Have you ever watched someone with little computing experience use a computer? If you ever worked tech support or are the go-to guy when tech issues come up, you probably know what I’m talking about. Their way of using a computer is often fundamentally different from ours.
Most use a limited number of apps and techniques to get the things done that they need to do. Most ignore the keyboard when they do not have to enter text into an email, Word or Excel, and rely on the start menu and the desktop to load their applications.
I just watched the “How Real People Will Use Windows 8″ video on YouTube, and it once again reminded me of what regular Windows users will go through once they upgrade to Windows 8, or buy a new PC that ships with the operating system.
Here is a short summary if you do not want to watch it. Chris Pirillo’s father is trying out Windows 8 for the first time, and tries to figure out for most of the video how to get back to the Metro Start page that he saw in the beginning (and his mean son does not explain to him how it’s done).
You probably know that Microsoft has done away with the start button in Windows 8, and that the operating system comes with a new Metro user interface that is optimized for tablet PCs.
Microsoft has released two public preview versions of the operating system. First the Windows 8 Developer Preview, which still sported a small start menu, and then the Consumer Preview without the start menu.
Both versions shared that they did not offer any visual clues on how to use the “hidden” control options. Experienced users might try the keyboard when they cannot find any clues on the desktop, and many will try the Windows key as they may remember that it opened the start menu back in previous versions of Windows.
But moving the mouse to the lower right (or upper right) corner of the screen to bring up the Charms bar? That’s more likely discovered by accident. The bar is another new concept in Windows 8, linking to the start page, control panel, or power options among other things.
Windows 8 users can also move the mouse cursor to the lower left corner of the screen to display a start page thumbnail that they can click on.
While it is likely that Microsoft will play a tutorial on first start, and maybe even add visual clues to the operating system, it is not written in stone that they will. But how would Windows 8 users find out about the hidden controls otherwise?
Maybe the release candidate will have the answers that we are looking for. For now, Windows 8 is not as intuitive to use as it needs to be.