A little while ago I posted a rather vague thought on Twitter:

After a few conversations about the UX and some experimenting, I've come up with a summary of the Windows 10 UX: Contempt for the User.

I feel like explaining this a bit more. I can over look the ugliness of Windows 10, because aesthetics are a subjective thing and while I personally feel it looks like baby's first Enlightenment theme, I recognize that there's no right or wrong in aesthetics and if there is, I probably fall on the wrong side of that (case in point: this site's theme probably offends more design-oriented people).

It should be noted that when I say "contempt for the user", I don't genuinely think that the developers hold contempt for us (though I might imply that). It's just how it comes off, as a user.

My problems with Windows 10 are numerous, and I'm not just saying that as an edgy open-source fanatic: I daily drive Windows and have done for nearly 10 years now, and again before that (I used Windows NT4 until the wheels fell off, literally, before I switched to a FreeBSD desktop during my time as a console gamer). It all started with Windows 8 - a massive user experience regression from Windows 7 in just about every way. It was ugly, ill-thought-out, and a thinly veiled attempt at selling Microsoft's tablets and phones through pure familiarity alone, seemingly without thought as to what it did for the desktop experience.

People have been forecasting the death of the desktop for years, and so far it hasn't happened... so making decisions about a huge product based off the impending death of the desktop is ludicrous. But here we are, with a bunch of interfaces that only really make sense for touch interfaces (and I honestly can't think of a worse interface to a desktop or laptop computer than a touch one).

Windows 10 has wound back some of these regressions, but I don't think it's near enough. I will refrain from criticizing the upgrade debacle (though I think that could be fairly described as "contempt for the user" as well) - as it's been done to death - except to say that while I sympathize with not wanting users to be left behind, you have to give users a reason to want to upgrade, instead of resorting to dodgy tricks to trick them into upgrading. Windows 7 gave users that reason - Vista (and by association 7) were a huge technical upgrade over XP, Windows 7 was gorgeous, and it improved upon the misfeatures of Vista such that most people wanted it when it came out. Windows 10 doesn't, and so - presumably to pad the numbers for their new application market's target audience - they resort to trickery to get many users to install Windows 10.

But anyway, here's my completely non-exhaustive list of things that are wrong with Windows 10's user experience:

The Start menu is still trash

While giving us back the start button, giving us the option of not having it full screen and a couple of other rollbacks from Windows 8 were nice, it's still a steaming pile. The tiles thing is awful, and the switch to flat, monochrome icons for most Windows applications really drives home the difference in aesthetics (ie, non-"metro" icons look far more out of place than low-res icons looked on Vista/7) - but the real issue is that without having medium or larger tiles, you don't get any text unless you mouse-over. You do in the "most used" section, which is, I think, how the start menu should work again.

So without wasting a lot of start menu real estate having medium-or-larger tiles everywhere, you're left with two things to identify a program by: it's icon, and it's location. If the app changes icons (as some are wont to do), you have one of those things. I will say this - the "All Apps" section of the start menu is a lot nicer to use. At first it looks like wasted screen space organizing them by letters, if you click on those letters you can quickly jump to another letter. "All Apps" is great, so why can't I have the option to have it replace all those shitty tiles, and pin my favourites to the left (instead of the OS guessing what I use the most)? Because fuck you, that's where our Metro apps are going to go one day. Contempt for the user.

You can only resize the start menu so far up the screen, inexplicably. Horizontally, sure I can understand that - it resizes in increments of (three medium) tile widths. But I can't see any visual reason why you can't have a start menu take up the entire vertical space if you wanted to. Maybe there's a good reason for that, but it doesn't communicate it to the user.

You have the half-baked "settings menu", but no "control panel" - where most of the settings you'd actually want still live. The settings menu shouldn't be front and centre until it's ready for prime time, and it's not ready until at least the vast majority of Windows' own settings at least are configurable via it. Configuring Windows 10 the way you like it is basically an extended game of "guess where that setting is hidden". You can pin the control panel to the start menu, or you can right-click the start menu to access a host of other handy things, many of which are redundant (though I can live with that) but none of which include configuring the start menu.

It's possible to "hang" the start menu (have the icons unresponsive until you dismiss it and bring it back), and it's possible to have the start menu open where it doesn't have focus.

The Wifi menu is trash

I've been whining about this for months - they removed the "refresh" button in the Wifi menu. The workaround is obvious to me - turn off Wifi and turn it back on again, but it's time-consuming and mightn't be obvious for all. There's apparently another workaround: go into the Network settings screen on the Wifi page and press F5 - that doesn't work for me.

I will concede that one of my previous complaints - that many settings weren't copied over to the new "Network Settings" page, so as above you had to play a game of "guess where that setting is hidden" - has been worked on as Windows 10 marches forward in newer releases, but again, this feels like we're using something that's a beta when it's marketed as a released product.

But there's room for a refresh button next to "airplane mode", so why isn't it there?

Update and Restart (or Update and Shutdown, or just Shutdown/Restart in general) is utterly broken

When I opt to manually apply an update (because I don't trust Microsoft to not select a time to update that is inconvenient to me), the operating system fights me the entire way. It covers the entire screen with a splash saying "restarting" or "shutting down" with a circular animation and no actual indication of progress. At least on the older, unwashed Windows OSes, you could see programs closing, tray icons disappearing, so you had a rough idea of what it was spending that time doing. The splash screen is the computing equivalent of "trust me, I'm busy".

The worst part is the splash screen covers potentially helpful dialogs. Like this one, taken fully 12 minutes after attempting a restart - which you can abort, by the way, by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete and then pressing "Cancel". Why is that not an option on the shutdown splash? Because Windows 10 holds contempt for the user. But anyway, I deliberately left an unsaved Notepad (a native Microsoft application, included with Windows, not some third party software that missed the memo and doesn't conform to some API) file open before selecting to restart. I then got up, did some other stuff, and came back 12 minutes later to this useless splash screen. Doing the above abort sequence, I can finally see the reason for the hangup (and it would have been immediately visible were it not for the shitty splash screen): There's a dialog explaining that I can't shut down because there's a "Save As" dialog open (no there's not, but I can forgive that mistake).

Sometimes, after fucking about doing god knows what, Windows will pop up a notice on the splash that there's some other stuff preventing shutdown. It gives you an option "shut down anyway" or "cancel", even telling you that cancel will let you go back and save your work. In the 12 or 13 times I've experienced this since I got Windows 10, it's my understanding that these buttons both shut the machine down anyway. I think this dialog is supposed to come up in the above situation, but they don't.





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