TITLE: The Days of Microsoft Lives
The door opens and in walks the CEO, he looks determined but still has the look of the 1980’s car salesman buried deep within.
CEO: Alright, listen up as we have a lot to get through today. Thank you all for all the hard work you have put into the work so far, it’s been super duper exciting and I want to thank you all for the brilliance you’ve shown. Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are going to be the baseline markers for our future successes.
Sinofsky: If I may sir…
CEO: Grab some pine Sinofsky and shut your hole.
An awkward chill flows around the room as Sinofsky slowly sits down with an expression of both embarrassment and murderous intent leveled at the CEO.
CEO: Ok.. firstly given the huge pressure we have at making this release the biggest the will likely produce for some time I need to have our entire marketing and sales pipelines at full steam. With that, I need your resignation Sinofsky.
Sinofsky: What the f….
CEO: Basically not a lot of people like you and I asked you nicely awhile back to launch Windows 7 on the tablet and you wanted to play games. Well, you played and lost so with that, resign and clear your shit out by this afternoon. I also need to use you as a way to soften the upcoming failures with the board, so you may hear some things about what you did in the future, best you go along with whatever is said.
CEO: Now, I need to split his role into two as I never want to see an executive with that much power again. It frightened me a little.
CEO points at two executives either side of Sinofsky.
CEO: You two, yes you two you’re both in charge but in reality you’re not in charge. Speaking of executives with power, has anyone seen Scott Guthrie? … no?... Good, keep it that way as if he climbs out of that Azure hole we buried him in I want to be the first to know.
Sinofsky: Actually, he’s doing an amazing job with it and is likely to turn that turd around into a success. I mean it has come a long way since he took over the re…
CEO: Seriously you’re still here? … Is not there a box you should be filling…
Sinofsky: Shouldn’t we first figure out what we are going to say to the press? I mean my leaving will create an issue for both the PR for Windows and potentially the stock price.
CEO: You’re not that noticeable. Get packing, I will talk to the press later about it.
Sinofsky slowly gets up out of his chair and begins to walk out. Giving the CEO a glance as if to say “..this will be your undoing…”
CEO: Next, I want marketing to blitz the entire globe with ads about Surface and Windows 8, if you can also not separate the two products I think it will help cement that Windows 8 is a tablet and OS without saying that out loud.
Marketing Guy: Sir, wouldn’t it be prudent to ensure we keep the two separate and we also probably should discuss with supply & logistics about how we are going to supply the demand?
CEO: What’s your name? ..Does not matter…You are fired.
Marketing Guy leaves the room crying chanting, “I knew I should keep my ideas to myself, damn it, my wife is going to kill me…” as he sobs running into a glass door.
CEO: Market it my way people. Next I want to also limit our purchases of Surface online and via our retail stores. It is important we look like Apple In order to beat them at their own game.
RetailStoreExec: About that.. You know all of Apple stores are designed to reflect the environment they are housed within. In that, they really do go out of their way to work with the existing and surrounding architecture. We should really consider doing that as well as just copy their internal furn…
CEO: You want to join the others that got fired this morning? Pick one style and keep repeating them we don’t have time to be design focused.. more stores.. supply.. make it happen.
CEO: Can someone get in contact with Stephen Elop over at Nokia. It is time to move our timetable forward a little on Project Nokia Acquire. I want him to hold off on the Lumia 920 outside the US, if he can shorten stock orders worldwide that will surely lower the share price further for our takeover bid. Also, tell him that we got rid of Sinofsky, as he will be happy with that given Sinofsky used to always undermine him in during his Office days (builds favor you see).
OEMPartnerCVP: Won’t that also hurt our Windows Phone 8 adoption chances? As wont most hold out for that phone given it seems to be the one with the most features?
CEO: Yes. You are right but here is the thing: that was Sinofsky’s fault. If we can also bring moral and hearts/minds lower over the Christmas quarter I can then turn the ship around post Sinofsky leaving and make it look like I am a competent CEO and saved the day.
OEMPartnerCVP: Sir, you realized you said that out loud right. In that, it was not your internal voice.
CEO: I need your resignation by the end of the day. You know too much.
