“How real people will use Windows 8”

Chris Pirillo is a computer geek. His dad is not. As an experiment to see how an average, non-geeky user will react to Windows 8, Chris plopped his dad in front of the computer and let him try to figure it out by himself — which is how the vast majority of Windows users will learn this new OS.

Mr. Pirillo does just fine for the first few seconds. Then he gets stuck, and for the remainder of the video he cannot get unstuck. He can’t do a single thing. Microsoft clearly skipped the part of the design process where they actually test the UI on somebody besides coders and tech pundits.

The video is a bit slow for obvious reasons, but worth watching for Mr. Pirillo’s last question.

A quick prowl through the comments on Chris Pirillo’s blog revealed that his father’s experience is not unique. A sampling:

I’m very computer literate. I’ve been using computers nearly as long as I can remember (my first was an Osborne I running CP/M), I bought my first Mac in 1991, and have built homebrew PCs (in my misguided youth).

But when I installed the Windows 8 preview into Parallels to try it out, I had this _exact same experience_. I clicked a tile, got down to the “old style” desktop…and got stuck. I had no idea how to get out of it and back to the Metro tiles. It was aggravating, and eventually I gave up, closed down that Parallels virtual machine, and haven’t bothered to boot it up again since then.

This has nothing to do with Chris’s dad being old, or not tech savvy, or not getting any instruction from Chris. This is about horrible, obtuse, and confusing UI design.


I have been working in the technology industry for almost 20 years. I sit in front of computers 50+ hours a week. I am a Windows, Unix, Mac OS power user. I reverse engineer malware for a living. I hold certifications. I have written compilers from scratch. In short, I live and breath technology.

And my first experience with Windows 8 was shockingly similar to what was presented in this video.

But my absolute favorite:

You are a mean bitch of a son to do that to your dad.

What if this ends up on CNN or Fox?

All the viagra in the world won’t be able to pick him back up…

Actually I thought his dad was amazingly patient — and very typical of the average Windows user. Which is precisely why his final question should frighten Microsoft.


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
This entry was posted in tech, video. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to “How real people will use Windows 8”

  1. Lilaine says:

    Has anyone thought to hit the Windows key? 😮
    Maybe it works…. or not. 😛
    Gonna try W8, for the fun… or not.

  2. Jbrandao says:

    Considering this is not the final version, I’m pretty sure they’ll add some tips during the installation process for the final version.

  3. Jbrandao says:

    or some pop-up tips during the first use.

    • oregon expat says:

      Let us hope. Videos like this, and the rounds of laughter they bring, should help nudge Microsoft into fixing this particular issue. But from all I’ve read, while Windows 8 is good by itself, and Metro is good by itself, the two of them together is a UI nightmare.

  4. Alma says:

    Wow. So glad I’m a Mac person.

  5. kepler20f says:

    “Windows 8 is good by itself” is good enough news for me.
    As a happy user of Windows 7 (and an unhappy spectator of the lack of usability of two MacBooks… oooh… I went there 🙂 ), I’ll take whatever W8 has to offer as a bonus.

    And, come on, which new operating system, with new features, gets the user navigating smoothly “right off the bat”?
    I’ve been working in IT for 24 years, and I still get frustrated with the counter-intuitive (oooh… again) UI of Mac OS. True, it’s a pet-hate of mine. But still.
    Disclaimer: my wife says the same thing or worse when she has to use Windows.
    Addendum to the Disclaimer: she’s wrong.

    iPods and Pads and Phones are great, though!

    • oregon expat says:

      Ha! Of course your wife is not wrong. 😉

      I confess that my first usage of OS X was also confusing — but as soon as I dropped my “Why doesn’t it work like Windows?!” expectations and just let the UI guide me, it became easy.

      In the interests of fairness, Chris Pirillo also filmed his dad using OS X for the first time. It’s a much longer (and much more boring) video, but Mr. Pirillo gets himself online almost instantly, and finds the Google homepage not too long after that.

