Sep 1, 2011

Microsoft’s “Accidental” Leak is a Buzz-Kill

The biggest buzz in the tech world is that Microsoft “accidentally” exposed the new Windows 8 file Explorer. In the post, that appeared on August 29th on Microsoft’s MSDN.COM blog for developers, screen shots of the new Explorer graphic user interface (GUI) and descriptions were revealed to further whet consumers’ appetite for the upcoming Windows 8.

Microsoft stress that “Windows 8 is an opportunity to substantially improve the (user) experience for everyone”, claiming that “Customers have a lot of suggestions for how they’d like to see Explorer evolve”.

It’s difficult, sometimes even unrealistic to design products according to the outcome of focus groups. As pioneering car manufacturer, Henry Ford, once said: “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse’”. Most users don’t even fulfill half the potential of sophisticated products, such as Windows OS, either because they don’t know how to, they don’t need to, or they’re not aware of the products full potential.

In a study of the telemetry gathered, out of over 200 commands available in Explorer, 81.8% of users only rely on what Microsoft defines as the “Top 10 Commands” (Paste, Properties, Copy, Delete, Rename, Refresh, Cut, New Menu, Command Bar, New). The post assures us that 84% of the commands commonly used, will appear in Windows 8 Explorer on the new office-like ribbon. While I’ll admit, the ribbon has proven successful in MS Office, it was very confusing at first. The reason that it was very confusing, and later successful, was that as Office users, we relied mostly on the command bar to access commands. However, according to Microsoft’s telemetry, only 10.9% of Explorer users rely on the command bar, the most visible GUI element, to invoke commands.

Win8-Explorer Ribbon

With 54.5% of users relying on context menus (right-click), and 32.2% using keyboard shortcuts or hotkeys, I am at a loss as to why Microsoft would want place the top 10 commands on a ribbon. Furthermore, how could they claim that this will improve the Explorer experience for most users?

If most users rely on context menus, why aren’t Win 8 developers focusing more on this option?
Would it not better to develop a 10-icon disk (even semi-transparent) that could appear/expand to the side of a selected file? I believe that you could further expand this form of UI when touchpads finally outmode the mouse and keyboard.

Many of us have been looking forward to the unveiling of more Windows 8 features at the upcoming Microsoft Build conference in Anaheim, on September 13th. Like many, I was under the impression that the new GUI would resemble the so-called “Metro” UI. If the new Explorer GUI will revert to that of Office, I don’t feel that there’s all that much to look forward to. Perhaps with the exception that Windows 8 will support ARM. But like most loyal Windows users, I can’t afford to be anything but optimistic. I also like surprises.

Click here to read more about Windows 8 Explorer GUI.

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