The camera begins to drift away from the scene with the CEO’s voice getting harder to hear but one last order is heard before the Microsoft logo fades into view.
CEO: Has anyone seen Guthrie? .. Make sure he his kept on the back bench do not let him out of that Azure cage. He has to many people adoring his abilities and he reminds me too much of Bill… Someone call Bill and make sure he knows that he cannot fire me or I show those Polaroid’s with him & two dead hookers.
You are all fired, you know too much now.
- Novice and Power Users. “Invited 12 experienced Windows users” is a weak / broad sweeping remark to make that XYZ demographic doesn’t like N-Product. Keep in mind I’m a tough critic of Windows 8’s design, but even I can concede it’s still usable whether the incentive is to use though is entirely different matter (Cognitive Dissonance measures Behavior vs. Incentive). I would have taken him more serious if he had of used a variety of audience(s) for this (OSX users, Seniors, GenY, IT Professionals, Sales force etc) .. everyone’s experienced In Windows is my point.
- Prospective Memory – I think he’s building up to “learn where to go” and associating it as a bad thing. The concept of a desktop works in favor of prospective memory, meaning “I’ll put x here so I can come back to it later” works in the same fashion as the start overlay. Its not ideal, but to declare this a cognitive overload is an over-reach given over time (behavior) users will settle on a rhythm that suites them. If I press START and start typing my context will adjust to the text I’m typing and so on.
- Dual Environments - The two environments in which he speaks of are WinRT and WinRT Pro, now the clue is in the word “Pro” firstly and it has to do with legacy support than actual user experience (context is annoying when you leave it out huh?). Tablet users won’t interact with the said duality he’s nominated so it kind of is a weak point to rest on and those that opt for the Surface Pro edition are doing so more as a finger in both pies approach to the problem at hand. If I pitched the problem that needed to be solved in that I need the user(s) to have both Windows Now and Windows vNext it shifts the results differently as if I said I need the users to solely focus on vNext only … Again, It feels more about airbrushing the facts without context (Ironic given the guy’s a usability “guru” and how context is important in ux as content).
- Added Memory. I see this a lot and I wonder if UX Practitioners suffer from this concept that we all suffer from sudden memory loss at any given point. I understand interruption etc plays into this but in reality we don’t multi task and phones today for example don’t have this issue – if anything given the complexity between switching from apps via navigation routines (ie iPhone double hitting the rectangle and using a slider style switch). I am baffled as to what moment of brilliance the author assumes he/she is uncovering here – I’m kind of lost between whether I dislike his point or the actual website itself’s design.
- Responsive & Adaptive Design– I think the author again (they really should sit down and study some basic design principles to articulate the points) probably wanted to say that the design of the solution isn’t responsive and/or adaptive depending on screen real estate. The said applications again don’t make full use of the screen(s) they are being deployed or used upon. I concede that this could be an issue for usage of LOB solutions but at the same time I also reject it. Having window support in today’s UI world is an absolute engineering challenge at the best of times and furthermore buy having to adhere and cater to this we in turn limit our future potential by sticking to the ye olde side by side window usage. As it now begs the question, why are two applications side by side if they are related? If we have a forcing function which puts emphasis on a single screen visualization would this not cut down on fragmented software delivery? What if the snap screen concept could be more broader in its execution where you allow users to have more than one window at a time but the designs themselves can be responsive to the state in which they are housed? This works better imho than just given floating cascade windows with dynamic border resize + maximize + minimize. It fixes and creates an interesting solution to much bigger problem.Again, the author is kind of saying “it’s changed, I don’t like it”. I didn’t like the day I gave up a tactical keyboard for a touch screen, but I got over it and can type just as fast now. Humans evolve.
- Flat styles. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been driving along the highway and seen the turn arrow being flat and thought to myself “I wish that had a sense of depth, as that would give me contrast to make an informative decision”. The whole idea that we need depth in order to associate action is a kind of “drawing from a long bow”. If you’re a virgin user and never seen something for the first time, yes, you have that moment of initial “wtf” but you explore, because now it’s a puzzle and you have an incentive to figure it out. Take into account marketing and real-world surroundings it’s fair to assume that the learnability of a solid icon is considered both touchable and untouchable. You will discover this fairly easily but the learnability is probably shallow but discoverability isn’t - Key differentiation there. I don’t agree with Metro’s content over chrome metaphor and in the visual he provided it’s an easy fight to pick (grouping is all wrong) but the failures here are easily misleading given he left out the constancy of the design (in that it’s not isolated to one area, it’s throughout and again, surprisingly we all seem to navigate over time without issue – behavior vs incentive again).
