A few years ago I blogged about the History of the Windows Start buttonand with the releases of the Windows 8 Developer preview and the Windows 8 Consumer preview I thought it’s time to revisit the start button again.
As you may have read in my previous post about the start button one of the main issues with it from a usability point of view is that users click on the ‘Start’ button to start everything they have to do such as launching programs and they also have to do the same to ‘End’ what they have to do as well such as when shutting down a pc. With the release of Windows Vista Microsoft seemed to change the start button by removing the text start from the button and this looked like it has addressed the issue of the start button usability and the same was brought across in Windows 7.
However, with the Windows 8 Developer preview and the introduction of the new start screen for the Windows 8 touch functionality I think Microsoft shifted the inconsistency somewhere else. Whilst the start button still had the start text removed as per Windows Vista & Windows 7, clicking the button made users switch context between Windows 8’s desktop mode and Windows 8 touch mode. I have personally found this to be very unusable and confusing. The main reason for this confusion in my view is that a lot of us are probably quite used to using the start menu to launch programs and do quick searches, and in Windows 8, by default this was my expectation too. Nevertheless every time I clicked on the start button in the Windows 8 Developer preview it took me to the Windows 8 touch mode rather than allowing me to launch the programs in the same way I did in previous versions of Windows. Annoying eh… yes, BUTthis is where the Windows 8 Consumer preview comes in.
With Windows 8 Consumer preview one thing that Microsoft did that I thought was very clever is actually get rid of the start button all together. With that change, I think Microsoft managed to remove the old and new expectations of what the start button should do and thus making in easier for consumers to get used to the new changes. With the start button removed, I now don’t get confused any more when wanting to launch programs or things like note-pad or the run command and cmd shell. The reason for this is, I now know that I can just use the context menu by right clicking in the bottom left corner of my Windows 8 screen and it’ll present me with all those menus in an easy to access manner that I think is no longer confusing!
I believe that the introduction of the context menus such as the one above and others that you see when exploring the corners of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview were some of the nice usability changes that have been introduced in this latest version of Windows.
Nice one Microsoft!