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Windows 8.1 forces the user to interact in a way that doesn’t work (user.wordpress.com)
84 points by hanifbbz 1227 days ago | hide | past | web | 77 comments | favorite

His point is valid. The ability to dismiss these tips would be ideal. However, most people would skip them and complain about how "unusable" Windows 8 is (without even taking a minute to learn the basics). In my opinion, these mandatory tutorials are a necessary evil.

The real issue here is that Windows 8 somehow recognizes Wacom pads as touch inputs (with swiping from sides support). If it recognized it as a mouse, it would simply tell the user to use "hot corners":

- Top-Left: App switching

- Bottom-Left: Start screen

- Top/Bottom-Right: Charms menu

A one-time unskippable tutorial that you can get through in less than 10 seconds is probably not worth complaining about. Displaying the wrong directions to Wacom users is.

It's the other way around. There's no way to test your software with every hardware device on Earth or to guarantee that it can't have bugs. If it wasn't the Wacom pad it would be something else. That's understandable and forgivable because it's unavoidable. The real issue is the immense and unforgivable stupidity of writing a program that behaves as though it were the master and the human were its servant.

A manual override is not an optional extra, a checkbox item or something open to debate. It is an absolute necessity, because the human operator understands what's going on and the machine doesn't. Anyone who doesn't understand that should not be writing user-facing software.

There is no mandatory user tutorial for the iPad.

True, sometimes you need to teach the user to do something, but if you're forcing this even for basic usage, you're doing it wrong (unless this was a really specific tool/procedure, and even then)

This is not true. The most powerful tools often require a lot 'teaching' and have a steep learning curve even for basic usage. See vim or Blender as examples. I would argue that Windows 8, even in its RT form, is far more powerful than iOS in this sense. Once you get used to all the swipes, it is much quicker to access OS features, perform multitasking and do all kinds of things.

Microsoft did not build a bad OS by any means. As someone who can take this learning curve, I really enjoy using it on a tablet (I think it's much superior than iOS and superior to Android when it comes to the core OS), and I also like its Metro features a lot on my desktop. What Microsoft did very wrong however is building this interface for an audience where the overwhelming majority is not willing to take this learning curve. It's simply not built for the "average user".

"The most powerful tools often require a lot 'teaching' and have a steep learning curve even for basic usage"

Or better said: "The most powerful tools that don't care for user experience often require a lot of 'teaching'"

Unless you're talking about something like a CNC machine, Electronic test equipment, EEC machine, etc

'It's simply not built for the "average user"'

No? Then they shot themselves in the foot, because Windows is associated with that, more than anyone. Hence, they can't complain it's not selling well.

It's very easy to shy from making things easy to use behind "it has more features".

"The most powerful tools often require a lot 'teaching' and have a steep learning curve even for basic usage"

I guess he meant tank or nuke or something ;)

The problem with Windows 8 on traditional PC form factors is it deliberately ignores ("blows up") the model that's been fixed over 20 years in users' heads and replaces it with a new model they've attempted to design from scratch from first principles. It's not that the new model is especially complex or badly designed on its own terms, it just clashes with the model people already have in their heads.

That is also why people often say the Windows 8 UI works well with touch, but is unusable with mouse and keyboard. The inherent usability characteristics are actually not hugely different between input methods, it's just that with touch there's not as much competition in people's heads from an entrenched existing model.

The iPhone ran tons of ads showing people how to navigate and use swipes and pinch-to-zoom before the product was released. That's really not an obvious thing to do with a phone, if you've never seen it before.

It seems that 2 year old babies that have never seen the ads knew how to do these things just fine. Heck, there are even videos of cats playing with an iPad and getting it to scroll and such.

Swipe with finger to scroll, tap to press, and even pinch-to-zoom are as basic interaction as interaction goes. You only need a second to get them if shown, and most people can even discover them instantly without being shown.

The Windows "tutorial" item in question is a shortcut for switching to recent applications. The equivalent action on iOS is either a four-finger swipe to the right, or else double-tapping the home button, then tapping on an app. These are obvious to 2 year old babies and cats?

No, but "switch to recent applications" is not a basic action.

It's actually an action you might not even use at all -- since you can do it in another way (home and click the app you want to open next).

It's not a common action since using apps is mostly a seggregated affair. Now you use this, after some time you go and use that. You don't usually flip from one to the next all the time.

