Is the Windows UI Important?

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It’s kind of funny. The 45 minute long video I recorded ranting about Windows Vista still gets a ton of traffic to this day. Ponzi isn’t too happy with Vista. It makes her feel stupid, according to her. She’s run into quite a few walls, even with SP1. She’s very frustrated, to say the least. She likes the way it looks, though. I’m also kind of “famous” for my Windows Vista feedback post.

I had been asked to give feedback for Beta 2, long before the product was even officially released. I was going through it and couldn’t believe it. Fonts were off. Pixels were all over the map. There was no consistency. I was noting all of this as I went through it. It took such a toll on me, because I felt like I was doing this for literally no reason. I was sure that none of it would get fixed. There were so many bugs with Windows Vista UI, I couldn’t see past it.

Recently, Long Zheng initiated a Call for Action. He’s asking the community to highlight some user interface inconsistencies… you know, things that bug us. Things that he’s complaining about now are the same things that I ranted about back then. Ed Bott even tried to take a small potshot at me. He said that instead of my ‘personal list’, Long is inviting the community to participate. Well, anyone could have posted this same list. Nothing on either list is something new and unique. They are the same grievances that many MANY people are having.

If you care a lot about the Windows User Interface and want to have a say in attempting to help shape the future of Windows, head over to Long’s TaskForce. You can vote on, and leave comments for, different bugaboos with the Windows experience. Here’s the thing, though. When I posted my list, people raked me across the coals. They thought I was nuts for nitpicking seemingly small things. But it was about the big picture. All those little things add up. These are the same things that Long and the community are now up in arms about. I guess my list was just bad timing, since the product wasn’t even out yet.

I see user interface inconsistencies in every operating system. It’s just that with Vista, I was genuinely trying to make it better. That’s the reason I posted it when I did. Some of what I had to say did make it into the product prior to shipment, and for that I (and everyone who uses Vista) am grateful.

I’m a huge UI guy. It’s got to be clean. It’s got to be consistent. It’s got to be usable. I’m a power user. But if the User Interface makes me think… it’s a bad program. Period, end of story.

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33 thoughts on “Is the Windows UI Important?”

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  3. :O Each OS should actually have it’s own official suggestions page, with the format that guy has, not just like a “email a suggestion”, because that stuff never works really.

  4. I love the little things in Vista. I mean yes, there are issues, but I love the hard drive tools, the separate volume controls, the search, how it keeps the power/internet/volume buttons next to the clock, how the start menu stays within itself, icons. I know these are little things, but so are your things. So whatever, just wanted to say this.

  5. First, i agree with phillip: its the smaller things in vista that makes me use it, aswell as the pretty interface

    I like the idea of the list, but most of my problems with vista are allready on there…like that blue edge on the windows

    As far as the actual interface in vista, i have no problems with it. I think its better than XP.
    Granted, im not a power user like you, but on this regard vista is fine for me… :S

  6. A potshot at you, Chris? Maybe if you publish the link so that people can read what I wrote for themselves, they’ll see it was a potshot at Jim Allchin:

    http://www.edbott.com/weblog/?p=1996

    And yes, your list was “purely personal.” So? Your intro began “I spent a few hours with Windows Vista last night, per Jim Allchin’s request to send him feedback about what I discovered in terms of discrepancies and oversights. I took that task seriously, and stayed up late to compile this far-from-comprehensive list. I sent it to him at 1am, and I hope he doesn’t have a filter…”

    First person.

    I differentiated that from Long’s effort, which invited community contribution and is now actually organized in a database format that anyone can contribute to. If you see a “potshot” in that, well, sorry.

    For what it’s worth, I understand Microsoft is taking both lists seriously.

  7. The one thing that has all ways kinda pissed me off is that the power button in start bar not set to shutdown as default so if your like me and for get to change it then you hit the off switch thinking it will shutdown your computer ut then later you find out it has not. It is realy bad if you do this on a laptop and think it shut down and put it ib a bag or backpack then when you get t out its megger hot and could have overheated. It just needs to be set as shutdown as default because im sure lots of Windows 200 & XP users use the button on there computer to shut down

  8. The structure of a user interface is a very important feature to consider in any application, especially for people who are not very tech orientated and/or as flexible with the rapidly changing norms. An especially important part of the interface is its graphical quality, though it should never comprimise the performance of the software.