      (And it’s telling that Mr. Pirillo’s entire online experience is filtered through Google. I suspect that’s true of a huge number of people.)

      • Lilaine says:

        I confess that my first usage of OS X was also confusing — but as soon as I dropped my “Why doesn’t it work like Windows?!” expectations and just let the UI guide me, it became easy

        Same here. The idea is to keep our mind* wide open and to accept the differences. Not in anybody’s realm of possibilities (or set of abilities). And the adventurous streak is put to good use, too.
        Still in awe with the ‘deer foot’ right click… I can do it with my left hand, too! 😮

        * and the little part of our brains that is actually working… 😉

        • kepler20f says:

          This Microsoft vs. Apple endless and fruitless argument is for me on a par with my tongue-in-cheek “sport allegiances” (FC Porto rules!! 🙂 ), that is, mostly a fun and unimportant way to socialize and crack a few jokes. Taking it too seriously leads to nothing – or, in the case of football, to long-term negativity and potential disaster.

          The two operating systems, designs, etc., are just what you said, Lilaine: different. And obviously everybody should use the tool that fits them best, and for the tasks best suited for that tool, according to their own expertise, expectations, personal taste.

          Do I still think Apple products are overpriced? Yes. I have owned a couple of Apple shares for a few years, so I know they are 🙂 And I don’t care. Much.

          Due to the nature of my work, I often have 30 or 40 windows open, several resource-hungry programs and processes, lots of services running in the background, VoIP apps, etc.
          I do some HD video editing some times – I don’t have to close anything. It works quite fine for me. My days would be horrible if it didn’t.

          Like I said, my wife has a couple of MacBooks (I hope this doesn’t sound like Romney and his own wife’s “couple of Cadillacs”), with the same specs as my Lenovo laptop. She is a photographer and works with huge files. She now – sort of – admits that Macs are lousy at multitasking, if you compare them to PCs with a similar configuration. But she’s comfortable with it, and would only switch if it made sense, other things being equal.

          I like shiny things as well :), but I am used to handling tasks under a different level of efficiency and usability (for me),

          This whole “debate” is a bit too close to the “First World Problems” meme (a very funny one, if you care to look for it).

          I currently prefer the Windows user interface (MUCH more customizable) to the Mac OS one. That could change. But I’ll keep having fun bashing Apple and teasing its “fans” (especially the ones that live to the fullest the original sense of the expression).

          • Lilaine says:

            I’m sending this from my Lenovo T60 (heck, actually, some parts are still labelled IBM ;). I renovated it myself and slightly boosted processor and memory), multiboot Win7 ultimate, Linux Ubuntu, and now Win 8 Customer preview(had to repair my MBR, though, W8 preview install did a little trick on it…). In my prices… Mac is too expensive for me.
            I’m not fond of ‘extreme’ multitasking, but I appreciate the ease provided by Windows to manage all sorts of simultaneous activities.
            And the customizing features. And the great quantity of available software, though I actually don’t use that many applications. And the virus paranoia has not killed me, yet. 😉
            That said, I like the Mac user interface, it’s easy to learn(for beginners especially). and anyway, most of the time(as for Windows average users), the Mac average users actually don’t use half(at best) of what is available on their machine….
            And for the Windows vs Apple joust, as long as it’s all about teasing, I’m game 🙂
            Gonna look up this “First World Problems” thing, now…

          • Lilaine says:

            Thanks, I’ve looked it up already 🙂
            I was looking forward to have a good time laughing but I found too many links about ‘first world problems’. 😉

  6. Lilaine says:

    Well… I installed the consumer preview this morning…
    That’s exactly what I thought…. Windows key!
    And…. in the corners(extremity: just push your mouse(as you would your finger on a tactile screen) out of the screen), there is a reactive clickable zone that allows anybody to access the start menu(bottom left), and a multiple commands zone(up and bottom right), both collapsible(I’m not sure it’s the exact term…). Isn’t there the same kind of collapsible menu on the Macs??
    And, in Windows 7, there was already access to the desktop in the bottom right corner, and any kind of collapsible things(widgets, etc…).
    And, I don’t even talk about the touchpad settings that would possibly allow a simple touch on one of the corners to access the menus.

