What you need to know
- A former director of user experience at Microsoft recently broke down the Start menu on Windows 11.
- His thread highlighted inconsistencies, confusing elements, and how he was "shocked by the user experience."
- At one point, he said that a banner ad for the Bing Wallpaper app looked like it was caused by a virus.
Microsoft's Windows 11 has received a fair amount of criticism since it was unveiled. The Start menu was the target of many, especially those that liked Windows 7 and Windows 10's versions of Start. Now, a former Microsoft director of user experience has weighed in on the controversial element of the company's new operating system.
Jensen Harris worked at Microsoft from 1998 to 2004. From December 2008 to October 2014, he "led the team responsible for the redesign of the software user experience of Surface and Windows," according to his LinkedIn profile (opens in new tab). Windows 10 was released in July 2015 but was in development while Harris was still at Microsoft.
Harris didn't mince words when discussing the Start menu on Windows 11. He argued that the banner ad for the Bing Wallpaper app looks like it's the result of a virus. He broke down several UI inconsistencies and issues, such as corners being round in some areas and square in others. His focus, however, was on the fact that the Start menu had ads in the first place.
"Is the amount of $ made by this wallpaper app worth cheapening the experience people have in this very high-touch piece of UI?" asked Harris. He highlighted that he "wasn't even searching for 'wallpaper.'"
You can view the entire thread by Harris by clicking on the first tweet below, but we've embedded some of the more damning ones here.
The Start menu is Microsoft's flagship user experience. It should represent the very best UI design the company is capable of.Today I searched for "chrome" in Windows and was shocked by the user experience. pic.twitter.com/GZq386qqzKAugust 29, 2022
Let's start at the top. What is going on with the Web 1.0 Geocities-era banner ad for a "Bing Wallpaper app"?Honestly, it looks like I was infected by a virus.The text is misaligned and it's sitting on top of a Windows Vista-era background.But it gets weirder. pic.twitter.com/XHQHfoBpRXAugust 29, 2022
The bigger issue here though: why are there banner ads in the Start menu?Is the amount of $ made by this wallpaper app worth cheapening the experience people have in this very high-touch piece of UI?It erodes trust—I wasn't even searching for "wallpaper."Which brings me to:August 29, 2022
Design matters. Details matter.Especially in UI as iconic as the Windows Start menu.I remember the team creating a special ligature in the Segoe UI font (used in Windows) to make "S" and "t" align beautifully for the word "Start".That's how important Start was to Microsoft.August 29, 2022
While Harris was critical of many of the design choices seen in Windows 11, he complimented many of the designers. He argued that the inconsistencies and issues were caused by Microsoft prioritizing different things.
"Microsoft has many brilliant designers who care deeply about the work they do—I worked with many who are still there! It just comes down to a question of what you prioritize," said Harris. "User experience needs to be architected with as much intensity as you architect your tech investments."
Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at email@example.com (opens in new tab).
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