The Windows 8 user experience is, by its very nature, a rather polarizing experience because it honestly depends on the platform on which it is being used. With that in mind, in order to accurately describe this UX, we’ve no choice but to look at this as two miniature reviews,: one for PC user experience and one for mobile/tablet experience.
The Windows 7 phone system looked neat, but was kind of awful and confusing, reinforcing Apple’s awkward wall of icons as a preferable system for handhelds. However, Windows 8 is a different animal, as far as mobile computing is concerned. It retains the “metro” interface that Windows 7 phone introduced, but in a much more orderly fashion that actually makes sense to the eye. Removing the desktop and taskbar functions of traditional windows, which admittedly has never been very productive on mobile or tablet devices, it takes a more streamlined approach. It borrows heavily from Android with side panels, tap and swipe commands and page-styled window cascading, rather than a traditional desktop environment. The scalar nature of this GUI style, along with the page-oriented layout, reduces clutter and makes it crisper and cleaner for smaller screens and devices with limited options for input peripherals. It’s fast, attractive, and it makes sense on these devices; far more sense than Windows pocket distributions did or Apple iOS. For mobile, Microsoft has it figured out, it would seem.
However, it is difficult to say what was going through the minds of the Microsoft UX professionals when they decided to release this same system for PCs and laptops. This is where the Windows 8 user experience goes to pot, and rapidly. Recall earlier, we mentioned that the desktop and traditional window display methodologies are mostly abandoned in favor of page-style interfaces, side bars, and the full screen “metro” taskbar. These are terrific for mobile devices and tablets, but are terrible on a PC. Having to switch between application in a mobile style from an office, studio or home computer requires moving the mouse around far more, clicking twice the amount of buttons, and wasting tons of screen real estate in the process. It is possible to get a classic desktop, but this is done by a virtual app with an emulation layer that does not properly work. There are allegedly classic shell frontends which can be installed in Windows 8, but these systems are known to be buggy and not supported by Microsoft’s CRM whatsoever. As a result, using Windows 8 on a desktop is like trying to run Android or iOS on it – a cluttered, illogical mess not designed for the mouse and keyboard interface the devices use. Most offices have instantly uninstalled 8 in favor of returning to 7 due to loss of productivity. Home users have done the same. This is not a PC operating system and Microsoft is making their greatest mistake yet in trying to convince people otherwise.