Sure, and that's the case on Windows too. You can launch and switch exclusively through the start screen and never use the recent-apps swipe. It's just included in the tutorial popups for whatever reason (maybe because Windows users are expected to be more keen on multitasking, given its desktop heritage and since that's a point of differentiation for Windows vs. the iPad).

Scrolling isn't bad, but getting to different pages on the homescreen isn't obvious for example. And pre-iPhone, most people had no experience with multitouch. Mouse trackpads would just get confused if you used two fingers! So pinch-to-zoom may be a basic interaction, but people still had to be (re)trained to use it.

It still takes a 2 year old time to learn, same for a cat. They don't instantly get it.

But that is because 2 year old babies see their parents doing those gestures on that shiny black square and try to imitate them. I have a dumb phone with actual keyboard. My kid grew up watching me use it and understands the concept of keys and doesn't touch the screen. I was with a friend's kid (about same age) and his whole family has iPhones and the kid just kept touching my phones monitor ignoring the keys completely.

Can't speak for cats as I don't have one.

My young daughters (5 and 7) have figured out the Windows 8 swipe commands by themselves, without the tutorial. They're surprisingly fast and adept at it. Even tiling the windows (to share files, or to run Skype on one side and desktop Chrome on the other) apparently comes "naturally" to them.

Yes. There's also the Apple Stores where you can play with them, so it was already clear in the mind of early adopters how to use it.

Cleverly subtle.

The main complain is not the "education" thing. It is the compulsory nature of it and the fact that Windows even mis-detected a digital pen as a touch interface that makes it totally useless and rather annoying.


I keep seeing this idea around Win 8 discussions. You aren't compelled to buy it.

So a company no longer offers a product you like, that doesn't mean you have to buy something you don't like from them.

Even if you do have to buy, you make the choice - Win 8 and trade offs or Mac or Linux or Chromebook or second hand Win 7. It's not compulsory that you have Win 8.

* However, most people would skip them and complain about how "unusable" Windows 8 *

Most people complain anyway about how unusable Windows 8 is and rightly so.

Your argument here does seem to reflect Microsoft's attitude - that Windows 8 is the ambassador of the latest crap and its job to train you on this crap whether you like it or not. Never mind that you own this hardware and you should be able to do as you will with it. I suppose MS imagines that shifting to a subscription model for everything would solve that problem of theirs - then the custom would own nothing and have recourse at having junk foisted on them.

Your point?

I think the problem is the drivers (Microsoft's or Wacom's). It may be overriding the Windows gesture support in favour of it's own?

I own a Wacom Bamboo without touch input and I'm fairly sure it prompted me to use the pen to perform the gestures, not a finger. In any case I could certainly follow the instructions with the pen. On my Surface I can use both pen and touch to perform the gestures.

I agree about the need to skip tutorials though. After 4 Win 8 installs it gets tiring.

I gotta wonder, is anybody at Microsoft really surprised that their decision to completely rework all of their 25-year standards of how their OS works has side effects of varying levels of bad in a huge number of relatively obscure use cases? This sounds like such a textbook example of why you don't do that.

I'm still running Windows 7 on my desktop PC. It has a mouse and keyboard. I have no intention of ever getting any kind of touchscreen, pen tablet, touchpad, or other alternative input device for it. I'll show some enthusiasm for upgrading when they make the mouse and keyboard first-class citizens again, instead of treating them like an afterthought in an attempt to get some traction on tablets.

Ignoring Modern UI in Windows 8 is relatively easy: http://www.gizmag.com/windows-81-modern-ui/29552/

Ignoring Modern UI does not make Modern UI completely disappear. Nor does it change the fact that Microsoft thought this was a good idea. Poor usability is poor usability. Microsoft messed this one up, and it will impact them and a lot of peoples perceptions of the future of Windows.

Nonetheless, for most people on this site using Windows, it makes sense to take the relatively simple (for HNers) steps to upgrade to Windows 8 and hide Modern UI, as Windows 8 provides various performance improvements over Windows 7, Modern UI notwithstanding.

Have you actually used Windows 8?

I have, and I think he's correct - Metro is fundamentally different than any Windows to date. The evolution from 3.1 to where we are today was slow and steady, with innovation happening in little fits but never breaking with the basic GUI interaction model. Then Microsoft boiled the oceans to give us Metro. It is a clean break.