    Microsoft’s Windows is the favoured operating system for those who have little or no computer experience because the menu structures are simple, networking is fast and games are in an abundance, not to mention the pre-installed software off of the shelf. Though this gives Microsoft a position of monetary and influencial power, it also gives them the responsibility to maintain and improve their user interfaces to suit their target audience, after all, you couldn’t expect a newbie to get any of the Linux Shells striaight away and if a user can’t understand how to use the software, they won’t purchase it..

  9. UI imo is important because more and more its become where people want something that looks good and I feel the same way I enjoy working with a program that looks good and works well, but the problem with a lot of software is that it looks good but doesnt work right or it isnt so user friendly, with Windows Vista they tried to make it look “amazing” by stuffing all this crap into it but not putting time into making sure the actual software worked to its full potential. They half assed Vista and its a bit sad, they made it look nice but function like an old broken down car.

  10. There are some good things in Vista and some bad things. A few of the bad are lack of consensticy and ease of use. I say lack of consensticy because of the i think poorly aranged start menus and other little things. I also say ease of use becuase it does not seem to be designed like xp so people that are used to xp have no clue what they are doing. There is also a good thing and it is close to the only one and it is the look and eye candy. I am running xp in boot camp and i downloaded the crystlexp pack with the vista inspirat 2 theme and I love it.

    Thanks so much and keep up the good work
    Nick Rector or Rectorna in the chat room

  11. personally speaking i like vista but i dont like all its sparkling features. i am for bare bones things and that’s why i tend to disable aero. apart from this i think it is pretty fast and more realiable…the rest is just urban legend. people dont like it because they are lazy and dont want to change, i dont have this issue at all

  12. I like ponzi’s comment with saying that it makes her feel “stupid” and the same goes for me. Im wanting to move to mac and probably in the next year. Good Post chris

  13. I agree with you Chris. If the Software Interface looks like Crap then I won’t be too happy. Thats one of the reason I like Safari for example. I like how the interface looks. Also because it uses OS X’s Aqua interface. I don’y have a Mac Yet. But thats one of the things that I like about OS X. I love the “Aqua” Interface. I think it looks great. For me the Software needs to be good but also a has to look good Period.

  14. I think that Microsoft should open a comment page to tell them what we want to have in the OS.

  15. Just to add fuel for the conversation, I think UI is becoming less and less important as more and more apps are moving to the cloud (google docs, remember the milk, mibbit etc). The browser is becoming more prominent if anything. (That being said I love my Mac and its goodness).

  16. Well of course it is, i mean look at how many people today that uses the Computer, and if there wasnt one i think people would have a hard time getting Threw Windows with out it.

  17. i thing Microsoft should have a suggestions page (that they should actually listen to), and have polls of like topics that come up alot and if alot of people feel it need’s to be changed then they should CHANGE IT.

  18. That’s why I like Gnome in Ubuntu. The programmers who make things for Gnome actually FOLLOW the UI guidelines. Microsoft often doesn’t even follow their own guidelines. It’s sad really. I feel sorry for Windows users. Being subjected to that kind of disregard for their desires is something people shouldn’t have to deal with these days.

    Also I like that I can talk to the people who develop Ubuntu and Gnome. Whenever I talk to a Microsoft support person, I feel like I know more about their product than they do.

    The only real UI consistency problem I have is with Wine, but I only use that to run a couple Windows programs I couldn’t live without. (Including some I wrote.) And it’s only inconsistent because I’m too lazy to install a Gnome theme for it.

  19. Hey chris, I just wanted to say that your videos are awesome and I learned a lot by watching this video. I wanted to know if there is any way to convince my dad to allow me to get a mac. He says that Windows is the way to go but I want to expand my knowledge of both operating systems please help.

