Windows 8 Is Not Intuitive To Use, At Least For Now

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 12, 2012
Updated • Mar 12, 2012
Windows, Windows 8

Have you ever watched someone with little computing experience use a computer? If you ever worked tech support or are the go-to guy when tech issues come up, you probably know what I'm talking about. Their way of using a computer is often fundamentally different from ours.

Most use a limited number of apps and techniques to get the things done that they need to do. Most ignore the keyboard when they do not have to enter text into an email, Word or Excel, and rely on the start menu and the desktop to load their applications.

I just watched the "How Real People Will Use Windows 8" video on YouTube, and it once again reminded me of what regular Windows users will go through once they upgrade to Windows 8, or buy a new PC that ships with the operating system.

Here is a short summary if you do not want to watch it. Chris Pirillo's father is trying out Windows 8 for the first time, and tries to figure out for most of the video how to get back to the Metro Start page that he saw in the beginning (and his mean son does not explain to him how it's done).

You probably know that Microsoft has done away with the start button in Windows 8, and that the operating system comes with a new Metro user interface that is optimized for tablet PCs.

Microsoft has released two public preview versions of the operating system. First the Windows 8 Developer Preview, which still sported a small start menu, and then the Consumer Preview without the start menu.

Both versions shared that they did not offer any visual clues on how to use the "hidden" control options. Experienced users might try the keyboard when they cannot find any clues on the desktop, and many will try the Windows key as they may remember that it opened the start menu back in previous versions of Windows.

But moving the mouse to the lower right (or upper right) corner of the screen to bring up the Charms bar? That's more likely discovered by accident. The bar is another new concept in Windows 8, linking to the start page, control panel, or power options among other things.

Windows 8 users can also move the mouse cursor to the lower left corner of the screen to display a start page thumbnail that they can click on.

While it is likely that Microsoft will play a tutorial on first start, and maybe even add visual clues to the operating system, it is not written in stone that they will. But how would Windows 8 users find out about the hidden controls otherwise?

Maybe the release candidate will have the answers that we are looking for. For now, Windows 8 is not as intuitive to use as it needs to be.


Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. Maria said on February 16, 2014 at 11:59 am

    I’m still loving Windows 7 , when windows 8 released all my friends change their operation system , but me not .I don’t like it actually

  2. Vincent W said on September 14, 2012 at 3:12 am

    It is an awkward merger of two completely incompatible interfaces. The new interface is cool but the old familiar interface has been gimped. It’s almost like they haven’t put a lot of thought into this.

  3. Vincent W said on September 14, 2012 at 3:11 am

    There are some things about win 8 that I love, and some that I hate. JohnM wants to know why it’s “better” as though there is some kind of metric for that. “Better” is a subjective term. I think most people would consider the metro UI better because it’s organized, it’s live and it’s simple. I am one of those people.

    The part that is not better is having to not only move your mouse off screen to get access to options, but even worse having to click off screen to activate those options. And the absolute worst thing about the Win 8 consumer preview is that when you do finally figure out how to make the Metro thumbnail appear in the bottom left corner, you mustn’t try to click on it because moving your mouse in position to do that, will actually make the thumbnail disappear.

    Clicking off screen is the stupidest thing I have ever seen. But that’s just my opinion

  4. Michael McLaughlin said on March 16, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Offer your feedback on Windows 8 using the free survey I’ve posted (lord knows microsoft could use it).

  5. flyby chow said on March 16, 2012 at 7:14 am

    guys something just popped up in my mind, now please correct me if I am wrong? but we do not actually know the true versions that ms. is going to bring windows8 out in right? we have a idea. so here is what I am thinking. maybe for the consumer preview, they tried to show us everything in one what win8 can do. so when they finally release it. maybe the o.s. will be made in such a way as to have both desktop and touch versions. or maybe, win8 will be able to detect if you are using a touch device or a desktop, and then offer us the best of both worlds. i know it’s a bit far fetched, but surely that will neatly put metro where it belongs. on tablets. and desktop UI back on desktops.
    any thoughts?
    got my spelling right this time! lol!!

  6. Robert Palmar said on March 14, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    I think Metro will be an absolute winner on Tablet devices.
    The objections to date are really coming from desktop users.
    However, over time those objections will be addressed and resolved.

    Metro is the future meaning the future of Windows.
    Microsoft is not going to retreat but double-down.

    1. JohnMWhite said on March 14, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      That doesn’t do anything to answer my question. Besides, if all the complaints are coming from desktop users, why is Microsoft doubling-down on forcing them to use a tablet-centric OS? Saying “the complaints will be addressed” is pretty meaningless when the complaint is the attempt to make a tablet OS the default on desktops. The only way to resolve it is to not do it or to provide some greater functionality and usability with Metro over WIMP, and apparently neither is going to happen.

      1. Robert Palmar said on March 15, 2012 at 10:09 pm

        You are the only one who did not follow what I said.
        If an idea cannot get into your head that is not my fault.
        Do yourself a favor and ignore me. I’m done with your nonsense.

