Usability Guru Nielsen Crushes Win8

Jakob Nielsen, usability guru extraordinaire, has published his review of Windows 8 and his conclusion is not good news for the already-plagued new Microsoft operating system offering.

Nielsen, whom I’ve been following since my days as the Web Builder Division Editorial Director at CNET, is one of the top usability experts in the world. I agree with him about 90% of the time, which I suspect means I’m wrong about 10% of the time. He has made a career of this stuff and he conducts very closely observed study groups to reach or confirm findings.

In his study, which I recommend reading in its entirety if your job includes evaluating whether and when to switch your company’s computers to Win8, he reaches the following summary conclusion:

Hidden features, reduced discoverability, cognitive overhead from dual environments, and reduced power from a single-window UI and low information density. Too bad.

While Nielsen believes that the problems with Windows 8 on tablet devices can be fixed with some relatively minor design modifications, and he holds out very little hope for usability on desktop machines. In fact, he says he plans to wait until Windows 9 when Microsoft’s tradition of fixing things after their ship will kick in and perhaps result in a significantly improved user experience with their new operating system.

I was mostly astonished, not here for the first time, that Microsoft reverted to a very ancient single window design for the user interface in Windows. It seems they might want to change the name of the operating system to Window.

All in all, it seems like Microsoft has just done a terrible job on this latest operating system, at least from the perspective of desktop users, and more specifically those users who have invested a lot of time and experience in learning Microsoft Windows.

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