Thursday, April 30, 2009

Windows 7: User Experience Design Rationale

There is a lot of buzz about how Microsoft is getting a lot of things right with Windows 7. I haven't experienced it yet, but I recently read the rationale behind some of its new features. Here are some of them:

Feature: You decide the left-to-right order of icons in the task bar at the bottom of your screen.
Back story: Microsoft’s research showed Vista users commonly launching a series of programs, then closing and immediately reopening some. Microsoft realized that these people wanted their programs to appear in the same order on the task bar every time.

Feature: Right-click on a task bar icon and get a “jump list,” a menu of important or frequently used options for the program.
Back story: Microsoft had resisted the idea of hiding a key feature behind a right-click, worried people wouldn’t find it. But the data showed most people right-click on icons to see what that might do.

Feature: Drag one open window to the left side of the screen, then another to the right side to line them up so they are the same size and side by side.
Back story: Microsoft couldn’t initially figure out why people were spending so much time re-sizing windows and dragging them around. It turned out that users were trying to give themselves a side-by-side view of documents for easy comparison.

Feature: Libraries, or virtual folders that have shortcuts to files that are actually stored in many different places on a hard drive or home network.
Back story: From its Vista data, Microsoft could see people’s photos, music and other files were swelling in number and stashed all over the place, not organized into the dedicated folders Microsoft had set up.

Feature: “Shake” an open window with your mouse to make all the other ones “minimize” into the task bar.
Back story: Microsoft’s research showed that people often had six or even 10 windows open at once, which gets distracting. “Shake” is one of several features designed to help people tame all the open windows.

Feature: Move your mouse to the bottom-right corner to make all your windows temporarily transparent. Then click the mouse, and all the windows minimize.
Back story: What’s notable here is what Microsoft didn’t do. There’s no tutorial or bubble advertising the feature, a small step toward making Windows 7 quieter than Vista. “We want people to confidently explore the system,” said Sam Moreau, a user-experience manager.

It's also interesting to note how Microsoft is "selling" Windows 7 on their official sitelet:

Over the past few years, you've asked us to make some changes to Windows. We
listened closely. Now it's time to share an early look at how we've used your
feedback. Windows 7 is faster, more reliable, and makes it easier to do what you want. Both the everyday things and the killer "is that really possible?" things. Dig into this site to see what's coming.

Visit: Official Windows 7 Website


lifenotdeath said...

Here I am a year later commenting on this post! But I liked it and it is a good intro to the Windows 7 stuff I'm looking into now. Thanks. Also interesting to read the "MS was surprised..." or "MS couldn't figure out why..." I think if you substituted "software experts" for "MS" you'd be onto something.

Michael Grossman said...

Switching "Microsoft" with "Software Experts" or "User Experience Professionals" does change the context greatly. Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

Windows 7 is a horrific mess.