      2. JohnMWhite said on March 15, 2012 at 4:33 pm

        There’s no need for the attitude. If you don’t want to answer my questions you certainly are not obliged to, but I was pointing out that your attempt to do so was unsuccessful, and it is not because I failed to communicate. That doesn’t even make sense, I’m the one requesting more information. I am communicating, you are not. You are not explaining or supporting your assertions in any way.

      3. Robert Palmar said on March 15, 2012 at 4:03 pm

        JohnMWhite — I am not here to answer your questions.
        I could not have made myself more clear so this
        is known as a failure to communicate.

        For what its worth I thought it was
        you were talking in circles.

      4. JohnMWhite said on March 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm

        Robert, I’m afraid that, again, doesn’t answer my questions, you’re just making the same assertions once more. All you’re saying is “Microsoft are just going to do this and they’ll eventually make it better”. Ok… how? And how is it better than the Win 7 GUI and way of working in the first place? That’s what I and countless other Enterprise users are wondering – why does Microsoft want to go down this road so badly when there are no clear benefits? Microsoft cannot address the complaints of desktop users if they want to keep Metro bolted over the top of the desktop because Metro IS the complaint.

      5. Robert Palmar said on March 14, 2012 at 5:53 pm

        Microsoft committed to Metro. There is no going back.
        The next version of Office is already designed using Metro.
        In that version it appears Microsoft has not sacrificed usability.

        Microsoft will address complaints of desktop users as best it
        can without sacrificing Metro as the primary interface going forward.
        The usability of Metro will be improved there too but it is not there yet.

        Microsoft has legions of enterprise users which it has to keep happy
        which will force it to make changes to accommodate those users.

        Personally, I am skipping Windows 8 because I think it will
        take until Windows 9 before Microsoft makes Metro
        as usable as the desktop is presently now.

  7. Robert Palmar said on March 13, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Metro is the future. Its implementation will need and have refinement.
    With a sea change like this waiting for Windows 8 SP1 is advised.

    1. JohnMWhite said on March 14, 2012 at 1:58 am

      Why is it the future? What is the benefit? Generally radical paradigm shifts have stuck when they have demonstrated they are better for the consumer or the market. I do not see how Metro achieves this – it makes things more fiddly, annoying and ugly. That’s subjective, of course, but what is not subjective is that to touch a square on a screen is not a significant step forward from clicking with a mouse. The Metro UI is highly awkward for desktop use and this is not Star Trek – it is not comfortable to use a touch-screen VDU as a primary means of input. If this is a sea change, it is an artificial one. There is nothing to be gained by casting users adrift in uncharted waters for the sake of it.

  8. bazza said on March 13, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    Always a learning curve with any system one is new to. You get a tutorial period and the rest comes from use.

    I support windows 8 fully, its good overhaul visually and internaly.

  9. Robert Palmar said on March 13, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Intuitive means resulting from intuition — an intuitive awareness.
    With regard to software intuitive software gives you a sense
    of where things are and how to go about doing things.

    The general impression so far even amongst those
    with a high degree of intuition when it comes
    to software and computers is Windows 8
    is indeed less intuitive and the word
    intuitive is exactly the right word.

  10. vasa1 said on March 13, 2012 at 5:06 am

    Intuitive … this word is “in” and is being overused. It gives the impression that things are beyond dispute because it’s either intuitive or not. AFAIK, there’s no objective way of measuring it. What’s intuitive to one intelligent person may not be intuitive to another.

  11. Gary said on March 12, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    I love Ubuntu’s new Unity interface. What would be sweet is to have Unity as the Windows interface = AWESOME.

    Unity is my fav interface. And Windows has all the programs and wide-stream app-support and establishment I need in a computer.

  12. Chris Pirillo said on March 12, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    You’re all missing the primary niggle: Metro and Aero do not belong side-by-side (in the same OS).

    1. Steve said on March 12, 2012 at 10:35 pm

      What I don’t like is not being able to find things on the Desktop that were there before – try finding the DIsk Management MMC app…
      Its is crazy to remove the Start Menu in my opinion – I don’t see why I can’t have it and Charms and Metro…

      1. Keith Broughton said on March 13, 2012 at 12:07 am

        Right click bottom left and you will find the link there to Disk Managnemt

  13. Gary said on March 12, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    Computers are everywhere now. People will assimilate to new ways of doing things. It will be rough at first for some people, but eventually it will become intuitive for people to look to the keyboard and move the mouse to corners to find stuff.

    Windows 8 is a step in the right direction. Nobody wanted to switch to IPv6 until the last minute. For computer users to advance, a new way of doing things has to be pushed upon them so they have to learn a better way.

    1. JohnMWhite said on March 13, 2012 at 8:16 pm

      Switching to IP6 was a necessity, though, otherwise expanding the Internet would be impossible. There is no pressing need to touch a screen instead of a mouse button. I do not see how this is an advance or better way of doing things.

  14. bastik said on March 12, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    I guess i would have figured it out, but maybe just because I try things.

