Jakob Nielsen not a big fan of Metro, Windows 8 learning curve


Renowned usability expert Jakob Nielsen has taken a look at Windows 8 and did not like what he saw.

He invited 12 experienced PC users to have hands-on with Windows 8 PCs and Surface tablets and found them fumbling around the OS all too often.

Jakob complained of increased cognitive load due to the Metro and desktop interface, memory overload due to full-screen apps, less discoverability due to flat UI elements and hidden charms, low information density, error prone gestures, and poor suitability for desktop use.

It is however striking that much of the issues were due to unfamiliarity with the OS, with users for example not able to activate the task switching gesture or not knowing were menu settings are.

I suspect experienced Windows 7 users will be equally flummoxed when confronted by the Mac user interface, and that much of the issues will become non-issues with time.

Read the full study at Useit.com here.

Update: Scott Barnes has posted a blog post which responds to the claims made by the above study. You can read it here.

  • Bugbog

    Bollox I say! Any PC/tablet user with a modicum of common sense will EASILY be able to figure out Windows 8. I, for one, discovered (in the Consumer Preview) the addition of the multi-tasking bar with no prior input or knowledge. My 10 year old niece picked up the use Windows 8 with NO PRIOR knowledge!

    Windows 8 is Absolutely Intuitive. The only way you have people flailing about and getting frustrated are those who ALREADY don’t like the new O.S., and proceed to PROVE IT!

    Even my 60+ year old, IT phobic mother like the Surface and Windows 8!

    (As you can see, I take these marker very seriously! :) )

    • GG002

      Yep, same here! My completely tech-illiterate dad got going with Windows 8 (Surface) with virtually zero guidance of me or anyone else. The only thing I’ve had to show him has been how to print a pdf in Reader. That may not be immediately obvious, but for the rest, I do indeed think Nielsen invited people who already had their mind set on not leaving Windows 7.

      Most people don’t acknowledge it, but the psychology behind willpower is well-known. If you think you can’t do it, you usually won’t be able to either. That’s the typical stance behind this sort of criticism. This is also what gets large, and once majestic, corporations bankrupt or in deep trouble. They are afraid of change. Think Kodak, Märklin, Blackberry (and yes, Nokia. Don’t kill me for point it out! I’m Finnish too.)…

    • techblogger

      I agree with you 100%. It seems every technological advance by Microsoft is met with this abject confusion over how it works. I read one “user” comment on a blog on Huffington Post say their friends who are “VERY TECHNICAL” say how difficult it was to get from the MetroUI side to the desktop in Windows 8. Seriously? Even this idiot on ZDNet asked the question about the Charms page, Where do you click? as if this was an example of the level of difficulty to expect in Windows 8. HUH?? Who could he possibly be writing this for? Can you really be this stupid or is this simply technical dishonesty?

      I watched a video on Youtube not long about where the top technically dishonest people I’ve ever seen Chris Pirillo have his father alone on camera, to show how difficult Windows 8 was. His daddy just sat there looking around like he didn’t even have a clue what a mouse was for.

      My wife who is a medical professional and in NO WAY a technical person is using Windows 8 and Office 2013 without issue. She’s smart, but not technical. I haven’t seen her on the MetroUI side but as you know, you don’t have to use it until you want to. I use it because I found some awesome apps for my Surface RT there but if you are all about the desktop, just use that. I expect she’ll find the MetroUI side eventually. I guess there is a market for this level of ignorance. From “news” channels to ZDNet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Njoi-Fontes/590077451 Njoi Fontes

    Only a moron can´t get Windows 8. Sure It might take a bit to get used to it, like anything new. Not before long however you soon realise how awesome it is. It took me far longer to get used to a mac than it took me to Windows 8.

  • http://twitter.com/purevibz jack frost

    Checkout these guys website and you can tell why they have a problem…nuff said!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bobby-Cannon/1095933619 Bobby Cannon

      Wow, that guys website is pretty silly. I sure hope he’s not truly a usability expert. ROFL

  • RoadOfMajor

    For someone who is supposedly a usability expert, his website certainly sucks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Longshot9 John Hough

    Am I the only person that’s never heard of this “Renowned expert”? I agree with Njoi… only a moron can’t figure out w8.

  • guesttt999

    Jakob, what happened to you man?! Windows 8 is by far the easiest and more importantly a fun OS to explore and use. Completely disagree with your opinions Jakob. Mac takes longer to learn and get accustomed to than any Windows.

    • http://profiles.google.com/wdmsagefire Robert Potter

      You didn’t read the article at all, did you? The only time he mentions Mac is at the end when he comments that he left Mac for Windows 7 (and was satisfied with the decision). He doesn’t promote another OS over Win8, tablet or otherwise.

  • grs_dev

    Good! This is the same guy who predicted the iPad would be a total failure for the same reasons pretty much. I think the main reason why he thinks these products are going to fail ties back to the idea that they didn’t hire him to do the UX work. I have a feeling had they done that, his POV would somehow be significantly different.

