An open discussion about OS intuitiveness

Why this?

The post related to Windows 8 Tutorial has been a great comments battle.

Aside from obvious trolls, haters and fanboys comments, there were some interesting points raised by various users, regarding how modern OS should be considered, the direction they are taking and specifically how you can define the intuitiveness of OS UIs.

I would like to recall that discussion in this thread, hopefully cleaned of trollish comments, to offer different point of views regarding the matter.

Intuitiveness and tasks. The basic stuff

I will start stating my point of view, i.e. the way we rate intuitiveness of UI shouldn't be irrespective of the supposed tasks such OS is able to perform.

One of the biggest claims regarding Windows 8 was that it wasn't able to match the simplicity of different paradigm like iOS and (at different extent) Android. While I would argue Android is easier to use than Windows 8 (mind you I'm an Android power user, with both phone and tablet equipped with Google OS), it's clear for many iOS is actually easier.

But is it really?

First we should ask ourselves which are tasks we expect to be executed on our devices. As a matter of fact, iOS simplicity relies on the presence of the home button. A good portion of the operations made with iOS can be easily performed using the home button as the common UI item. You use it to go to the home screen, there you open an app and press home button to go back, from where you can pass to a different app and so on.

But that's exactly the same operation you can perform on Windows 8 equipped devices, where the home button is present on tablets as well, or functionally replicated by the Windows button on keyboards.

If the tasks you want to perform are limited to open a series of applications, both systems present the same way of interacting and thus the same level of intuitiveness.

Intuitiveness and tasks. Complex operations

What's different is the so called "next-level", the type of operations smarter users are supposed to perform when using a computing device. These type of operations include, multitasking, managing advanced options, managing external hardware, fiddling with files and so on.

When people think about iOS, the basic operations is considered sufficient, the extra operations are considered optional and thus a less intuitive approach justified because only expert users (or those willing to accept a learning curve) will go down that road. When people think about Windows instead, given the more complex nature of operations normally performed on it, they are less prone to discount a more complex approach. But here lies the mistake IMO.

Complexity of UIs must be compared with similarity of operations in mind.

To give an example, a simple math calculator has normally an easier interface than an advanced programmable calculator. When you perform a simple sum, both are fairly intuitive, but when you ask more, then the complexity of the programmable one is a consequence of the additional capacities.

Going back to our iOS and Windows 8 comparison, if all that you need is to launch apps, then iOS apps and Metro Apps are basically managed in the same way. On Metro you have even some advantages like live tiles, or side by side app management, both requiring a minimal additional interaction to be used.

If you need more complex tasks, both require a learning curve, being swiping, double tapping, menu systems knowledge on iOS, being swiping, corners usage, keyboard shortcuts on Windows. At the end of the day, learning them is actually simple and tutorials are provided normally for this.

Tutorials: why we need them?

The reason why Windows 8 will come with a tutorial, while iOS not (but they are available online), is due to a couple of reason:.

- The fact users pretend normally more capabilities and complex operation from Windows (or MacOS) compared to iOS, consequently a Tutorial showing them how to perform such operations is safe bet.

- The fact Windows 8 interaction is different from the common paradigm used until Windows 7. With iOS, either you're totally new to the system, thus you will be more prone to put some efforts in learning the UI, or you're coming from similar paradigm on previous device, thus you know basically how to use it already.

What do you think?

The reason I wrote this post is to provide some ideas for an interesting brainstorming on the matter. What I stated is my opinion and I would be interested to listen yours.


This is supposed to be a quality discussion, thus I strongly advise to keep the language under control, presenting always a reasoning behind your statement, accepting people can have different opinion from yours. If you're here to make sensationalistic and trolling comments, to state your opinion as fact without giving any valuable support, to insult people who aren't thinking like you, please leave now, you're not welcomed.