- Symbology. Probably the only thing I would agree here is that there is way too much of a strong reliance on symbology to convey the context of what the said solution does. There’s no personality attached to apps and functions, meaning I think there still needs to be a balance between core operating and in-app functions and said Applications (one thing iPhone does well as the apps entry icons are able to retain a differentiation whereas Win8 it doesn’t). I don’t think the author articulated this very well but I sense that’s the direction they were heading
- Progressive Disclosure has always been a double edged sword. On one hand you free up user from distraction by giving them a chunk of information to process act upon whilst on the other hand you’re easily forgotten and totally rely on muscle memory / learnability to be your UX crutch. I don’t think the author framed this correctly in this case by asserting that the users will “forget” the charm icons etc. I think it’s got poor amount of UX friction associated to it but the idea that Novice/Power users will be absent minded users here is really again an over reach. I find the whole persona attachment in this authors writing to be disconnected and fluctuates between a virgin user and a veteran of 15 years+ user? (settle on them and grouping here clearly needs to indicate the level of friction associated to each point).Had the user stated “I sampled a user with only 6month usage of a computer” then yes, Charms would be hazardous to one’s health. The reality is that’s a generational issue firstly (ie they are deprecating) and secondly there is such a wash of bad UI in software today that the users in general are what I’d call “defensive” in that they have been trained over and over that UI today isn’t always a case of “everything is in front of you where you need it”. Furthermore if you take a step back in time and look at the green-screen terminals and how data entry operators would fly through the various fields etc one can see that a human and pattern recognition have remarkable abilities.
- Internet Explorer is still being regarded inside Microsoft as a standalone ecosystem. I am still nervous and not excited about this thus suspicious of Typescripts charter (that fork in the road for IE vs. other browsers in the parity/ubiquity story is still coming up ahead).
- HTML5 vs. XAML/MXML. I still roll my eyes at HTML5 mainly as when you’ve used both MXML or XAML in your day to day development then look at HTML5 one can’t but help see the HTML5 has not only gone of charter – yet again. If we are going to go full, tilt XML UI declarative then let us fold Resource Dictionaries into place instead of CSS / style tags and be done with it.
- Typescript reminds me of the days when Adobe/Macromedia switched from ActionScript 1.o to 2.0/3.0. You felt it was a move forward and the idea isn't new, at the same time it took a long while for existing developers to cross that chasm of adoption. Hopefully it ECMA6 wont fall into that same vortex of pain.
It is like getting a hand job from a crack addict. You know it is wrong, you know it is a substitute for what you really want and lastly once it happens you can never look your friends in the eye the same way again. It however got the job done.(That was the clean version of that believe it or not).
Trust is still broken.A few years ago, the Silverlight team spent a tidy sum of money to figure out what the word “designer” actually meant. The main aim of this was to not only size the market but also get a better understanding as to what roles exist under this broad term and how we could position Expression and Silverlight into their wallets / hands. The research that we got back outlined that the concept of a designer is not merely a person who creates pixels day in day but someone who goes beyond that – information architects, accessibility experts, prototypers, animators and so on. Their role in enterprise corporations either can be an embedded entity within a cluster of developers, or centralized away from developers. At the time of the research the initial thoughts were that this was part of the designer evolution, that somehow over time this would blur away from its current state into this mutated “devigner” style creation which in turn would have the bloodlines of both design and developer (segregation shall be removed!). The last two days, the more I listened to speakers and various conversations the more I started to realize it is probably had the opposite effect. Trust is still not in place and one would say that designers are the ones who are now soliciting developers & management to embrace design. I found that thought the most profound of all as in 2008 we at Microsoft were sending guys like Shane Morris (amazing presenter & UX thought leader) into agencies to solicit them to help developers. Throughout the entire conference, a theme emerge where it was essentially based around the idea that designers in large corporations need to have a central rally point, stop duplicating work and form a gang. Designers also need to pick small fights and build out from there, ware your opponents down through design based pestering power initially. Lastly educate the developers, as on the basics of design in the hope they will come around to our way of thinking (as if you were missionaries preaching the gospel of Christ to a tribe of engineers). Trust is still is an ongoing battle between business owners, engineering and designers. For instance, I had noticed that at times speakers would talk about their experience with developers, but in a way that often sounded like “so I showed the natives fire, get this, they made me their god”. The tone was in a little way a bit offensive but at the same time I did chuckle as when I go to developer conferences they also talk in the same way – it has as if both gangs cannot agree the other is smarter or just as talented. Until both sides can look each other in the eye as equals, I sadly see developers being treated like children prone to irrational decision making and designers as being premadonnas who procrastinate on unimportant things – just make it look pretty. Note: Not everyone thinks like this, it is just my voiced summary of what I see before me.
