Windows 8 UX Designer Talks About Design Decisions, Why Metro Was Made The Default UI And More

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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.

via: Neowin



About Author

Pradeep, a Computer Science & Engineering graduate.

  • SategB

    Wow what a load of poppycock, at best he made a good argument for creating two distinct OS for each user group rather then creating a Frankenstein shoehorning use cases together. If he really believes this tripe he needs to be canned.

    A better response is “we screwed the pooch, sorry, working hard to clean it up.”

    • wp77

      I disagree. Win8 is a work in progress and I’m glad they had the guts to go down this road. I think Win9 will be very good.

      What I’d like to see is the Start menu become the desktop with Metro apps running in windows by default for desktop PC’s. You’d get the benefit of live tile updates – think supergadgets, no jarring switch, and Metro apps would not be full screen. Seems easy enough to do…

      • SategB

        Yes but by the time W9 is “really good” Microsoft marketshare of personal computing device will be somewhere around 10% from a one time high of 90% – that should not make you “glad” but very, very angry.

        • CyberAngel

          Can we make a million dollar confirmed bet on that?
          Not all-in – just a symbolic sum of 1,000,000.00 USD.
          We can set the time limits say…2016
          (2014 Beta, 2015 public release, 2016 Update 1 = “good”?)

          • SategB

            Not sure I being a man of conscience could allow myself to make that bet, even if just symbolically, being that MSFT is already only a few points away from hitting that percent now. :(

          • CyberAngel

            There seems to be a misunderstanding.
            I’m pro or supporting the idea of success of MSFT.
            The definition of what id the “success” might be a problem.

        • Tips_y

          Absolutely rubbish comment!!! They should flush you down the can!!!

          • SategB

            Why rubbish? Is it the truth of it that you find displeasing or your that your bias towards the company finds it difficult to accept?

    • Cruncher

      Power user and causual user are just symbols and not neccesarily two different “physical” users. So depending on situation i enjoy the casual side of the OS, always knowing that the productive “power user” side of the OS is just a button click away. This a great feature, which would not be solved by 2 different OS.

  • Nham Thien Duong

    (S)He is right that the casual user has absolutely no curiousity, most ”problems/issues” in Windows’ Metro enviroment can easily be ”solved” by pressing the right-mouse button and exploring the options, but even this SIMPLE trick is too much for most people, it’s almost as if they don’t care what product they’re running, some people just like to complain, Metro also isn’t the enviroment for touch-only, I have a mouse and keyboard and never did I encounter a situation where a touch-screen would be better, au contraire I prefer it with my mouse and keyboard, I’d be lost without them, maybe I’ll try to see if it would act as my Windows Phone, but it’s really desktop friendly.

    • rjmlive

      Well I have 8.1 on my tripple monitor desktop and on my Venue 8 Pro. I appreciate the touch abilities of 8.1 so much so that I wish my monitors supported touch sometimes. Desktop I run in desktop mode with no complaints and I’m very, very happy with the new multi-monitor support, so much better than 7. I think they need to address a few touch things but overall, best tablet OS on the planet, easily.

    • GetEdumated

      I kinda felt that way but now that I have a touch-screen I never want to go back (I’m quite surprised at how much I use touch- even on the desktop!) I expect that within the next couple years all laptops will be touch and probably the majority of desktop monitors as well. I predict it will be similar to how flat panels replaced all TVs and monitors over the last few years.

  • jaylyric

    Seems like a good thing to me. I’m more of a casual user and I find Metro pretty simple to use. Whether or not one believes the reasons he gave,it makes sense.

  • SK

    Anyone smart enough should understand this without needing Microsoft to spell it out.

    • Bugbog

      Whoever said power users were smart? It’s the same misconception as presuming Professors are smart!

      As I’ve come to learn, the two aren’t synonymous, you can be very focused (on a certain number of things) in order to become proficient in them, but be [extremely] oblivious to other larger interconnected issues.