    I don’t know who those self-called “very computer literate” and “Windows, Unix, Mac OS power user” are, but they obviously don’t know how Windows works(has been working for a while, now): when using your mouse, just explore your screen with it, and you’ll see some ‘reactive’ zones(pop-ups, reactive buttons, mouse pointer change… )

    And they obviously don’t know how to use their keyboard, too(as many basic or average users(no geek needed for that), I’m afraid, but not a conceptual problem, more a lack of learning the basics or simple curiosity(experiment) users-wise.).

    I’m not a Windows certified or anything more than a basically open-minded curious user, and I had to learn a little bit… in order to teach the basics(really!) to my clients(‘pupils’ as I call them), and each and every one of them knows to hit the windows key to call the start menu….
    They also know the Esc key…
    And the keyboards shortcuts are available everywhere… to those who’d like to know them.

    Do you know of one Mac user who doesn’t know the main keys(I mean special keys, not alphanumeric ones) and what they can do?
    I do know some who don’t know the ‘right click’… 😉

    Back later to tell you more about W8 ….

    • oregon expat says:

      Not all keyboards have the Windows key (our son’s doesn’t)…and I don’t think Windows users are trained to scrub their mouse cursor all over the screen searching for things to appear. Maybe they are if they’re upgrading from Windows 7, but a whole lot of Windows users are still on XP and are trained to click.

      • Lilaine says:

        I’m really surprised to learn that not all keyboards have the Windows key…. 😛
        I suppose not all keyboards have the Command key, either… 😉

        That said, the users lack of curiosity and awareness might be particular to Windows basic users (I’m sorry to tell you that the old guy in the video is NOT an average Windows user. Even in Win XP(and all software properly developed on it) you can find reactive buttons and icon tooltips when you put the mouse over them. And, every Internet page(even the Google one), whatever Windows version, is loaded with clickable reactive/mouse-pointer-changing ‘objects’. and no need to “scrub the mouse cursor all over the screen searching for things to appear”. Just putting the mouse over identifiable objects, or in usual places an average Windows user might go (the bottom left corner being the usual location of the start button. OK, you don’t see it, and it’s really in the corner, but why/how can you miss it if you really try to find it?).
        I spent hours to tell my clients/pupils NOT to click on everything they see. Now, I think I’ll spend hours to tell them to search for and click on things they don’t have at first sight. 😉

        Really, dear MacUser and eminent blogger, I think this video and the reactions are a little out of proportion. If I wanted to denigrate/ridicule Windows 8, I wouldn’t have done otherwise…

  7. Jbrandao says:

    Let’s just wait and see when it finally comes out. I actually like seeing Microsoft taking these kinds of risks, and trying to change the game.

    Let’s not forget some of the amazing design decisions by Apple in the past:

    – Ejecting a CD by dragging the icon over to the trash bin, where things are normally deleted (makes perfect sense)
    – Recently, making the scroll button on the mouse, work upside down to what it’s supposed to be (because as we know, using a touch screen is exactly the same as using a mouse)
    – Not allowing Flash on the iPads (really Apple?! That should be the user’s decision, not yours, ever!)

    Also, I prefer not being robbed out of my money when buying a computer. For, let’s say, 1000 dollars I could buy a much better PC, than I could a Mac, by far.

    It’s actually curious how the Apple of today, turned into everything bad that was said about Microsoft in the 90’s (and some people still seem to think today). It’s a monopoly, it’s a very closed system, it’s over priced, etc.

    • Sue Dunham says:

      Here we go again. A 4 year old Mac has an actual resale value, which changes everything about the initial cost. And I would expect to pay more for a Jaguar than a Pinto.

