An exasperating aspect of the Windows OSes is that they may include features that seem to be a designer's idea of "what we are going to like" (or more often, "what the marketing people say we are gong to be obliged to accept, whether we actually like it or not") - for example, a case in point being all the redundant Metro/Win8 interface rubbish - fortunately mostly easily fixed by installing The Classic Shell
and disabling most of the useless/redundant aspects of the interface.
We aren't really given much option with these force-fed but potentially unwanted/unneeded features, which sometimes/often appear to pay scant regard to ergonomics
, and be all about so-called "new interface standards" or "modern tools" that we are going to be given for our own good. (Thus putting the many perfectly adequate "old tools" in a pejorative light as being "outmoded".)
So it really is a pleasure for me when I come across an example of some real effort being made by Microsoft to ensure that ergonomics may be - albeit belatedly - coming to the forefront in the OS' interface design criteria.
Here is a really heartening example, relating to Win10:
Snap Assist (extracted from Arrange your Windows in a Snap
One of the most popular Aero Snap features in Windows 7 is the ability to drag windows to the left or right edges of the screen to resize them to half the screen. This allows you to choose any two windows and easily snap them side-by-side—a very handy feature when drafting an email or comparison shopping, for example.
When arranging two windows side-by-side, we noticed in practice that this scenario frequently involved snapping the first window and then spending time wading through other windows on screen to find the second one to drag and snap. This insight lead us to ask: instead of making you hunt for the second window to snap, why not present a list of recently used windows up front? This is the fundamental idea behind Snap Assist in Windows 10.
Snap Assist significantly speeds up the process of snapping two windows side-by-side by offering you a choice of windows to snap. Through our Windows Insider Program, we’ve seen that 90% of the time, users have chosen to take advantage of this improvement and pick the second app directly from Snap Assist rather than hunting for it manually. Snap Assist also has a number of related benefits. For example, just like Task View, it makes it easier to use the desktop with touch and comes in handy as part of Continuum.
I found it heartening, for the reasons given above, but I also found it depressingly obtuse, because the quote above illustrates a mentality that is so far behind the times
as to be apparently ignorant of users' needs. Depressingly, it has apparently taken the designers several years to realise that users actually might want to
"choose any two windows and easily snap them side-by-side — a very handy feature...", and even more depressingly that they give as an example "... when drafting an email or comparison shopping". I'm almost (but not actually) surprised that they didn't write something like "when comparing a Pinterest post with a Facebook post" - or something equally facile.
The requirement to do such a side-by-side comparison predates Aero Snap in Win7 by several years, originating in early Windows stone age OS limitations. For example, I recall using a free ZDNet proggy in Win3.1 (I think it was) that conveniently popped up 2 Windows Explorer
windows, stuck together
side-by-side, because, well, a lot of people really needed to be able to do that
, and it was a darn sight easier to use the freeware proggy than open two separate Windows Explorer instances and try to juggle their two windows side-by-side and
keep the two windows ON TOP
at the same time. Sheesh.
Even worse, the article says "For example, just like Task View, it makes it easier to use the desktop with touch and comes in handy as part of Continuum." The implication being that designers may have been still oblivious to the gaping need on the Desktop
until they perceived an ergonomic dysfunction vis-à-vis the new technology touch screens and the new
Anyway, on a more positive note, I am very pleased that some awareness of real user needs for good ergonomics seems to be permeating the conciousness of designers. It's a veritable milestone. I am incredibly excited
at the prospect of being more easily able to compare my fav Pinterest posts with my fav Facebook posts, or something.