You don't agree, I take it?

microsoft does that all the time.

Last week I tried to signup for windows azure. It asked me to enter my credit card data, I did it and it was ok, then the signup fails without explanation ("contact support").

What is happening is, I believe: I am forced to enter a billing address in the country from which I am _connecting_ (hungary), but my card is from another one (italy). The first thing is stated _nowhere_ but I presume it is so after various attempts at inserting non-hungarian zip codes.

So the card is valid, the billing address is valid, but an additional check is performed that the two have a matching country, which fails. Also not stated anywhere.

There is no way I can workaround this other than taking a plane or getting a new credit card. Customer lost.

(bonus: the "support" is the "windows azure" stackoverflow tag, which I don't think is competent re: billing, and an MSDN forum where people say "this happens sometimes, there can be many reasons sorry").

Have you actually tried contacting Microsoft about this? Your assumption of why it failed may not even be correct.

My assumption of why it failed isn't very important, it could be wrong, but the symptoms (cannot input a non-hungarian billing address, cannot signup) and final result (gave up) are the same.

Anyway I tried to contact them through twitter (no answer) after going here (the page linked as "contact us for support"):


Here I can:

* get payed support (which I cannot buy)

* something literally translated as "Visit the overflow of the stack". Funnily enough, Bing's automatic translation translates "visit stackoverflow" better than this.

* go to an MSDN forum. Which I did.

There, among plenty of thread of people unable to signup, I found this thread[0] In which the MS support person states (I will translate for you)

"The reported error is sadly common during signup, and finding the cause is hard (sic).

I suggest you double check you input correct data, check that you card is valid and that azure is available in your country. You could contact your financial institution to get more help or phone us"

Notice that this is a terrible answer because at this point they already know my card is valid and have in fact already detracted 1€ from it (both for me and the thread creator), and if azure isn't available in my country (which it is) why did they let me get to this point of the signup?.

Then there are three more replies from people getting the same result, opening multiple support tickets and not getting any answer. One month later there is another reply from support stating that debit cards cannot be used for signup, sorry we don't say that anywhere. This was one year ago, they still don't say that anywhere.

Awesome, but I was already trying with my credit card, after I failed to sign up with 2 debit cards (all of which got succesfully charged for every attempt).

Honestly, would you have kept trying at this point, hoping that in one month they get back to you?

[0] http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/windowsazure/it-IT/6...

Have you ever tried Microsoft Support (even if you have a fully paid up gold partnership agreement)?

At best you'll get some low end support peon who doesn't know ass from elbow. At best you get denial.

Then there's Microsoft Connect, their public bug tracker (for products they feel like pretending to support), which basically is a route for them to close every ticket straight away as not reproducible despite being reproducible by hundreds of people.

I've tried Azure support, and it was pretty good.

It was until the day it was down last year. At which point it was hopeless for nearly a week. I was on the end of a down system deployed to Azure as the technical contact. Not fun.

I'd imagine. That sucks :(.

If you are still interested in trying Azure, shoot me an email (thmacie at microsoft dot com). I'll see if we can fix your problem.

Taking a plane or get a new card? Why not just use a proxy? It's pretty common to limit fraud by going off people's IP address until you've got an established relationship with them. Using a credit card from another country is a huge fraud flag.

My Office365 account is listed as being in "Colombia" (CO) and insists on a Colombian address if I want to update my billing info -- despite my current billing address being Colorado (CO) and me never having been to Colombia. Tech support says there no way to change this, that my account will permanently be set as Colombia, despite it being obvious that the current billing address is Colorado (and Wells Fargo doesn't even have banks in Colombia, AFAIK).

Seems like companies just really suck when it comes to multi-country handling. Xbox lets me buy games, proceeds to download them completely, then does a geo-IP check and says "Corrupted". Xbox support insisted my hardware was bad (despite many other games downloading just fine), until I mentioned I wasn't in the US. Only at that point did they figure out there was a geo-IP check going on after the download that leads to the "Corrupted" error. They were actually going to completely replace my Xbox unit, determining the motherboard or something was selectively corrupting data for specific games. The remedy: "Oh move back to the US". No refunds or anything. (Real remedy: PPTP.)

