What is "intuitive"?

obtained through intuition rather than from reasoning or observation, spontaneously derived from or prompted by a natural tendency

Thus saith the dictionary.

Really, though, one of the most common complaints we've all seen or felt is that the new UI paradigm in Windows 8 is completely unintuitive, and in some cases, a great "cognitive burden". This isn't about the initial intuitiveness of the operating system (as referenced by the first given definition), though I understand the difficulty in learning something new. I understand the fury when something is changed to a certain point after almost fifteen years of common UI philosophy. I understand the subjective nature of UI design and how one's own opinion is the only absolute truth in one's perspective. I get it. I get the rationale.

I challenge the established "intuition"


We had to learn something new back when the first GUI came about. After that, rapid change took place and we got to Windows 95. From Windows 95 to this point in time, we've learned the small, incremental changes that have changed, in a minor way, the way we interact with our computers. We saw how much the look changed from Windows 2000 to Windows XP. We experienced the oft-maligned Vista and knew what needed to be changed. We witnessed the drastic changes in UI philosophy, whether it be a new Start Menu or a new file manager, or even a new "ribbon" in Microsoft Office. We even grew accustomed to the new "superbar" in Windows 7, though not without some complaints from some people.

Many reviewers note the learning curve to Windows 8, and that's completely fair. If one is moving from Windows 7 or any previous iteration of Windows, there will be some time where comprehension of the new gestures (whether touch or mouse/keyboard-related) must occur. It's different. It's new. It reimagines what's been so engrained into our minds for so many years. It takes what we know, in some cases refines the process, and in others throws it out the window for something new and arguably better (totally subjective, I know). That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement, however. That's a given.

Say one becomes quickly accustomed to this new paradigm, using each gesture as if it's always been there and finding his productivity unchallenged by the new paradigm.

Doesn't it then become intuitive?

So which is it?

The complaints that Windows 8 is totally "unintuitive", and in some cases "unusable", are based on limited use or an inability to objectively adjust to something new. There's nothing wrong in considering it ugly, or considering OSX better (something many may disagree with), but that's opinion. It's subjective. It's relative to how you feel about it. It does not define the operating system.

In the grand scheme of things, Windows 8 is a brand new way of looking at human/computer interaction. It's not meant to be "more of the same".

It's meant to be different

If you find that Windows 8 is a severe hindrance to your productivity, I ask you why and whether you've really tried to become immersed in the nuances it possesses. I'm currently in high school, and I can pick things up pretty quickly (when I said "we" early on, it was true collectively, even though I wasn't around at that time). The idiosyncrasies of Windows became second nature. It's time for a new set of "second nature". The claim that these new gestures in Windows 8 are initially unintuitive may hold some truth. However, to believe that, after some time has passed, they are truly unintuitive, is a faulty assumption based on the idea that the long-standing method of UI interaction is truly the only "intuitive" way to do it.

I don't believe that to be true.

Let's say, in ten years' time, these new gestures and methods of interaction become the new standard. To the people ten years from now, the way we do/did things will seem unintuitive. It could happen. They'll look at Windows 7 and think, "Wow, we weren't doing it right." It's possible, though just a thought.

Windows 8 is different. It's unique. It takes something we've grown accustomed to and changes it. Is that bad? Well, in my humble opinion, no. There needs to be change. What if it had stayed the same? The new stuff will take time to become second nature, and when that happens...

It becomes intuitive.