I dunno about you, but I have some issues with the Windows Vista GUI (at least as it currently stands in the December 2005 CTP (Build 5270) anyway).
I mean, it’s all very well and all if Microsoft is trying to streamline the GUI to make it all pretty, but I have to say, they sometimes do over simplify things and let aesthetics get in the way of functionality.
Take for example the Start Menu:
You would have noticed MS have gotten rid of all the icons on the right-hand slide of the Start Menu. This might be pretty in terms of aesthetics, but it definitely impacts usability – where we can’t easily find the item we need on the right pane of the Start Menu.
It is obvious why this impacts usability – we humans usually recognize pictorial representation of an object (such as a Start Menu item) much more easily than searching for the text. Alright, I know MS sort of realized there’s a problem with this "text based" design and have implemented a live icon (link) at the top of the Start Menu where it changes according to what selection is highlighted – but I mean, come-on, that’s a really bad way of trying to make it more usable; it would be really awkward to get the user to look at the icon (up top) while changing selection with their mouse at the other end (bottom) of the Start Menu, or vice versa.
Also, not only that, it seems like when you hover your mouse over "All Programs" in Vista, the list of program appears within the left pane of the Start Menu (link – ignore the red circle) – Just another item to add to the learning curve of "changing our ways of work to how Microsoft wants us to work"… Obviously, this is never a good thing when the old method works (at least for me anyway…)
Just to illustrate the difference between Vista and XP, here are 2 pictures of my start menu:
As you can see, finding the correct object is simply a matter of finding the right icon and clicking on it. Also, in the XP Start Menu, all we had to re-learn was to hover your mouse over the "All Programs" item and you’ll be presented with the familiar layout of the Start Menu we have been used to since Windows 95.
However, I do think the "Quick Search" feature in the Vista Start Menu is a convenient way to get to programs for users who don’t spend the time to organize their Start Menu or assign hotkeys to applications.
Another problem I can see with the GUI of Vista (at least in terms of usability) is the fact that the Minimize, Maximize, Close buttons on the top right corner of a window only takes up half the title-bar. Take the following screenshot for example:
This kind of design decision would create stress points for users where they would have to be very precise in using their mouse in order to position their mouse button in the correct area. Perhaps it’s time to start learning the keyboard shortcut that Alt + F4 can close a window…
(For those of you who have spotted something strange about that picture – yes, I know that picture is not from build 5270, but the overall design haven’t changed that much!)
However, despite those GUI deficiencies, Vista still looks the part (both visually and its underlying technologies) and I really do hope those problems can be addressed before the final build.
Anyway, for any MS engineer that might be reading this (yeah right… that’s likely…) here is something that should be implemented into Vista to make users’ learning curve shallower:
• Have an old "pre-vista" mode where all the altered GUI elements layout can be restored back to the pre-Vista era (but keeping the eye candy!). – by that, I meant keeping things like the XP Start Menu, having larger "window control" buttons (the Minimize, Maximize and Close buttons) etc…
What do you think? Should Microsoft do more to ensure Windows Vista is kept as user-friendly as possible?