      • whatup12

        why come down on university faculty??? :)

    • SategB

      Or more accurately stated, Microsoft should have been smart enough to build an OS that didn’t, after all this time, still NEEDS justification.

      • SK

        Of course it needs justification, it’s the right way to make decisions.

        • SategB

          Not if they are after the fact and poorly developed, then, as illustrated in Windows 8 case, it is justification of mistakes amounting to sad rationalization. :(

  • Kazi

    Only problem casual users never use windows servers, so the aboves do not explain metro ui on servers

  • David

    Excuse me Pradeep, but this is from 2012 (maybe even 2011). I saw it on WMPU that year.

  • jon md

    rubbish os..everything is f******g complicated in this rubbish os..windows will go down sooner..

  • http://www.robertwigley.com/ Robert Wigley

    Oh, come on please! This cannot have been written by this guy, if he is who is! It must have been written by someone in PR or marketing. I see this garbage every day and it drives me crazy that clueless idiots are allowed to write about and publish anything even remotely technical without passing it by someone who actually understands it, just because their job role is in communications/marketing/PR!. If I’m wrong, this guy has no place in his job role at Microsoft! Anyone with half a brain should surely be able to tell that any decent software or UI engineer would never spout this crap! And I’m saying this from the point of view that I actually like Metro (typing this on Surface RT) and can see it’s potential, despite it’s sometimes annoying foibles!

    • Martin Horník

      I guess that’s the reason why they replaced him. As a UX designer myself I see a lot of missteps in the UI. But by the way he talks you can tell that he works in the filed. Forcing users to do this and that is a common practice in UX design.

  • Rmf

    He starts well but ends bad…
    He cannot say thinks like, we forced this UI and we will now work for the power user, this is just plain stupid. What he can say was that they shipped an UI not totally though, and that they are now smoothing the edges…

  • sin isfree

    One thing MS forgot that Windows users are not iSheeps. oh well am sure MS will improve it on WP9.

    • LexicoRed

      One hand you speak despairingly about Apple users and then follow with a casual “oh well I’m sure MS will improve it” statement.

      So what your saying is wait long enough, be a blind follower similar to and sooner or later MS will make it better? Talk about SHEEP like behavior!!!!

  • tomakali

    MS should semi-restrict usage of Mouse in W8
    (like the mouse pointer should disappear in windows,desktop and should appear in applications only)
    So that the habbit of touching can increase…

  • http://njnnetwork.com/ Stephen Pate

    An interesting answer but it does not address Windows 8.1 on small screens where even casual users are forced to squint at little teeny weenie buttons, text and screen objects in Desktop mode. They cannot avoid the Desktop since it underpins everything in Windows 8.1. After trying a Dell 8″ Venue and Surface 2, I’ve come to the conclusion that Microsoft must finish Windows 8.1 to make the Desktop unnecessary or use a variant of Windows Phone 8 on small screen tablets. People in Muppet Labs at Microsoft should venture out into the real world of user frustration with Windows 8.1

  • jimski27

    Makes perfect sense to me. Biggest problem is users, even casual users, are resistant to change. So they seek out the comfort zone (desktop) and be one even more confused. Microsoft has to find a way to engage casual users with the Modern screen and associated apps. That’s still the challenge. Btw, for me, touch and kb/mouse work equally as well on the Start screen.

  • http://www.sapien.com Alex Riedel

    That’s a load of you-know-what. How about letting the user decide? Defaulting to the dumbed down modern UI is fine. But give us options. Decide by hardware role as well. You detect touchscreens. Why do I have to suffer through the swipey instructions and the silly start screen when I have no touch screen? Why can’t I go to the start flicker parade in tablet mode but to the desktop when I am docked to a screen and a keyboard/mouse? Why can’t I have the old start menu in docked mode and the start screen undocked?
    Think a little Microsoft. Get some guy with a vision and don’t always cater to the lowest common denominator. You wouldn’t design snowboards exclusively for bunny hill beginners either….