Whither the Start Button?
Remember 1995? I sure do...I was the proud owner of my first PC - a 486 DX40 from a now defunct PC manufacturer named Cybermax. And, while I was happy doing my CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT thing with MS DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.1, I couldn't WAIT for the HOT NEXT THING that Microsoft was about to deliver - Windows 95. And when it arrived...whoa, Nellie! They dropped it on us with the Rolling Stones caterwauling, "Start Me Up", while (if memory serves) some of the "Friends" cast yapped away at press events about how great it was. And personally, I would buy just about ANYTHING Jennifer Aniston endorsed... Anyway, despite all of the smoke and noise, it was a pretty revolutionary product...especially for this little gem:
Anyway - the Start button established the cornerstone of Microsoft's user interface in 1995, and continued to be a shining beacon in the night through the highs (Windows XP) and the lows (Windows ME). No matter how whacked out your Desktop may have become, you could always rely on the Start button to point you in the right direction.
And, after 17 years of engraining the psychology of the Start button's use into end user behavior, Microsoft has decided to squash it with Windows 8. Think about that for a second...SEVENTEEN YEARS of learned end user behavior has been powerwashed away for the want of an interface that, according to the Redmond gang, is, "...modern and about content."
Too bad none of the "Purveyors of Metro" will be manning the Tier One support phones when Windows 8 finally lands on corporate users' desktops - I would LOVE to see them play a game where they all have to take a shot of cheap tequila every time a flustered end user calls in and asks, "Why can't I just have the Start button back?" I'd give them fifteen minutes before they'd all be too drunk to speak.
"That's Metro? I Thought Somebody Sneezed on the Screen With a Mouthful of Skittles!"
Nevermind the idea that Metro's flattened tiled delivery looks like something the Nickelodeon channel would create to gently introduce children to the, "...scary, scary computer." Or, forget the possibility the interface is perfect for a "newfangled computer machine" that could be advertised on the CBS Evening News in between commercials for Seabond Denture Creme and Wilford Brimley droning on about how less expensive it is to get your Diabetes supplies delivered at home.
The interface violates an even more fundamental commandment that I bet drives every good interface designer nuts - there is NO consistency in how the tiles are sized on the screen as they are presented to the user. Some tiles are gargantuan. Some tiles are small. Some tiles are middle sized. How did they get to be that way? By importance? By frequency of use? Because they were told to be that way by Simon Cowell? Who knows - I only spent a few hours with my Windows 8 Virtual Machine before I got too frustrated and threw everything in the trash.
To explain what I mean when I bash the awfulness of Metro's tile design, let's have some fun with other things we routinely use where we expect a certain level of interface consistency:
Sorry Microsoft, there was a time when I eagerly anticipated your releases - they represented the cutting edge of what was possible with the PC. But, with Windows 8's release and its Metro bit of nonsense, I have only one piece of feedback to offer the folks in Redmond:
Back to the drawing board.