Why Windows 8 Aims to Provide Simplicity to Its Users

This is a Guest Post by Shannen Doherty. If you want to Guest Post on this site then please read our Guest Post Guidelines.

You won’t be surprised to learn that Microsoft is claiming its latest output, Windows 8, will aim for greater simplicity. Every Microsoft launch apparently aims for greater simplicity – though sometimes it’s not wholly apparent where the basic differences lie between the newest version and the one that came before it.

This time around, though, there are clear reasons for the upgrade. The landscape of technology has changed immeasurably in the last few years, turning even non techie people into pretty savvy users of multiple applications – which has spawned a whole generation of intuitive interface designs, popularise by devices like the iPod and iPhone and slipped into mainstream product design as a way of keeping up with competition.

So what is the new Windows going to look like? Its basic remit is to provide simplicity and ease of use, making non techie users feel empowered without taking away the more in depth functionality that so called “power users” get to play with. In other words: the Windows 8 interface is to look simple, appealing and easy to navigate, while extra functions are easily accessed by users who want to retain their tech control at a higher level.

There are no longer any extra tabs or confusing prompts tied in with the Windows 8 interface. Instead, the user looks at a list of applications on the task manager, clicks End Task if he or she wants the program to finish running, and off it goes. No more of that annoying Windows habit – the “are you sure you want to stop doing this?” pop up, which has probably caused more howls of frustration in offices up and down the country than any other piece of computer script!

Microsoft has been studying user habits on the task manager throughout its launch of Windows 7. The data it retrieved suggested that a massive percentage (85 per cent to be exact!) of users only ever use the applications and processes tabs. This is thought to be because most people use task manager simply to knock out a recalcitrant program that has stopped responding and won’t go away – a sort of manual override preferable to holding down the power button and forcing a shutdown.

Unsurprisingly, the momentum for the new interface design – a simple list of running applications, with a note appended where an application has stopped responding – has been hijacked from the Apple OS X, which offers a very similar look and feel for users who want to shut a process or a program down. The user who wants more information can still find it – he or she simply has to press the “more details” button when a process is highlighted to get deeper information about what is going on.

The detail view is pretty snazzy too. Intuitively set up to group operations into categories, the more details tab also has a heat map that shows you how much of your CPU is being battered by any one task – the darker the colour of the task, the more resource it is using.

Process names have also been included for the first time, so you can easily decipher what every process is doing. Rather than strings of letters and numbers for deeply hidden processes like drivers, Windows 8 will list a lay person’s term instead of its real name. So splwow64.exe will be revealed to you for the first time ever in its true guise – as the printer driver host for applications in question!

All in all, the new task manager looks nicer than the old one. It’s less daunting at first, with its simplified single panel and straightforward list of running processes. And even the detail view looks much more understandable than the old tabs did. With cascading layers of functionality, starting on the simplified “front page” with just an end task button, and finishing with the detail view’s nested categories and ability to research information on the web for any problematic application, Microsoft has managed to keep its old user-empowerment selling point, while at the same time leaning a bit more towards the block simplicity of a Mac product.

About the author:

The above article is composed and edited by Shannen Doherty. She is a technical content writer. She is associated with many technology and designing communities including www.broadband-expert.co.uk as their freelance writer and adviser.




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2 Responses to Why Windows 8 Aims to Provide Simplicity to Its Users

  1. Kevin Costain March 2, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    It’s an interesting perspective to consider this release of Windows as “User Empowerment” with simplicity. It will remain to be seen if this risk Microsoft takes in UI design pays off, but the new interface does warrant some discussion. I wrote more about it on my own blog here:

    http://blog.cwl.cc/2012/03/windows-8-metro-leap-forward-or-leap.html

    Thanks for the post!

  2. fzz March 7, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

    Simplicity has a few meanings. One would be acknowledging most users established habits. Metro will have the primary place, but why eliminate the start button from the desktop? Simplicity? If simplicity means starting in the desktop, switching to Metro to launch another desktop program which brings you back to the desktop, that’s simplicity in a doublespeak sense.

    Next consider workplace computing. Statistical analysts or architects use software with is unavoidably, intrinsically complicated. Statisticians need access to hundreds of functions and procedures. Architects need CAD software. Both stats and CAD packages cram a lot of information into available screen space. It’s not obvious Metro UI aesthetics would provide any benefits for such software.

    With respect to simpler software like web browsers, tabbed browsing was the innovative feature which launched Firefox and began the erosion of Internet Explorer. Windows users will welcome abandoning tabbed browsing in Metro? [Yes, I realize tabs may be exposed, but bookmarks/urls could be exposed in bookmark/history menus rather than tabs. Users had a choice, and they chose always visible tabs.]

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