  20. Chris, you’re a cool guy. Personally I do think all the little things in vista make it special.

  21. I don’t care what a GUI looks like, just as long it’s. stable (knowing Microsoft, they don’t care about stability)

  22. For me, I do rather like the new features with Vista. Although I am not a fan of how it came out and it is far from perfect. But it is very dependent on the computer, and if it works out just fine, than great.

    I am still a fan of XP and will be one for some time. I do realize at one point I will be moving to Vista, and hopefully there will be enough tools and things added that it will work just fine.

  23. It seems to be unanimous, there are some good and bad things about Vista. I, personally, like the utilities and the Aero User Interface (except for the fact that the fonts are off, apparently). But the inconsistencies between XP and Vista that were supposed to help people work faster actually hindered my personal performance, like the way the Start Menu is rearranged. I’ve been going to that “Programs” element in the Start Menu since the days of Windows 95, and now that they changed it, in my mind, I have to think, “Oh yeah, this is right here now.” Not good as Chris mentioned. Also, another thing I had to get used to was the absence of the Run Command. I spent minutes searching for the Run Command before remembering “Oh yeah, I have to type my command in the search bar”. I never would’ve dreamed about typing a command into a search bar. Another poor design element of Vista.

  24. i like xp’s gui better for production but i like the look of vista i agree with ponsi though it makes me feel inferior as i am soo used to windows xp and vista is really changed up

  25. The UI is extremely important, and it is the little things that make the difference between a great UI and an annoying one. Stability, usability and looks are important, but Windows developers seem to forgot the importance of consistency, especially between different tools, and programs. With that said, I switched to Mac a few months back, this being one of the reasons.

  26. Yes, UI is very important! Vista has a horrible UI (IMO)

    Some of my rules for UI are:
    -Never use black or other [very] dark colors (Unless the theme of the UI is darkness)
    -Don’t make it too flashy, but make it still look nice. (Like Leopard)
    -Never make anything complicated or exceedingly small.
    ——
    Darn! It seems like Vista breaks all of my rules 🙁
    ——
    You should get Ponzi to use Leopard. There is no reason why she shouldn’t try it 🙂
    ——
    Also, Vista’s “Aero” interface is pushing it on the complicated, flashy, hideous, CPU GPU and memory hogging side. Keeeep it simple, nice, and not so darn distracting! Take Leopard for example. I’d say Leopard is filled with eye candy, but it’s not distracting or complicated.

  27. …it’s all about $$$. That’s why they are already “claiming” about windows 7. They know vista is a screwup… But as long as they make users “think” they are getting something better it will sell. THAT”S ALL IT MATTERS.

    BTW.. IF they ever read any of the forums about windows they don’t even need a their own feedback. Obviously it never includes the people that know how to make post on the Internet and complain about the issues in the first place.

    BTW..M$ is using Longs as a marketing tactic. If you ever used Vista… it does NOT take 2 YEARS to realize how annoying it’s UI is?

  28. Why does this guy always brag and rave about how ms should have listened to him. I bet ms is like “who the hell is this chris pirillo dude and why the hell do we care about him?”. He’s not exactly the biggest name in the tech industry or anything. Yeah, he may have some good points but why does he have to act like he is gods gift to ms like holly crap.

  29. I’m a bit ashamed to be posting on this since I have never taken the leap to Vista as XP does the trick at the moment, but my past experiences have been similar with various os and apps. The developers might listen to the feedback that they initially asked for but the changes don’t actually come out fully fixed until the next version of the os/app and by that time they have added more stuff the counteracts the good they have done by fixing the initial bugs. This is an area that will always be plagued with bugs and users that are never 100% happy, that’s the nature of the beast. It will be a cold day in hell when the vendors release and os that is met with 100% approval from all its users.

  30. I really want to keep Vista installed on my new laptop. I have switched to Windows XP Professional with SP2 a while back, but I have switched back to Vista Home Premium. I prefer to keep Vista because of the Windows Sidebar (better than Google Sidebar for example), the UI/Aero theme (isn’t perfect on WindowBlinds), the new features, and of course SECURITY! I keep wanting to switch to XP again for some gaming problems, but still I might need DirectX 10.

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