Google takes it a step further, and disables updates for apps if they aren't available in whatever it determines to be your current region. I installed the Wells Fargo app, then went travelling. During that time, WF app releases a critical security update and ceases functioning until updated. Android points out "update available". But if I tap it to update, it says that app is not found.

Google Play also takes your physical location to customize part of the UI[1] language, inconsistently.

Netflix does the same[2]. They do even worse though, disallowing the audio language for subtitles, depending on region. In the US and watching with someone that's not fluent English? Too bad, only English subtitles. In Central America and want English subtitles? Nope, just Spanish or Portuguese (?! Portuguese isn't even in the top 5 languages spoken around here).

1: http://imgur.com/F1QlQ9U 2: http://imgur.com/yy7emGI

I'd flag you for fraud and ask you to contact support too.

(Former fraud prevention research scientist)

Ok. Would you do only that or also one of these options

* put an error message "you are trying to use a card issued in X from Y, contact support"

* put a prefilled unchangeable field containing the current country

* signal an error on all fields when I insert something invalid (say, country and city) rather than only the zip code

* block the transaction before you validate my card

Because if so, you're better than what is currently available. If not, I'd be happy to understand what would be the downsides of doing these things :)

EDIT: also I realized now: you'd flag me if I put a non matching _billing address_ rather than if I use a card from abroad? That seems counterintuitive :)

The general rule is, you never tell someone suspected of fraud why they are suspected of fraud; it will help them figure out how to not be suspected of fraud in the future. You also want to give them as many required telephone interactions as possible. A) this slows them down if they are trying to automate the process and B) It's much easier to determine whether or not someone is trying to defraud your service over the phone.

If the credit card you are using is stolen, eventually the billing company will have to charge back your purchase. Enough chargebacks in a month and the billing company gets a HUGE fine. It is in their interest to err on the side of caution in cases where something like this occurs.

Also, you generally don't tell someone that's suspected of fraud that they are suspected of fraud. You tell them there's a technical difficulty, and they need to call.

Of course, but your observation is not terribly useful given that per riffraff, pre-sales support of this sort is not available.

Good thing that not everybody thinks like you. Otherwise, traveling would be a nightmare.

You might be able to use a Chrome plugin called Stealthy to make it appear like you are browsing from Italy so it matches your card to test your idea.

Using a web proxy is going to trigger even more alarms, not fewer.

Maybe it's because of the company structure that their product managers (or product designers) don't care so much about thorough usability testing. Maybe that's why they lose ground to other giants all the time. I mean who would expect Apple to sell more laptops than all PC vendors combined?!

Apple does not sell more laptops than all other PC vendors combined. Not by a long shot.


But they do make more money (profit) on consumer PCs than the PC vendors, which is a bit mind blowing.

PC vendors are mostly selling a commodity product, competing on price, so the margins are slim. Apple is selling an image, which reduces the price competition, and increases the margins. They also only target the top of the market; a lot of the PC volume comes in at the very bottom end, which Apple doesn't even touch: you can't get a mac for less than $600, and they don't ship anything with less than an i5, skipping three tiers of Intel processors.

They are not selling an image, but one of the few laptops that doesn't completely suck. If I could buy a 13" PC with a 2X screen and a trackpad that worked for $1200...that would last...I would totally be all over it.

So Apple is completely gone from the <$1000 tier (let alone < $600), and their laptops are generally acknowledged as the best. And here I am personally with a more expensive X1 Touch Carbon that is actually much less (touch, but low res screen + a trackpad that doesn't work).

The basic problem is that gestures are non-discoverable, and should not be used for core functionality.

Yes. I recently purchased a Windows 8.1 laptop and had to turn to Google to figure out how to reboot it. And when I do discover a gesture, it's by accident and it screws up whatever I was trying to do.

I googled it to learn how to reboot my computer too. And quite confusingly it turned out I have to go to "Settings" menu in order to reboot my machine! Weird! Doesn't make sense.

A few (many) years ago I bought myself a Windows 95 computer. In order to reboot the computer I had to use the "Start" button. Weird, didn't make any sense.

Once your muscle memory start working, it becomes like a second nature to use Settings->Reboot (like using the "Start" button in the old days). The human mind can create habits, with a bit of initial struggle, from anything. Give it some time.

I agree that you'll be able to get used to almost anything, however;

The old location (inside the start menu) was at least a 'logical' location, because the start menu in W95 was designed to be the central place for anything you did. The only confusing part was the naming.

