I’ve been struggling with my new Windows 8.1 for a few weeks now and I still hate it. It’s not a question of not being prepared, as I had read the reviews and knew that it was universally panned but I thought:
1. My old laptop’s hardware was dying and I wanted to be prepared.
2. How bad could it be?
Well, it’s as bad as they said. I’m a long time Windows user and I have been using my Windows 7 laptop for the past four years. There are so many usability conventions that have been changed with Windows 8 that I found myself Googling even the simple tasks.
When I Googled “how to close a PDF window” I felt that was as low as I could go. That was my first introduction to Window 8’s full screen app takeover and I panicked when I couldn’t find the “x” to close the window. In Microsoft support forums I found the answer, but also a user comment that echoed my view:
“It is hilarious that when you Google questions like this there are thousands of hits – did Microsoft consider user testing this UI before releasing it?”
It’s a question commonly asked by product mangers and it comes in several flavors, like:
How do we support long-time users and delight new users at the same time?
How do we keep our product fresh while making our existing users happy?
How do we innovate while supporting every older version?
Facebook encounters this every time they change their news-feed: users hate it, users complain, users get used to it. I think that’s what Microsoft expected: that users would perhaps complain at first but grow to love it. Well, that hasn’t happened with Windows 8 and manufactures such as HP are refusing to move away from Windows 7.
The lesson here for product managers is again: know thy user and you are not thy user. Facebook’s “move fast and break things” approach which works great for them, a free social media service, doesn’t work for Microsoft, a company that needs to help sell hundred- and thousand-dollar computers.
Know thy users. Give them the products they want.