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Microsoft User Interface Design Decisions RRS feed

  • Question

  • What methodology does Microsoft use in deciding on what changes should be implemented in future software products?

    I ask this question because with each new Windows or Office release I see user interface changes that require more mouse clicks, menu layers to traverse and generally less efficient to use. Quite simply since being required to migrate to Windows-7 from XP and Office 2003 to 2007 about 18 months ago I find that it is significantly more difficult to accomplish tasks compared to the previous software products. I assume the changes to the user interface are to accommodate the less experienced novice user but what about the person who must use your products for business / professional purposes? I would be completely happy sticking with Win XP and Office 2003 as they did not get in the way of what I was trying to accomplish.

    I miss the old Visio-5 (before Microsoft bought Visio) user interface. It supported numerous softkeys that eliminated the need to traverse through layers of menus for commonly used functions. For example Ctrl-F would bring a selected object to the top (front) layer (a function that I use extremely often). On recent versions of Visio Microsoft has changed Ctrl-F to perform a text search which is something that I rarely do in a graphics editing program. I now have to use more mouse clicks and steps for commonly used functions.

    Microsoft even found a way to mess up something as simple as the calculator tool. In XP you could easily switch between modes (hex, binary, scientific). In the Win-7 calculator you change the display mode. The problem is that I (on a very regular basis) must perform calculations in a series of bases (start out in hex and carry on the calculation with a floating point number). With the Win-7 calculator I have to select the programmer mode when performing calculations with hex numbers. When I need to continue the calculation with a floating point number I must change the display. When changing the display the previous result is lost so I have to write it down beforehand and re-enter it in the new window.

    I could go on and on about the pattern of increased user interface deficiencies with each new product release. I just have to ask if there is any real thought in these decisions or are these changes just being done for the sake of change? I hope that more thought is put into any such future changes. At least in the professional product versions. I don't care about a flashy, happy interface. I just want something that does not get in the way of doing my job. Change is progress but progress is not necessarily change.

    I have given Win-7 and Office-2007 18 months figuring that I just needed to learn the new interface. After this time I still find these products to be inefficient and cumbersome to use.

    I think a great approach to Win-9 would be to simply repackage and relabel WinXP as Win-9 (I am completely serious!).

    Wednesday, May 8, 2013 2:29 PM

All replies

  • It's my understanding that microsoft spend a LOT of money on customer research.

    So whatever methodology it's called, they spend a lot of time considering how everything affects usability and optimising as a result.

    The answer is YES there is a lot of thought spent on decisions.

    It's obviously a matter of taste but personally, I see improvements.

    .

    I used win 7 for some time, I am using win xp right now.  Win 7 is a massive improvement IMO.

    I have 2 development machines in my home office.

    One is win 8 pro, the other win 7 ultimate.

    I prefer win 8 desktop.

    I like the convenient search.  My main programmes are links on whatever the toolbar thingummy is called.  I have that dragged to my second monitor so I have more space on the "main" one. 

    I kind of missed the analogue clock gadget from win 7, I use a wpf clock I wrote as a learning exercise.

    .

    Oh and windows blue is on it's way later this year.

    Win 8.1 or whatever they will call it.

    Rumours are that the start blob is back and maybe you can boot straight to desktop.

    Asuming this is correct then it rather proves MS listen to feedback.

    Majority feedback, that is.

    Thursday, May 9, 2013 11:43 AM
  • Maybe Microsoft does perform customer research but I do not agree that this research is focused on the professional user. It appears that many of the "improvements" are aimed at the less experienced user to help guide them through things. The problem is that all of these "improvements" get in the way. As I said before I have to perform more mouse movements, clicks, traverse more menu layers to get the same work done than what was required in the older products. I do not want a flashy, happy display. I want something that allows me to do what I need , lets me think for myself and does not get in the way. If it were not for the universal use of Office products my company would still be on Unix (and we would be better in the development area for that).

    All I see is change for the sake of change but my opinion doesn't matter since as you imply that I am not in the majority. I would have to question that sentiment however as I see far more negative comments on the web regarding recent Microsoft products than positive.

    Oh, BTW the other day I was working on a large requirements spreadsheet that was corrupted on Window's-7 due to the simple act of hitting "control-s" (a problem that I never had with XP/2003) resulting is a tremendous amount of work being lost. After all attempts to recover the file failed I contacted Microsoft and paid them their $99.00 to recover the file. Their first attempt failed and their second line person failed to contact me in the promised time frame. I was however fortunate enough to talk with a knowledgeable IT person at my company who suggested that I download Open Office and try to open the spreadsheet with their spreadsheet program. Guess what, it worked! It seems that Microsoft should focus more on making a reliable product than their obsession with changing the user interface.

    In the mean time due to the above mentioned experience I must now save all spreadsheets under two separate file names and make sure that I can open one file before closing out Excel. I never had to worry about such problems in the past and go through such cumbersome gyrations to protect my work.

    Wednesday, June 5, 2013 12:12 PM