Jakob Nielsen: Disappointing usability for new and power users in Windows 8

Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D. and User Advocate and principal of the Nielsen Norman Group (www.nngroup.com), has spoken out about usability concerns in Windows 8. Nielsen goes into great detail about aspects of Microsoft's latest desktop operating system and how features just don't make sense to new and established power users.

Now we're not ones to quickly jump on the wagon to attack Microsoft's products, but criticism is due when it's required. Windows 8 is a mess to some consumers, with many believing it to be more difficult to use than Windows 7. Nielsen's article summary sums up his thoughts in few words:

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

It's not all negative, though. There are praises for the innovations Microsoft has made and how the elements highlighted in his article could work. But the current implementation and restrictions that Windows 8 forces on those who are used to Windows 7 and prior versions of the desktop OS is an issue that's worth highlighting.

Windows 8 Upgrade

We'll not reiterate exactly what Nielsen wrote as his blog post is definitely worth reading in its entirety if you're experiencing similar issues with Windows 8, but this is a list of topics he covered in the write up:

  • Double Desktop = Cognitive Overhead and Added Memory Load
  • Lack of Multiple Windows = Memory Overload for Complex Tasks
  • Flat Style Reduces Discoverability
  • Low Information Density
  • Overly Live Tiles Backfire
  • Charms Are Hidden Generic Commands
  • Error-Prone Gestures
  • Windows 8 UX: Weak on Tablets, Terrible for PCs

Whether your thoughts be on either side of the fence, Nielsen's thoughts on the user experience in Windows 8 are well worth checking out. Such issues have been brought up previously through the few previews Microsoft released to the public for testing before Windows 8 launched.

The question has to be: why hasn't Microsoft already acted to at least help flatten the learning curve for new users? Do you agree with Jakob Nielsen's points?

Source: Useit

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.