Tag Archives: ui

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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Who Needs Windows Vista?

The idea of a breadcrumb bar in the Windows Explorer is fantastic – it’s one of my favorite features of Windows Vista. It’s not “killer,” but it’s certainly useful – and it’s also available for Windows XP through the free Explorer Breadcrumbs extension. That’s one less reason to upgrade to Windows Vista when it goes gold in a few weeks. I installed the Vista RC1 refresh yesterday and discovered only incremental improvements. I’m having sushi with Dave Vronray in the near future – where I’ll be able to point out thousands of Vista UI oversights (in person).

Windows Vista RC1: a Piece of Sith

The last thing I wanted to do upon returning from Alaska was rip Windows Vista “Ultimate” a new one. I also don’t want to go through my list of Vista UI nitpicks, as several of them still have not been addressed – and likely never will be. Even after installing RC1, I find myself feeling like I did after I first saw Star Wars: A Phantom Menace. For whatever it’s worth, I left the theater disappointed and dejected.

Sadly, the first release candidate for Windows Vista feels more like an alpha to me (or early beta, at best). I’m not talking about performance issues, which will most likely be improved upon before this OS goes gold. No, it’s all about a cohesive user experience / user interface for me. Vista fails on most UI fronts. It doesn’t look or behave similarly across any part of the operating system. Even more sad? That’s by design, folks.

I never thought I’d say this, but… we’ve finally seen the day when KDE / Gnome look, work, and feel “better” than Windows. Vista is schizophrenic, and that disorder has been further enabled by the range of vigilante software development teams who are providing code to the core without cross-checking with other teams for UI consistency. Unless Microsoft is sitting on major detail revisions, I’m afraid they’re sitting atop a “Phantom Menace.”

If OS X had a decent desktop PIM, I think Vista would push me to switch. As far as the inconsistency of Apple’s UI is concerned, that’s already been UNOfied. There’s no such app for Windows Vista, and I’m not holding my breath for Stardock to produce anything I want to use for longer than 3 minutes at a time (sorry, but 99% of Windowblinds skins are bloated and inelegant).

Outlook Evolution

Evolution finally runs on Windows! Looks like they released something a few months ago, although it just hit my radar this afternoon (in an email from Matt Hartley). “Evolution is an incredibly versatile email / calendar / PIM that took the Linux world by storm a few years ago.” I’m excited that there’s been some movement forward on this project, but I’m disappointed that Evolution for Win32 sports a nasty-ass UI. Of course, if Linux developers are trying to be more like Microsoft by making inconsistent and aesthetically-challenged interfaces, they’re succeeding. Here’s to hoping that Outlook 2007 won’t suck as much.

Robert and Robert: Duh!

McLaws says Vista Needs More Time and Scoble says McLaws is right on Windows Vista ship date. Pirillo has been saying this for several months now, and has been labeled a “nitpicking whiner” for his attacks on Windows Vista’s UI and UX. Welcome to the club, boys – I’m happy to no longer be standing out here alone. I’m singing the “I Told You So” song today, which sounds a lot like the Blackeyed Peas hit: “My Humps.” Microsoft Windows is bleeding influencers like never before. And now, further commentary from the memetic echo chamber:

Windows Vista will not be a failure on the scale of Windows ME – but it’s certainly looking to be one of those “Growing Pains” releases that Microsoft must bounce back quickly from. And by quickly, I mean: Microsoft must issue a significant upgrade of the OS within a year’s time. Security is important, but future service packs best be laden with performance increases and feature refinements. I tried telling y’all long before the McLaws admission – VIsta just ain’t comin’ together.

George is getting very upset!

Windows Vista: Lipstick on a Pig

I wish I was making this up – I really do. I also wish that someone at Microsoft would wake up to the fact that the user experience in Windows Vista is 10x worse than it was in Windows XP (if only because they couldn’t get developers to adhere to XP guidelines, and now Vista apps look even more Frankenstined). I wish Microsoft would hire somebody to look at this stuff before it ships – and do something about the problems before the world has to deal with them.

I wish users didn’t have to put up with this level of sloppiness from a multi-billion dollar company. I wish I didn’t have to play the “bad guy” and point out that Classic Mode is still the only way to experience a clean, consistent Windows environment. I wish more people would look past Vista’s translucent veneer to see that it’s nothing more than lipstick on a pig. I wish people would see that I care more about this product than most Windows users do. I wish geeks cared more about UI… so that I wouldn’t feel like such a sore thumb here. Thanks to Brandon for posting this – and thanks to Ryan for pointing out that Windows 3.1 is still alive and well in Windows Vista (screenshot).

User Interface

Dinner with Lili Cheng and her band of Merry Men (and Women) indicated that there were still a few more Vista UI fixes coming down the pike in pending releases. I’ve been reporting and recording as much as humanly possible, but until Microsoft officially assigns Lili as the Goddess of ‘All Things UI’… we’re screwed. Guess what else is probably not going to be fixed in Vista? Errant ToolTips. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy – but this is an oversight that will likely slippy, slippy, slippy.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but Lili’s team needs to be given the final say on whether (or not) an app is ready for core inclusion BEFORE it’s included. As of right now, there’s no UI accountability; any team can submit any code they want at any time – with nobody signing off on UI. Since this isn’t handed down from on-high (where I believe Lili sits anyway, but not with a true ability to clean these problems before the world sees them), we’re left with the classic Microsoft “it works, therefore it’s good enough” mentality. The inmates, indeed, are running the asylum.

…and I get labeled a “nitpicker” for pointing out ways that Windows Vista can look better? Give me a break. It’s obvious that some of Microsoft’s developers aren’t designers – painfully so. The only people who have the right to call me a “nitpicker” are those responsible for user interface and user experience. IMHO, Jim Allchin’s legacy isn’t necessarily Windows Vista – it’s the power he hands to people like Lili moving forward [a thought that is equally shared with Ed Bott].

“User Interface” isn’t just about software design – it’s the communications gateway between a company and its most vocal supporters.