    Not being intuitive is bad. Whenever you change something in the way it looks and works without improving how it works for most of the people out there you’ll add new things to learn. Increasing the learning curve is just bad.

    Microsoft changed names of applications or removed ones included in Windows XP. I really needed to look for them in Windows 7.

    Whenever you increase the learning curve you may make some consider to try something else. Like the dad in the video one may tries Mac because they promise to have an understandable GUI. The chance to try any Linux distribution might be even higher. One can try dual-boot, or an virtual environment just to test. One needs to learn new things in both examples, but when the learning curve increases further and further, learning something different instead of adopting to changes seems easier in the end.

  15. ilev said on March 12, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    I hope for new customers that Windows 8 will come with a downgrade to Windows 7/XP cd .

  16. Robert Palmar said on March 12, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    If Chris Pirillo’s father actually did represent the typical user
    Windows has a much bigger problem than Windows 8.
    And Chris Pirillo should be disowned for making
    his father look as dumb as a plant.

  17. Niffy said on March 12, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Silly setup. Have they tried the same intuitive-degree ‘experiment’ with Apple’s OS or Linux? I would really want to see the results…

  18. Sputnik said on March 12, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    I’m under XP SP3 for the moment and very happy with it.

    But I think it will be maybe soon the time for me to go with Linux….

  19. Sid said on March 12, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Hey Martin, we can only hope that Microsoft can understand and [also] acknowledge there are serious issues.
    It is not practical to use at all on non-touch devices. That’s the way I feel about Windows 8 CP.

  20. Steve said on March 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    When this is deployed as an image by corporates, the OOBE will not show to the end user. Any company that considers rolling out Win 8 will have to invest in a massive training campaign and be prepared for lots of support calls. Let’s see how Remote Desktop can swipe the screen from off-screen-right to centre on a Tablet or Slate! Be prepared for lots of support visits to the user’s desks!
    The on-screen keyboard just does not have all the desired keys easily accessible and the current GUI just doesn’t work – Win 8 CP does not work for the PC or the Slate format!

  21. flyby chow said on March 12, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    the thing is, microsoft is on the right track. but they want to do to much and to quick. let me take this from a small scale perspectave right? a few of my friends who are blind wil be left in the dust when it comes to windows8 as the screen reader technology does not yet have the ability to work with windows8, and because those cumpunies who makes the assistave technology have to play catch up, it wil take a long while before they can get it quite right. windows7 is the way to stay for now. untill all the red tape can be ironed out.
    however, I must say. I did test it out on my core i7 2600k rig, and I like what I see.
    microsofts got a good thing going here. i just hope they don’t blow it.
    sorry for the spelling

  22. Keith Broughton said on March 12, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    You have to member that this is only the CUSTOMER PREVIEW.
    When windows 8 if released it will come with a Welcome to Windows 8 intro.
    So showing someone who does know about windows 8 the Customer preview is not the right way to say how good or bad Windows 8 is.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 12, 2012 at 3:33 pm

      Keith, but it is a consumer preview version, so that consumers can test the operating system. And intuition is something that is there right away, or not. And for now, it is not. I agree with you that Microsoft will likely add a welcome tutorial to introduce the new features and changes to the user.

  23. exglade said on March 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Desktop on Windows 8 is the abyss for computer newbie. One does not simply return from desktop to Metro start.

  24. ZipZapRap said on March 12, 2012 at 11:10 am

    haha hilarious vid.

    but oh well, goodbye luddites – the rest of us will enjoy Windows 8.. I know I’m lovin the CP!!

    1. RG said on March 12, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      lol :)

      Ok, here’s something few mention and I am sure some (majority?) disagree but…stay with Windows 7 because it works, not because Windows 8 is good or bad, but because three years is too early for a new version.

      1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 12, 2012 at 12:34 pm

        RG, a lot of Windows 7 users will stick with the operating system, as there is no need to upgrade just yet. The majority of users will probably come into contact when they buy a new PC or mobile computer. And some will upgrade from an existing operating system. I personally will try and snatch up one of those bargains when the operating system is first released.

        I do not think that many Windows XP users for instance will upgrade to Windows 8. If they did not upgrade to 7, they won’t upgrade to 8 as well.

        The only thing that could convince them is end of support, but there is still the question how Microsoft will let those users know about it.

  25. Merlin said on March 12, 2012 at 10:33 am

    So far not so good. It’s a pain.

  26. Damirora said on March 12, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Skipping Windows 8 and waiting to see more about the next OS. I’ve got Win 7 on my “play” laptop. Win 7 on my “work” desktop, and Win XP on my archive which I no longer allow on the internet ^_^

    Win 8 just doesn’t appeal to me, and that Metro styling…..I’ll just stay away.
    I may just move to Linux or something later on, once I’m sure all my apps can run well, and I wouldn’t need to use Wine e.t.c

  27. jas said on March 12, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Exactly. They’ve simplified the look while adding complexity to the OS itself, it really isn’t intuitive at all.

    Prepare for Vista v2.0 because this thing will Bomb.

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.