Jacob Miller, a UX designer for Microsoft who worked on Windows 8 has responded in a Reddit thread with his personal views about Windows 8 design decisions. He even talked about how Microsoft classifies users as Casual and Power. As we all know already, Microsoft created Metro UI for consumers who are more into consumption of content than creation. Microsoft’s Windows should satisfy both power users and casual users. Microsoft decided not to confuse casual users with too many options, as a result Metro UI was made the default UI for everyone. He also defended that their decision will look better in the years to come. Read the full reply below.
UX designer for Microsoft here.
I want to talk about why we chose Metro as the default instead of the desktop, and why this is good in the long run – especially for power users.
…but not in the way you might think.
At this point you’re probably expecting me to say that it’s designed for keyboard execution, or some thing about improved time trials for launching programs, or some other way of me trying to convince you that Metro is actually useful. I’ve talked about those in the past extensively on reddit, but for this discussion let’s throw that all out the window. For this discussion, assume that Metro is shit for power users (even if you don’t believe it to be).
Now that we’re on common ground, let’s dive into the rabbit hole. Metro is a content consumption space. It is designed for casual users who only want to check facebook, view some photos, and maybe post a selfie to instagram. 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. That is what Metro is. It is the antithesis of a power user. A power user is a content creator. They have multiple things open on multiple monitors – sometimes with multiple virtual machines with their own nested levels of complexity.
“But wait,” you’re thinking, “You said Metro is good for power users, yet now you’re saying it’s the worst for them, what gives?”
Before Windows 8 and Metro came along, power users and casual users – the content creators and the content consumers – had to share the same space. It was like a rented tuxedo coat – something that somewhat fit a wide variety of people. It wasn’t tailored, because any aggressive tailoring would make it fit one person great, but would have others pulling at the buttons. 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.
A great example is multiple desktops. This has been something that power users have been asking for for over a decade now. OSX has it, Linux has it, even OS/2 Warp has it. But Windows doesn’t. The reason for this is because every time we try and add it to the desktop, we run user tests; and every time we find that the casual users – a much larger part of our demographic than Apple’s or Linux’s – get confused by it. So the proposal gets cut and power users suffer.
Our hands were bound, and our users were annoyed with their rented jackets. So what did we do? We separated the users into two groups. Casual and Power. We made two separate playgrounds for them. All the casual users would have their own new and shiny place to look at pictures of cats – Metro. The power users would then have free reign over their native domain – the desktop.
So why make Metro the default? And why was there no way to boot to desktop in Windows 8.0?
The short answer is because casual users don’t go exploring. If we made desktop the default as it has always been, and included a nice little start menu that felt like home, the casual users would never have migrated to their land of milk and honey. 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.
Now that the casual users are aware of their new pasture, we can start tailoring. It will be a while before the power users start seeing the benefits of this (that’s why I said they’d benefit in the long run). 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.
You can read full response over the Reddit thread here.