Lessons for IT From Windows 8/Metro

What went wrong? The answer could keep your IT team from a similar design fiasco.

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Mon, January 13, 2014

Computerworld — Windows 8: worse than Vista. Most people I talk to say so, the numbers back them up, and now it could be that even Microsoft sees the truth. So why did Windows 8 and the Interface Formerly Known As Metro fail? It's a good question, especially since the answer could keep you and your own development team from a similar design fiasco.

Rumors are flying that Microsoft is going to do a lot more than just bring back the Start button in the next Windows version. A lot of smart people are saying that it will abandon its Metro interface on laptops and desktops. It took long enough.

The facts are simple. Nobody wanted Windows 8 in 2012. Nobody wanted it in 2013. Even Microsoft should know that no one will want it in 2014.

Look at the numbers: In November, Windows 8.x finally went over the 10% usage mark for all Windows PCs, according to Net Applications. Huzzah? Hardly. That puts it behind even the dreadful Vista in its rate of market adoption.

Where did Microsoft go wrong? A lot of people, including me, found "Metro" appalling from the start. Start? Yes, that reminds me of one big problem: A lot of people have spent money on a third party's Start button replacement. Not just people, actually. PC vendors like Lenovo, too.

What's so awful about Metro? Well, it's ugly as sin, requires you to learn all new ways to do your same old work and actively gets in the way of workflow. What more need be said? Actually, a lot more, and Mark Wilson, a writer at Fast Company's Co.Design, says a lot of it. And he's a fan.

He's a fan of the design, anyway. He writes, "First and foremost, it's just a beautiful interface, balancing color, typography, and photography."

That's nice. But Wilson admits that he doesn't actually use Windows 8. He uses a Mac.

Where Microsoft went wrong, Wilson says, is that it set out to solve the problem of different devices (PCs, phones, tablets) having different interfaces. But outside of design circles, that's not a problem anyone cared about. As Wilson puts it, "The consumer design problem is, 'How do I make this device as intuitive as possible?' or 'How can I streamline the process of getting someone the file he wants?' People care about speed, efficiency, clarity, and delight. But a phone interface matching a laptop interface is about as important as socks matching underwear. It's nice, but on most days, probably the last priority on your mind."

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Originally published on www.computerworld.com. Click here to read the original story.
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