I’m Jason Firth.
I caught a video about Microsoft Edge today that got me thinking about something.
I find their attitude towards Edge and Windows 10 to be terribly lazy.
Let’s look at some of the basic changes over Windows 7.
There’s a new feature, the PC Settings app. Let’s try to change the IP address:
To change the IP address, you have to open a win32 program. Oops!
To manage the SSID, you have to open a win32 program.
The settings app has many examples like this, where the new OS features are half-baked. If you want to make a change, it’s time to hit the roulette wheel: Which program do you use to change this setting — the original win32 program, or the new metro app?
Assuming, of course that the Metro app decides to work. The reliability of that framework is suspect. I routinely open the calculator to watch a screen with a calculator icon glaring back at me. When I have to head back to the original win32 versions of programs to do simple things like look at a picture or add 1+1, that’s a fundamental breakdown, and Microsoft should be considering any instance of that to be an all-hands-on-deck situation.
That brings us to Edge.
In my experience, Edge just doesn’t work very well, even (as seems to be a developing tradition), with other Microsoft products. I can’t use it at work, because it doesn’t function properly with Sharepoint. My only option is Internet Explorer. (Chrome and Firefox don’t work with Sharepoint either, presumably because of the same problems that keep Edge from working). That essentially makes Edge useless for Enterprise, if it doesn’t work with Sharepoint. That’s lazy of Microsoft to create a new browser and ignore essential functionality for their core users.
Lazy can be good. Lazy can mean you reduce the complexity of tasks. Lazy can mean you make things easier, or that you do things in a less risky manner. In this case, lazy is bad. By half-assing the OS and the browser, you end up with programs that fundamentally can’t complete the tasks they’re supposed to do.
Edge currently has 1/4 of the users Internet Explorer has. Some of this is because Edge is only for Windows 10, but much of it is likely because Edge can’t even do the things Internet Explorer does. Furthermore, Windows 10 has had much slower adoption than Windows 7. By this point after Windows 7 was released, it had a commanding lead over XP. By contrast, Windows 7 and Windows 10 are neck and neck. I believe the biggest reason for this is Microsoft’s lazy behaviour. Windows 7 behaves like a cohesive product. Windows 10 feels like two completely different products have been inexpertly melted together with a heat gun. Unlike Windows 8 it doesn’t scream in your face with its incompetence (The windows 8 start menu really is an excellent example of how not to do navigation), but that doesn’t mean Windows 10 and it’s associated products aren’t still broken.
Sales of Desktop PCs have dropped below 100 Million for the first time in a long time. Some of that is just because laptops are so good these days. (I’ve been using laptops exclusively for years because I travel so much for work. I’m writing this on an Alienware R15) However, I strongly believe another reason is that Windows 10 is a poor OS, and people are choosing not to upgrade their PCs, lest they have to give up their Windows 7.
In other works, Microsoft has the ability to reverse the course of the industry. Come up with a polished OS that actually works in a straightforward manner, and I believe there will be an immediate boost to PCs.
Ironically, some of the changes have been made so Microsoft can emulate tablets and phones in form, but in doing so they’ve moved PCs away from them in terms of function: I can configure my android device from the settings app. I’m sure I could do the same on an iOS device. I can’t do it from Windows 10. I can only imagine the nightmare that using a Windows 10 tablet or phone would be, based on my Windows 10 experience. It is completely understandable that because of their lazy choices, instead of Windows 10 being an advertisement for Microsoft’s phone and tablet products, it is a case against them.
To move forward, Microsoft needs to stop adding new features and chasing the latest craze. They need to take a step back and put the work into building this platform.
It’s simple, but not easy:
- Create a team consisting of one person with the authority to make decisions from each software team involved, a few UI designers, and a number of laymen who use Microsoft applications daily. For the laymen, reach out to customers, even! Corporate, personal, industrial, front-line users, IT users, software developers. You need their input. That input would have saved you from Windows 10.
- Come up with a list of every basic task users do in Windows. I bet it’ll be a list of the top 1000 tasks between users and power users/sysadmins. Come up with a list of the top 100 tasks people do in each major piece of software such as Edge.
- You’ll have a huge list, prioritize them. Personally, I’d focus on tasks that are done routinely, and tasks that are going to be major “pain points”, such as configuring network interfaces. Spend the most time and make sure there’s cross team interaction on the top priority items.
- Using the list as a template, enumerate the steps required to do each of these top tasks. Actually do the tasks to prove it.
- Ask yourself: “Is this really a reasonably easy way to do this? How would someone know how to do this besides Googling it?” (Being real here, Bing is garbage and you need to fix that too. Google “Windows XP Service Pack 3”, then bing it. What are the top 3 links for each? Clearly, you’ve got problems. One disaster at a time, though) Honestly, if you look at the list of steps required for a lot of relatively basic tasks, there’s absolutely no way you’d know how to do it. “Go ‘run’, then type ‘horrentouslylong -cmdline’, and choose the fourth tab and press the plus and type “arbitraryChars (seriously)”. This is all garbage, and needs to be streamlined.
- Look for obvious stupid things. Going online to solve problems with my Internet connection just makes you guys look completely clueless. Keep the updated database of methods to solve problems with Internet connections locally! (That’s just one example, mind you)
- Run user tests on users own hardware. Get random users to do the top tasks. I bet you’d be surprised to discover a lot of them don’t actually work! At work, I often use the win32 image previewer because the Metro app doesn’t work! I’ve erased purchased, licensed copies of windows 10 and replaced them with Linux because Windows suffers some of the worst bit rot since Windows ME, and the machine is locked solid from processes that “don’t run while you’re doing anything” but clearly do.
- Document the new methods to complete these key tasks.
- Ask the same questions about the new methods that you asked about the old ones.
- Fix the problems you find, make the changes you need to make. It’s a short line, but most of the work.
- Have lay users test each solution to make sure it actually works and is actually intuitive! Don’t use a strict test script, let users try to figure out how to do each task in their own way. In fact, if you can run a test by scenario instead of by task (for example, let IT folks set up a PC for use on their own network, or let a home user set up a PC for their own use)
- Use your documentation and the results of user testing to create user documentation for all these top tasks, and include the latest version of these documents offline.
Like I said, it wouldn’t be easy, but in spite of the fact that the form may be different than a tablet or phone, the function would be the same: Finally, all the basic functions of Windows and its major applications would work in a fully functional and intuitive manner.
You want people to use your store? Your phone OS? Your tablets? You need to get your day 0 stuff sorted out. People need to be able to trust your software to be basically competent before they give you license to do more.
If I’m being honest (and I recognise this may be a controversial statement), Google does this very well. People trust their search engine because it does the basics well. Their mail does the basics very well. Youtube does the basics very well. Google maps do the basics very well. Android does the basics very well. Because they do the basics well, they are given license to do more. People are willing to let Google drive their car for them, because their software is generally competent, functional, and easy to use. Nobody is willing to let Microsoft drive their car for them (or their phone, or their tablet, or their search engine, or their web browser) because Microsoft isn’t doing the basics well, and thus lacks license to try more. Microsoft wants to brag about the quality of their work, but their work doesn’t speak for itself.
This can apply to control systems as well. If we don’t do work that is generally competent, functional, and easy to use, then we won’t get license to do more. Managers won’t want to let us try things, front line workers won’t be willing to let controllers stay in auto, and the money will go elsewhere, to other capital projects that perhaps do have histories of being those 3 things.
Thanks for reading!