  • jimski27

    I came from XP to Win 8. Prior to 10-26, I had a few dozen (frustrating) hours with Vista (trying to get things to work), a total of about 15 minutes on my CEOs Win 7 machine installing a couple apps, and a few days of Win 8 Preview before diving in headfirst with Win 8 across the board on all machines; a new Win8 desktop, a Surface RT, upgraded office PC, upgraded notebook, and converting that Vista machine this weekend.
    The office pc is a 5-6 year old Compaq Pentium 4 w/3GB of RAM (max allowed for the board). Generally, if I got past 6 or 7 open apps/screens I would get a Virtual Memory error and need to start shutting things down. With Win 8, I have had as many as 14 open windows, with 8 or 9 of those being separate applications and have yet to get a memory error. IE10 is at least 30-40% faster than IE8 on this machine. If for nothing else, the improvement in performance would be enough reason to upgrade. And your a fool (I was one till last month) if you don’t upgrade to Win 8 for $39.99.
    I mastered 75% of Win7/Win8 (remember, the desktop was completely new to my eyes) within the first hour. Took another couple days to pickup the tricks, shortcuts and finer points. Still learning, but no struggle at any point. I cringe now when I have to go over to an XP machine in our office. Win8 is an absolutely intuitive OS that is, admittedly geared towards the consumer. But as those consumers embrace Win8 it will become more evident to Corporate IT folks how valuable the Start screen, the App Store, any everything else that comes with this new OS is for day to day business. Something as simple as tracking packages is now at your fingertips. The economy still sucks (don’t believe everything you read) so new PC sales will not go through the roof overnight. But this OS, and everything it brings with it, is the future. And the future is now.

  • http://twitter.com/nitesh_maharaj Nitesh Maharaj

    Oh please, when I got my MacBook, I hated Mac OSX. I got frustrated performing tasks that I could easily do in Windows, like associating a file type with an application. It took me a while to get the hang of it. So does that mean it’s a crappy OS? Well actually compared to Windows it is, but my point is, unfamiliarity doesn’t mean poor UI design. Windows 8 is hands down the best OS on the market.

  • http://twitter.com/bacon_frazzle Bacon Frazzle

    Windows 8 UI sucks balls on anything other than a touchscreen device…..

    • TrollHunter

      Ok, now go back to the kindergarten

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jan-Kuyper/100001717386987 Jan Kuyper

        bing —-> windows 8 short cuts , you will love it

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gavin-Tom/100001144097567 Gavin Tom

    lol windows 8 was designed to be easy, learned all the new gestures in what a day. Maybe for power users that need to access all the registry keys and other things within the system, but for the average consumer this thing should be simple once you learn where they are.

  • Chris

    I’am a oldtime PC user who wen’t all Mac 4 years ago and now I’ve bought my self a new Asus laptop with Win 8 Pro on and It took me about a half a day to get familiar and start using keyboard commands and other quick commands to move around the OS and in my opinion this is by far the best first release of a OS ever made. The OS is quick and logic, moving around with mouse or a trackpad doesn’t mean much of a difference if you have any kind of computer knowledge. The most striking bit of the OS is the quick startup and runtime moving around. Another fact that makes OS X and following look like win 95 is the ability to multitask quickly and perform more things quicker. I will for sure now buy myself a Lumia 920 to complement my new laptop beacuse this is the shit… Sorry Apple I was a long time user but your current OS is entirely obsolete in comparison to Win 8 and just to mention the iPhone which I have had both the 3GS and 4S which is smarttoys and not smartPHONES. Microsoft I take my hat of to you, you have really built a brand new and innovate OS and you turned this Mac user around!

  • bnlf

    I must be an Eistein. I learnt everything about Win8 in half an hour. kudos to me! -_-

  • Russell M

    yeah jakob is an old man, probable bumbled around a smartphone when he got it as well. Old people shouldnt be allowed to review technology, we all know it scares most of them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jan-Kuyper/100001717386987 Jan Kuyper

      hey I’m 70 and love win8

  • Runningman51

    Wow – for good laugh make sure you check out the website of this so called “expert.” It is among the worst I have ever seen. Anyways, count me in with those that have no issues with Windows 8. It is faster, smoother and has added a huge amount of functionality by being able to run apps. Learn a few keyboard shortcuts and the hot corners and you are good to go. I would consider the level of difficulty of learning Windows 8 to be on par with making instant oatmeal. With that said, if you don’t like it, use one of the alternatives and quit your complaining!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jan-Kuyper/100001717386987 Jan Kuyper

    same company different ideas ?????

  • http://twitter.com/AMRAAM_Missiles Scotty Le

    The biggest problem i found with W8 from a view of keyboard and mouse users : hard to control whatever is running background as an app of this OS. I mean app like mail app, weather app…

    New users will have a hard time of figuring out how to turn off those thing… (move the mouse to left margin of the screen and close the app you want…
    And how to shut down the machine is quite … complicated …lol.
    Not like you can just press the start button and choose shut down like Windows 7.
    Just my 2 cents… on the way they design the UI… Metro is awesome as always.