Tag Archives: Microsoft

Jakob Nielsen Slams Windows 8 Usability

I’m not normally one to agree with Jakob Nielsen, but he really hit the nail on the head with his fresh rant panning Windows 8. He has seven main complaints, from the “double desktop” inconsistency and low information density to the overly flat UI making it difficult to determine what is and isn’t an interactive element.

I’ve long thought that the split between the Desktop and Metro UIs would confuse newbies, though perhaps not so badly as the ARM/x86 issue. A lot of the people who ran out and bought the Surface tablet will probably be irritated when they learn that their x86 software won’t run on it, since the binaries are incompatible with the ARM architecture.

It’s an interesting read.

Windows 8 — Disappointing Usability for Both Novice and Power Users [UseIt]

A Potential Windows 8 Caveat: Alternate Browsers in Metro

Microsoft has been showing off developer previews of Windows 8 lately, with it’s new multitouch “Metro” UI. The idea behind Metro is to have a tablet-friendly interface that boots quickly, with an option to switch into the traditional desktop interface.

Metro apps, from what I’ve heard, will be built with HTML5 and Silverlight rather than being native apps. This comes in handy, as Microsoft is fracturing their platform a bit. Some Windows 8 devices will run on Intel’s x86 architecture as before, but Microsoft plans for a lot of the new tablets to be ARM-based. That will create a lot of software incompatibility, as applications will need to be re-compiled for ARM processors. (So don’t buy an ARM-based computer if you want to run Photoshop on it…)

Now, we can probably assume that most people will spend a lot of time in Metro, right? It seems like a convenient tool for casual computing, and certainly better-suited for touch-enabled devices. If you need to look something up quickly, you boot your machine to the Metro interface, click on the Internet Explorer icon and head over to Wikipedia, right? That raises one very important question:

Can you replace Internet Explorer 10 with Firefox, Chrome or Opera? If Metro applications have to be written in HTML5 and Silverlight, the browsers would certainly need to be re-written, assuming that you can even build a browser with such limited tools. And will Microsoft even allow you to move that big IE tile off the primary screen?

I hope Microsoft addresses this, because it seems rather anti-competitive to me, with their large market share and all. A return to the dark days between the death of Netscape Navigator and the birth of Firefox, if you will. Web standards and browser innovation basically stagnated for a decade until the open source cavalry arrived.

Update: Apparently Microsoft has partially addressed this at the Build conference. Metro applications will be written with a new API called WinRT that will also be available in C++/C#/VB/etc.. So browsers will have to be rewritten for the new UI, but they won’t be excluded.

Internet Explorer Should be Powered by WebKit

Internet Explorer + WebKitThere, I said it.

If Microsoft were to switch from their proprietary “Trident” rendering engine to an open source solution such as WebKit or Mozilla’s Gecko, it would do far more than simply save designers headaches.

It would save Microsoft money and development time, net them some publicity, and vastly improve their web browser? What’s not to like?

What is WebKit? It’s an open source HTML rendering engine that powers Google Chrome, Apple Safari, the iPhone’s MobileSafari, and just about any Mac OS X application that displays web pages.

Internet Explorer could at long last become reasonably standards compliant, and Microsoft would be able to put their resources towards improving their browser’s user interface, rather than wasting time reinventing the wheel.

Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but there is no reason it couldn’t be done.

Microsoft Rips Off Plurk

It seems that Microsoft China has ripped off the design, UI and code of Plurk, China’s most popular microblogging service. Microsoft’s “MClub” (club.msn.cn) doesn’t just look uncannily similar, a lot of the JavaScript looks to have been copied and pasted.

We were first tipped off by high profile bloggers and Taiwanese users of our community that Microsoft had just launched a new Chinese microblogging service that looked eerily similar to Plurk. Needless to say we were absolutely shocked and outraged when we first saw with our own eyes the cosmetic similarities Microsoft’s new offering had with Plurk. From the filter tabs, emoticons, qualifier/verb placement, Karma scoring system, media support, new user walkthroughs to pretty much everything else that gives Plurk its trademark appeal, Microsoft China’s offering ripped off our service.

See the original Plurk Blog post for all the intriguing details. We need to see some social media push on this, I think. Unless there’s more to this story, it seems that Microsoft, arguably the largest software company in the world, is peddling a plagiarized product.

Oh No They Didn’t! Microsoft and Web Standards

Remember the big deal Microsoft made about how Internet Explorer 8 would finally be standards compliant. Aside from some odd stuff they were doing, it looked like they were actually putting in an effort to follow through with their promise, or at least something close to it.

Apparently, the a lot of of web pages will load in IE7 mode instead of standards mode. The Register has the full details.

This week, the promise was broken. It lasted less than six months. Now that Internet Explorer IE8 beta 2 is released, we know that many, if not most, pages viewed in IE8 will not be shown in standards mode by default. The dirty secret is buried deep down in the «Compatibility view» configuration panel, where the «Display intranet sites in Compatibility View» box is checked by default. Thus, by default, intranet pages are not viewed in standards mode.

So all intranet sites will be shown in non-standards mode. Then we have all the version targetting nonsense they’ve been planning.

Oh, and guess what happens whenever a page loads in standards mode? A little icon appears showing a broken page. When clicked, it forces the page into “IE7 compatibility” mode. So the browser tricks people into not using standards mode.

Continue reading →

On IE8’s Controversial “Standards Mode”

Internet Explorer version 8, to be released later this year, will, by default, render web pages the same way as IE7. If the meta tag <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=8" /> is detected in a page’s header, it will render in the new ACID2-compliant mode. This is a bad idea, for several reasons.

First of all, Microsoft, again, is trying to force us to build web pages for IE specifically. If the X-UA-Compatible tag is not found, then a page will not render in the standards-compliant mode. So, basically, you’re having to specifically instruct IE to follow the standard, which it’s supposed to follow anyway. Does that make any sense? No. It seems like another ploy to maintain their monopoly. After all, if most pages work in any browser, there is less reason for people to continue using IE.

Microsoft claims that the meta tag exists so manually-updated web pages won’t break when IE8 comes around. Manually updated? If you’re still doing that, you’re just asking for trouble. Take this as an opportunity to move away from a manually-updated site. While you’re making your design standards-compliant, install a CMS, or at least start using PHP includes. Also, as Bb’s RealTech said:

“The argument for this tag is actually the number one argument against this tag: those people with hand crafted pages are not going to be willing to hand edit each page to make it standards compliant–why on earth would they hand edit each of these pages to add this tag? As for being able to test a site against a version of a browser–this site looks good in IE7, but not IE8, or some such nonsense–when are we finally going to actually commit to standards? Not just as browser vendors, but as web page designers and developers? More importantly, as people who use browsers to surf the web?”

Instead, IE8 should check the DOCTYPE. If it’s XHTML Strict, then use the standards mode. If it’s HTML transitional, or absent, use the IE7 engine. I’m guessing that a lot of the people who would run into the problem Microsoft talks of wouldn’t be using XHTML. It’s much easier to manually-update HTML than strict XHTML after all. Or IE8 could validate the entire markup in-browser, and if it’s not standards-compliant, render in IE7 mode, and display an icon to show that the page isn’t compliant. At the very least, they should make the standards-mode default, and have the meta tag specify IE7 mode instead. Microsoft needs to base their trigger off of an existing feature of (X)HTML, rather than inventing proprietary tags.

Edit: I wrote this post before Microsoft changed their minds. You read my mind, didn’t you, Microsoft? But couldn’t you wait until the post went live?

BlogBuzz March 1, 2008