Developers and Designers are not the ones at fault.Continuing with the trust issue, the other noticeable theme I saw emerge was that there was a lot of discussion about how does one get developers to slow down and work with designers. That is to say how to ensure developers value the work of a designer in an office more rather than looking for ways to bypass them unless being told to work with them. Here is the problem here that I see; firstly, developers and designers are not the ones that need convincing to work on great product(s) - a developer in a cubicle or a designer does not decide Deadlines. Secondly, a Product manager or Product Owner is the ones who typically hold the two entities purse strings and are the ones who decided the said deadline(s). Having a product owner on the side of design is critical no matter what organization you sit in as it not only ensures you have designer buy-in but you also take the pressure off developers from running the shipping gauntlet (agile really only helps you break up the pressure in ‘chunkable’ pieces – yes I made that word up). In my experience, I have always been able to win hearts & minds with design by focusing on the future instead of today that is you sit down and think about what would make a product owner convert to your cause. The answer is fantasy user interfaces which in turn set the goal posts on “what if we had unlimited time and money, how would we change the world”. A fantasy user interface can provoke a product owner to think beyond their current limitations, it provides them with a vision of what could happen if they relaxed their tight grip on shipping. A Fantasy User interface could also be used to help sell others both internal & external on what could happen vNext. My point is everyone is rushing around dating each other in the developer <-> designer cubicles when in reality a designer who paints a vision of the future can in turn create a sense of purpose that transcends beyond what they see before them today. It creates an atmosphere of winning team mixed with “I so want to work on that idea” – assuming the design is good. Lastly if you have everyone thinking positive about design, the laggards or negative jaded souls tend to fall back into line or better yet make themselves known with “cant or but” responses. As once they show themselves, you know who they are and can start to formulate a plan to contain their negativity or resistance.
SummaryThe conference was amazing, I did learn a lot and there was only one negative, which was that the conference only ran for two days instead of say five. I think there was a lot of intelligent and useful data that floated around within the room that was untapped furthermore it wasn’t a case of the usual echo chamber speakers that pretty much tell you the usual “web accessibility / usability 101” rules. The speakers were insightful, funny, energetic, presented flawlessly and lastly but most importantly trustworthy. I never once questioned their credibility or integrity as it was if you were sitting down with someone at dinner who then shares a story with you about something they learned yesterday. I absolutely enjoyed every minute of it and I would urge anyone in Australia or internationally to jump on a plane and hang out with these cool kids. Tomorrow I am excited about some new ideas that I want to execute on for my work and I am in a fortunate position where my manager believes in the importance of design already whilst at the same time the developers in all cities are also excited to see what we can all achieve. Watch this:
- Ubiquity. Will the chosen mobility platform work on as many customers as possible whilst giving the maximum chance of profit and/or adoption.
- Reduced Development Costs. Will the chosen mobility platform increase or decrease development time(s). Will the platform also enable or empower a uniform design experience across one or more platform(s) that compliment proposed ubiquity needs.
- Workforce Ready. Will the chosen mobility platform stand up to various conditions workforce is likely to put them through in their daily work style(s). Will they be compliant for industrial work not just office work, will they have work around to employee’s wearing gloves (safety) and so on.