Simple and usable..

Published on: Author: Mike Hall 3 Comments

It’s the title of a book written by Giles Colborne, who has been designing interactive user experiences since the early 1990s.

When he’s not doing that he he’s busy with cxpartners, a design consultancy based in Bristol and London that specialises in web and mobile user interface design for companies such as Marriott, Nokia and eBay. Giles and Richard Caddick founded cxpartners in 2004.

This is a small extract where Colborne breaks down the following:

  • A tiny percentage (say one percent) of users are experts, with a high tolerance for learning.
  • A few more (say nine percent) of users are willing adopters — they have an expectation that the product will meet their needs, and some (albeit low) tolerance for learning.
  • The remaining 90 percent of users just use technology to get a job done and have no tolerance for learning at all. These are mainstreamers.

Would you agree with the statement? I would, and if you think that I am wrong, go into the Microsoft Windows 8 forums.

In the beginning we all had ‘tiller’ steering in the form of File Manager (Windows 3.1). The trouble with tiller steering is that it does not come naturally to push to the right but go left, and as programs were released, it was obvious that File Manager was not going to cut it.

So Microsoft gave us a steering wheel in the form of what is known as the Classic Start Menu (Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP/Vista/Windows 7) and negotiating the ever more complex Windows became a breeze.

Windows 8 is just buttons. Press W for the weather, T for the TV, M for the mail, but how do we stop it? It won’t stop!! Where is the STOP button? For computer users who expect a steering wheel, Windows 8 is the worst nightmare, careering forwards with no obvious directional control and no brake pedal. There is a brake pedal but it is not where you expect it to be (in the Settings box). You have to look for it and then throw it over the side. If you stop Windows 8 as you would traditionally on a mobile device, the disk and OS crash and eventually corrupt, leaving you with NOTHING.

Steve Sinofsky knew all of the above. He was, after all, the guiding light behind Windows 7. Strangely, the more that computer users tried to get the Start Menu back in Windows 8, the more Sinofsky removed from Windows 8 to ensure that nothing native in the OS could be used.

I am sorry but I don’t see it as moving forwards. To me, it was an act of deliberate sabotage, and Windows 8’s reputation is the victim. The worst is that Windows 8 is a really good desktop OS, and doesn’t deserve a lot of the criticism that it gets.

Microsoft should not ask experts how to design or what to include because the majority of computer users are not experts and don’t have the time or inclination to become experts. The job of the expert is to design a package that includes what non-experts want and can easily handle.

The same is true in the forums. We are not there to proudly show off out technical skill and knowledge. What we have to do is pipe the the skill and knowledge into to bite sized, easily digested pieces. 

A link to the book.. http://www.simpleandusable.com/

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