Settings is possibly the worst possible location to put this; - In daily use, you will never use the settings menu - Settings are meant to make a (permanent) change in the configuration of your computer. (I configure my computer to 'reboot'? Should it reboot whenever I switch it on?)

Settings is the place for configuration and management of your computer (and the current app). Shutdown/restart is a management function so it goes in Settings.

Both do make sense insofar as they are consistent with the design model/philosophy of their respective OS shells.

In Windows 95 the model is that Start is your starting point for everything you do with a computer. Moreover, managing and configuring a PC was regarded as a core activity for all users, so management functions like shutdown/restart and the control panel got a prominent top-level place in Start.

For Windows 8 the design mantras were "content over chrome", "users should be able to enjoy just using a PC without feeling like they have to manage it", and "each view in the UI should have one clear purpose". Therefore Start was dedicated to "destinations" like apps and content, while management and configuration functions like control panel and shutdown/restart (meta-functions that are about the PC or app itself, not what you do with it) were moved to the Settings charm (could've been called "settings and management"), sort of like tucking away wires and cables.

Of course, making sense in terms of your design model is no guarantee a decision will make sense in terms of the user's model.

The gestures are swipe in from the left and swipe in from the right. They're not essential, but they really help usability.

If you're not familiar, swipe from left is fast task switching, similar to alt-tab or double-pressing on the home button in iOS. Swipe from right is charms, which you need to know for settings in Win8 apps but everything else can be found by typing in the search screen.

I've been putting off switching from W7 for 2 years now. I hated how the Wacom worked on the first version fo Windows 8.

Check this page to see how much pain they have been putting people through: http://viziblr.com/news/2012/8/18/windows-8-rtm-and-wacom-ta...

I've seen this in a VM (with no touch support at all) I ignored it. IIRC I just pressed the windows key, went back to desktop and presto, forced swipe how-to gone.

If not, just reboot.. isn't that the way all serious problems in Windows are fixed? ;)

All things taken aside I do agree that the simple solution, an "x" button is missing.

"If not, just reboot.. isn't that the way all serious problems in Windows are fixed? ;)"

Well said! :D

And, apparently the official way to do things ;)

"your computer will restart in 10 minutes", no you cannot finish your presentation, or keep to your deadline. We will forcibly restart your PC and don't allow you to save your work when the countdown has completed... This update solves a potential data-loss probl.........

One customer less. Problem solved!

There. Disable the help tips with Group Policy Editor.


I'm (somewhat) sure that this works only in 8 Pro.

I learned it when I tried to get rid of that annoying lockscreen you get in 8 before entering password. The one you're supposed to swipe up. It can (or could) be removed only through group policies. Thanks for confirming it's still a thing.

I never understood this "versioning" thing! If they have written the code for the complete Windows once, why can't they have just one version? I mean why force poor people to have less feature?

It's called price discrimination and it's common among many, many products and services.

If there was only one version then you'd either have to price it higher than the "cheap" version, which will lead to price conscious consumers choosing a competitor. Charge less and you're leaving money on the table from businesses that are happy to pay more.

It's the same logic behind "Senior Discounts" and coupons.

I thnk it's less about forcing poor people to have fewer features, and more about forcing people (businesses, really) with more resources and needs to pay more.

See prices of most marketed smartphones' variations that differ only in memory size.

8 Pro and higher have `gpedit.msc` but a lot of the policy items map to the registry. I imagine these [1] are the registry keys for that configuration item. It's just a matter of configuring them.

[1] http://m.kapilarya.com/how-to-disable-help-tips-in-windows-8...

These tips we're there in Windows 8. People complained that there was no tutorial.

the tips by themselves are quite good. The problem is that they are compulsory and in this case even wrong and there's no easy way to get rid of them.

I think there's more than meets the eye here.

The OP didn't receive the drivers from WU. Instead he downloaded them from Wacom, suggesting they're not Windows Hardware Certification Program certified. And that's probably because amongst other things, the driver set is reporting touch inputs where there are none, perhaps for some specialized Wacom case/use. Had these been certified, I believe the OP would have received slightly more useful mouse-specific tips.

Maybe. But you know what? So do OS X and Linux.

There also should be button “Close this and don't show anything like that!”.

Unskippable tutorials.

Windows 8 failure #426,208.

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