Recently, Microsoft announced they’d be (actually) bringing back the Start menu in Windows 8.1. Many people where excited, but I was not. I’m in the minority of people that actually like the changes in Windows 8⁄8.1, which is odd because I use it so much. This got me thinking: why do I like Windows 8? Why don’t it’s changes bother me?
In all the complaining about Windows 8, the phrase that most succinctly captured what users where feeling was the idea that Microsoft moved the users cheese.
People don’t like it when you move their cheese. They are just trying to get through the maze, they have it all under control and then, poof, someone moved their cheese. Now it’s a huge hassle to find it again. Change a hotkey or the case of the menus and all heck breaks loose.
This analogy rings true with me, I have felt that way before. What’s odd is I’ve felt that way in the past, but I don’t feel that way now. In fact, I haven’t felt that way about any of the software I use for quite a while. Giving it some more thought, I haven’t felt that way since I started writing software as a hobby. I believe this is the key.
Keeping with the mouse-cheese analogy, writing code is like being a mouse in a very, very big maze. It requires a patience, persistence, and slow, methodical work. “Solving mazes” is what I do every day, so maybe solving the UI maze once to re-learn it isn’t so bad.
Second, and maybe more importantly, I’m used to my interfaces changing a lot. On any given day I may use two to three different major text editors, and switch from one operating system to another. Taking the time to shift contexts, to go from one tool to another, is something I do several times a day. I’m constantly “chasing the cheese”, trying to figure out some new tool or replicate a workflow in a new environment. The change to Windows 8 was just one more time I had to re-learn a GUI, so for me it was no big deal.
I like this theory, but I must note that there are some other things that may be at play.
For one, I largely interact with a computer through the keyboard; I don’t use my mouse if I don’t have to. For keyboard users, Windows 8 is actually a huge improvement. Searching for something in Windows 8 using the keyboard is the same as it’s always been: you hit the “Windows” key and begin typing. Hit enter, and you’re given a full-screen page of your search results, easily navigable via the keyboard.
Additionally, I don’t use any “Modern-UI” apps at all. None of the concerns people have about single screen apps really apply to me, since I don’t use them (I don’t have to).
Ultimately, I like Windows 8 because the changes it makes are changes I can bear, and I think that’s what separates people like me (the computer is the destination) from other people (the computer is the journey).