Clickity Click – The Microsoft Dilemma
Once upon a time, the mouse didn’t exist. So, the keyboard drove the interface. Later, Xerox came along and changed all of that (with the help of Steve Jobs and Apple). Of course, as it always does, Microsoft absconded with the mouse functionality and built that into Windows… not that there was really much choice with this decision.
We flash a decade forward or so and we’re at Windows XP. A reasonably streamlined Windows operating system from Microsoft. In fact, this is probably and arguably the most streamlined that Microsoft’s Windows has ever been (and will likely ever be). Granted, security was a bit weak, but the user interface experience was about as good as it can get. With only a few clicks you could get to just about anything you needed.
Flash forward nearly another decade to see the release of the dog that was Windows Vista. Actually, Windows Vista’s look was not too bad. But, that’s pretty much where it ends. Microsoft must not have done much usability testing with Vista because what used to take one or two clicks of the mouse now adds 1-3 extra clicks. The reason, Microsoft has decided to open useless windows as launchpads to get to underlying components. Added layers that are pointless and unnecessary. For example, you used to be able to right click ‘My Network Places’, release on properties and get right to the lan adapters to set them up. No more. Now this same properties panel opens a launchpad interface that requires clicking ‘Change Adapter Settings’ just to get the adapters. Pointless. Why was this added layer necessary? And this is the best of the worst.
More than this, though, is that sometimes the labeling of the links to get to the underlying components is obscure or misleading. So, you’re not really sure what link to click to get to the thing you need. That means you end up clicking several things just to find the thing you need. Yes, you can use the help to find things, but that then means opening even more windows and clicking through even more time wasting events just to locate something that should have been one-click anyway.
Server Operating Systems
This issue is not limited to the desktop OS world. In the server world, such as Windows 2008 R2, these launch pads are now excessive and in-your-face. For example, when you first install Windows 2008 R2, two of these panels open as the first thing after you log in. So now, I’m already starting out having to click closed two windows that I didn’t even need to see at that point just so I can get to the desktop. Likely, if you’re installing a server operating system, you’re planning on hooking it into a domain controller. So, setting up anything on the local administrative user is pointless. That means I have to close out of these useless panels in order to get to the panel where I can import this machine into the domain. It would have been far more helpful to have the first thing open be the join-the-domain panel. I don’t need to set up anything else on that newly installed machine until it’s in the domain.
Most people are much more familiar with the desktop operating systems than the server versions. But, these added clicks are all throughout not only Vista, but now Windows 7. Because Windows 7 is effectively a refresh of Vista with added compatibility features, these extra clicks are still there and still annoying. Why Microsoft had to take a streamlined interface and make it less efficient for users, I’ll never know. But, these added clicks to get to standard operating system tools is a waste of time and productivity. It also requires a higher learning curve to teach people the new method.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”
This motto needs to be ingrained into the engineering team at Microsoft because they clearly do not understand this. Added extra layers of windows does not make the OS more efficient. It makes it bloated, cumbersome and extremely inefficient. That extra click might only take an extra second, but those seconds add up when you’re doing a repetitive task that involves dealing with those windows as part of your job.
As another example, opening the default setup for control panel in XP shows the control panels themselves. In Vista / Windows 7, it now brings up a launch pad of abstract tasks. Tasks like ‘System and Security’ and ‘User accounts and family safety’. Clicking these leads to more sub concept tasks. So, instead of just showing the actual control panels, you have to click through a series of abstract task pages that ultimately lead you to a tool. No no no. Pointless and inefficient. Let’s go back to opening up the actual control panel view. I want to see the actual control panels. The abstract task idea is great for beginners. For advanced users, we want to turn this crap off. It’s pointless, slow and unnecessary. Power users do not need this.
Windows for beginners
Microsoft Bob is dead. Let’s not go there again. So, why is it that Microsoft insists on trying to spoon feed us an interface this dumbed down and with excessively clicky features? This interface would have been a great first step in 1990. But, not today. Taking this step today is a step backward in OS design. Anyone who has used Windows for more than 6 months doesn’t need these added inconveniences and inefficiencies. In fact, most average computer users don’t need this level of basics. Only the very beginner beginners need this level of spoon feeding.
Microsoft needs a to create new version (or, alternatively, a preference to turn ‘Newbie mode’ off). Simply put, they need Windows for the Power User. A stripped down design that gets back to basics. A design that eliminates these cumbersome beginner features and brings back the single click features that let us navigate the operating system fast and using the mouse efficiently (read, as few clicks as possible). Obviously, if you’re running ANY server edition, this automatically implies the power user interface. Let’s get rid of these helper panels on startup, mkay?
Microsoft, can we make this a priority for Windows 8?