft used the same design for the last 20 years. He acknowledges that Metro will take some getting used to, but it's not going to go away, as it's part of Microsoft's long-term strategy.

"We knew full well casual users wouldn't like it initially. Hopefully in 5 years we'll look back and see we made the right decision," he writes.

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Top Comments
  • 26 Hide
    RooD , February 19, 2014 8:36 AM
    That's funny because my mother and grandparents hate windows 8
  • 25 Hide
    vmem , February 19, 2014 8:30 AM
    so basically microsoft decided to alienate a group of their most ardent fans and drive even more of them toward linux, in a failed attempt to recruit some of the iSheep users?doesn't sound like a very good business strategy to me -_-
  • 19 Hide
    roger smith , February 19, 2014 8:49 AM
    The fix for windows 8? when a mouse is present, boot to desktop and traditional startmenu. modern ui is great from tablets and ridiculous for desktop mode. so just make it switch when a mouse is present, done and done.
Other Comments
  • 25 Hide
    vmem , February 19, 2014 8:30 AM
    so basically microsoft decided to alienate a group of their most ardent fans and drive even more of them toward linux, in a failed attempt to recruit some of the iSheep users?doesn't sound like a very good business strategy to me -_-
  • 26 Hide
    RooD , February 19, 2014 8:36 AM
    That's funny because my mother and grandparents hate windows 8
  • 17 Hide
    larkspur , February 19, 2014 8:36 AM
    Finally they admit that Win 8 UI was designed for "your computer illiterate little sister." Been saying that all along."...It's simple, clear, and does one thing (and only one thing) relatively easily". Yes, exactly ONE thing, oh you know, like looking up an Apple pie recipe. Thanks for clearing that up MS!
  • -8 Hide
    apertotes , February 19, 2014 8:42 AM
    How are multiple desktops confusing for casual customers? Android has multiple desktop screens, and so does iOS. It is a very easy thing to understand.
  • -3 Hide
    nikolajj , February 19, 2014 8:45 AM
    I speaks the truth!Sadly, I am one of the odd ones, because a prefer good design over familiarity. Both consciously and unconsciously.
  • 4 Hide
    pbrigido , February 19, 2014 8:45 AM
    Mistakes happen. Just glad to see them addressing the needs of the customer...although it did take a while
  • -2 Hide
    nikolajj , February 19, 2014 8:46 AM
    *He* speaks the truth!
  • 9 Hide
    besterino , February 19, 2014 8:49 AM
    I don't get it - not only did they alienate the power user, they also confused the "casual" - or in their words "illiterate" existing user base - to my understanding - in order to make it easier for potential future (!) casual users? But instead of simply having a default setting (i.e. to "force it on possible future users") that can be changed by and for already existing users (who just don't like change - be that good or bad or whatever), no, they force it on EVERYONE.Under what design / business / roll-out dogma is that the "must go" route? I mean, when they changed the Win9x design to the Vista/7 design scheme, there was exactly that option to show the old-school startmenu. An guess what - I bet after a short while - despite all the hate blablabla - soon almost everyone used the new design. Why? Cause in addition to not liking change, we are lazy bunch of people and sometimes just go with the default setting even if we could change it... Again, I don't get why MS chose force instead of other - less aggressive - means in order to make the switch WITH their existing user base instead of AGAINST it.
  • 19 Hide
    roger smith , February 19, 2014 8:49 AM
    The fix for windows 8? when a mouse is present, boot to desktop and traditional startmenu. modern ui is great from tablets and ridiculous for desktop mode. so just make it switch when a mouse is present, done and done.
  • 5 Hide
    chesteracorgi , February 19, 2014 8:51 AM
    It was the arrogant bastard approach to marketing: its my way or the highway. The evolution of Win 8 has also shown their new business model: we will update your OS to keep up with iOS, Linux & Android, but charge you through the nose for Windows Media Center and encryption ($100) in 8.1 Pro.

    BTW I AM GRANDPA and I don't approve of MS's marketing approach. They could sell the upgrade to 8.1 Pro for $10 - $20 and make a lot more than they do off sales at $100. If I were a MS shareholder I'd be looking for some heads and a shareholder derivative strike suit against management for incompetence.
  • 8 Hide
    AndreT , February 19, 2014 8:53 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    That's funny because my mother and grandparents hate windows 8
    Because we all know your mother and grandparents make up the major of what many others have said is a good OS.
    And many more have said is a bad user experience UI.
  • 6 Hide
    Achoo22 , February 19, 2014 8:58 AM
    "Why Windows 8 Has New Start Screen and Metro Apps"Because Microsoft values generating advertising dollars more than providing a consistent user interface! Story done, hit the presses."We knew full well casual users wouldn't like it initially. Hopefully in 5 years we'll look back and see we made the right decision,"You're a jackass. If this guy is telling the truth rather than trying to spin a flop, then the amount of sheer ego at play is staggering. It's one thing to turn out a bad product, but another to intentionally incorporate features that folks will hate and have the magnanimity to frame it as though "daddy knows best." Hopefully in five years you'll be nowhere near the industry. Please take the Firefox developers, cursed with the same affliction, with you.
  • 4 Hide
    digiex , February 19, 2014 8:59 AM
    "It's designed for your computer illiterate little sister, for grandpas who don't know how to use that computer dofangle thingy, and for mom who just wants to look up apple pie"That's it M$, now you are blaming my "illiterate little sister", my grandpa and worst my mom for your mistake...Just admit it that Apple and Google had owned you with the touch interface even you were the first to introduce it (forget Star Trek) 12 years ago.
  • 12 Hide
    Sam Bittermann , February 19, 2014 9:01 AM
    Dear lord, MS still doesn't get it...wtf?
  • 10 Hide
    ThRK , February 19, 2014 9:07 AM
    Biggest problem:"Later on, Miller talks about how familiarity will always trump good design."Metro was *horribly* designed. And it sure as frack wasn't grandpa or casual-user friendly.
  • 11 Hide
    Jake Hall , February 19, 2014 9:10 AM
    I'm from the future and you were wrong... dick
  • 5 Hide
    spartanmk2 , February 19, 2014 9:10 AM
    Windows ME was easier to use than this.
  • -3 Hide
    sunflier , February 19, 2014 9:12 AM
    Quote:
    Why Windows 8 Has New Start Screen...
    We all KNOW why. We're just pi$$ed it was ripped from the O/S in the first place but relieved its being added back in 8.1.
  • 3 Hide
    InvalidError , February 19, 2014 9:32 AM
    Quote:
    so basically microsoft decided to alienate a group of their most ardent fans and drive even more of them toward linux

    Most people who use Windows use it either because:
    - that's what came preloaded on their PC/laptop and they cannot be bothered with installing something else
    - some of the programs or hardware they use only exists or works with Windows... sometimes only specific versions and service pack levels of it

    Most people in the first category do not really require a PC to get their everyday computing done and are more likely to buy Android-powered devices than install Linux on an existing PC that already has Windows on it. Most people in the second category are ball-and-chained to Windows.
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