Spot the flaws in the Windows 7 UI

I’ve been playing around with the Windows 7 beta for a couple of days now, and it feels painful! Regardless of what Leo Laporte says, it is very much a beta. And even the recent beta releases of Ubuntu are better than this. Below you can see a screenshot in which I tried to exemplify as many bugs as possible:

Now here is my buglist (including things that are not visible from the picture):

  • The initial “one icon to represent everything” (running programs and programs which might be run) was confusing to me, so I tried to revert to a more classic method – however, as you can see from the picture, it is very confusing still: it seems to try to respect the original order or the icons, sticking IE and Explorer to the left and Media player (which is not started) in the middle. The uneven spacing is very confusing.
  • Also, the new design manages to actually show less info at once and overflows very quickly.
  • For applications which have a single window, the popup that should help you select between the windows is blank (you can see the dark-gray rectangle in the screenshot – it was generated by hovering over the Metasploit button)
  • Hiding the notification area has two issues: first, it makes it harder to access icons which you do want to keep an eye on. Second, it will almost certainly be “hacked” by application vendors to make their icon always visible (this can be achieved currently by going to the “Customize…” option, so you can do the same programatically), thus negating any benefit.
  • The explorer doesn’t have a “one level up” button any more, just a back button. Given that most of the windows are based on Explorer, or at least use the same metaphore, this is very annoying. For example, when configuring IIS, there is a discrepancy between the folders you see on the left (and the “address” shown) and your actual position. To put it an other way: there are situations where there is no way to go “one step back”.
  • IE8 beta offers to download IE8 RC1, but on the page it takes me to there is no link for Windows 7!
  • After searching for something from the search box and clicking on a link from the result page, the search box is filled with the URL!

I have a theory (based on personal observations) about Microsoft shooting themselves in the foot (even though I’m not saying that it is a bad thing) with the recent UI changes (beginning with the Office 2007 ribbon): these UI might make it easier for first-time users, however it forces you to throw away all the things you have in “muscle memory”. This is annoying for power users (every time I have to use Office 2007 I have violent reactions) but it is outright catastrophic for less computer-savvy people who’ve learned “dances” like “go to the third menu and click the fifth element”. An other contributing factor (which might be specific to non-English speaking countries) is the large number of English Windows/MS Office installations combined with the fact that most people don’t speak English, so these types of memorizations are their only solutions. All of these people are left out in the cold with these UI changes. Most people (from my experience) don’t learn by reading a book or a help file, they learn from other people. But with the latest release MS nullified all the expertise in the domain, making this kind of “folklore” almost impossible.

Update: here are two “bonus” videos – one displaying a Mac OS X UI to the text of a Windows 7 presentation, and the second one convincing people that KDE is new Windows 7. I got the second link from Jupiter Broadcasting.

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