    • kepler20f says:

      Hear, hear!

      • kepler20f says:

        I commented one minute too late. For the sake of clarity, my “hear, hear” was for Jbrandao’s comment.

        But I respect your opinion, Sue.

        Even though the “jaguarness” of MacBooks is highly questionable.

  8. Lilaine says:

    Ah, custom Clippy! At the school where I was the ‘computer wizard’ the kids liked it a lot!

    As for the tips during installation…Jbrandao, do you really think those who know how to(or who’d be intrepid enough to) install the OS need the tips to use it?
    We’re talking about basic(to under-average) users, here… Those people don’t install Windows… 😮
    I kinda liked the soundtrack of XP installation, though. Most relaxing…and with the bass boost, it’s groovy. 😉

  9. Jbrandao says:

    you have a point about the tips during installation Lilaine, but they can always use first-use tips.

    Sue… I don’t understand how you think a pc with much better specs is somehow a pinto.

    • Lilaine says:

      Well, the keyword is first-use: basic users might not think to memorize those first-use tips… and the problem is intact.
      Maybe some well-placed ‘popping-tips’ at system start-up, that the user can deactivate once they learnt the tricks…?
      What’s it with the Pinto? It’s cute! 😀

  10. oregon expat says:

    Holy moly, I go away for a day and my comments explode!

    And I should probably confess…[hangs head]…I liked Clippy. He cracked me up. Remember the little programs inspired by him, like the flock of sheep that would bounce around your screen and nibble at the edges of your windows?

    Kepler20f: I agree about the fun of snipping back and forth on OS preferences. As for football, my wife is a Sporting fan and whenever I want to get a rise out of her, I just say, “I forget, is it Sporting you root for, or Benfica?” Then I run.

    • kepler20f says:

      I miss “Clippy” as well. Maybe because it reminds me of my first days of using a personal computer. Before that I worked on midrange/mainframes… and stuff.

      I used quotes above because I remember having quickly switched to Merlin – there was a range of characters you could chose from. If I was working on a document and paused for a bit, “he” would start getting “restless”, fidgeting and blinking or wide opening the eyes. It added some playfulness to work. It wasn’t exceedingly useful, though. Or at all. 🙂
      And yes, I remember the sheep thing, that seemed as if it would never get old – it did, after a week or so.

      Oh, those were the days… you kids today, with your apps and your angry birds… you don’t know the fun we had! The sheep wasn’t angry at all, it was cheerful and bubbly and quirky!

      Back to football: Go Timbers!!
      I never anticipated that I would find such a “soccer”-loving environment in Portland. I’ve gone to some of the games and it’s almost like being in an English stadium (plus good beer).

      I still call (and get calls from) my benfica “arch-enemies” (and a few Sporting ones, but they tend to be much less passionate – more rational and nice, if I can put it like that…) whenever our teams rise or fall spectacularly. It’s a great occasion to catch up and reminisce, and to tease one another.

      Like a call I made an hour ago, because… it’s a great night for Sporting! Well done!!! Your wife must be happy and praising the “great” Sá Pinto!

      • oregon expat says:

        My wife shouted “GOOOLLOOO!” so loudly for those two Sporting goals that she frightened both me and the cat. Then she was so tense regarding the rest of the game that she couldn’t even sit down, but watched most of it while standing in the middle of the living room, practically vibrating. I’m just glad she didn’t have a heart attack.

        But yes, she’s happy. 🙂

  11. JKMPDX says:

    “My wife shouted “GOOOLLOOO!” so loudly for those two Sporting goals that she frightened both me and the cat. Then she was so tense regarding the rest of the game that she couldn’t even sit down, but watched most of it while standing in the middle of the living room, practically vibrating. I’m just glad she didn’t have a heart attack.”

    Sounds like kepler20f when FC Porto is playing 😉

    • kepler20f says:

      It’s *very* significant that JKMPDX comments on a post about Mac vs. Windows and chooses the “football thread”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s