Windows Longhorn/Get Users to Fall in Love With Your Software
Get Users to Fall in Love with Your Software was a presentation by then Microsoft employee Hillel Cooperman designed to showcase the improvements to the Windows platform with the Windows "Longhorn" operating system; it was shown during PDC 2003 and is notable for eliciting a positive response from both attendees and non-attendees. A successor titled Get Users to Fall in Love with Your Software - 2005 was shown during PDC 2005.
Unlike the other events shown during PDC 2003—which were accompanied by official videos and transcripts—materials for Get Users to Fall in Love with Your Software are not known to be released in any official capacity. As a result, the titles and transcripts listed below are based on portions of a video of the event released in 2007 by Long Zheng.
Get Users to Fall in Love with Your Software focused on various efforts made to improve the overall Windows user experience of. Topics discussed included the new features scheduled for Windows "Longhorn," improved support for user contexts with a balance between simple and advanced options, synergy between hardware and software, and a more intelligible and consistent Windows interface.
Uh oh. Did this uh, you know, I think this went to sleep. Yeah? Well, we’re gonna wait a moment. Let me tell you a little bit of what I’m going to show you. We’ve been very proud of the fact, uh, I’m gonna need Jenny to come on up and type in your password, please. This is called ‘not thinking through the presenter's experience.' Uhm, we use, this is Jenny, folks. Thank you, Jenny. (Applause). The fact that it’s her password is your cue that really, I’m just doing the talking, but she did a bunch of the work on this presentation, and so she gets a lot of the credit. We use high fidelity protoypes in our UI design to go and test our software and experiment with our UI ideas. We believe frankly that "Avalon" as a platform for building UI is going to be so flexible over time that we’re gonna be able to do our prototyping right there. This happens to be a prototype that’s built with "Director," which is a fantastic tool that our partner artists use to go and mock up what the interaction of the experience is going to be. I wanna walk you through it, and I want to call out some points that we already made and show you how we’re thinking about this in the Windows shell, which is basically what a chunk of us here in the room do and what I spend my time on. This prototype, uh is, it’s already got a few months behind it, but it also is uh, but it should have some good examples here, so let’s walk through. So, uh, sure we got the Start menu. Ah, I’ll use the mouse, there we go. Woah. OK, mouse is a little jumpy. There we go. Alright. So, a couple of things. First, I want you to notice what this is right here, and I don’t call this out. This is not a demonstration of the important features of Windows—that’s not the point of this—point is to walk you through some of the UI decisions we made and show you how we made them and show you how we took the principles we talked about before and applied them. So this is an example of building a playback part right there in the Sidebar—and anyone could go build one of these—but the interesting thing about it is, wait until you notice what happens as I hover over. You get this visualization of the audio coming out of your system when I’m not hovering over, but when I hover, all of a sudden the controls and the text are there. Reducing the clutter on the screen—taking things away until the user is right there—is actually a very powerful thing. It’s one way, one technique that we use to go make things simple and powerful. Simple is "Hey, not a lot of stuff going on," powerful is, when I’m there, "Hey, everything’s there." And it’s just a tiny little example but I show it to you to illustrate the kind of things we’re talking about. Alright, so now let’s dive into, uh, the storage here. So here we are in this sort of root storage place. Notice by the way, again, a simple little thing about thinking about how users think about the software in front of them and their environment. This window’s maximized. You may have seen some of the transparency effects that are currently in the current iteration of the look and feel. Watch what happens when I restore this window—then it gets transparent. The theory is that when you maximize, what’s your goal? Your goal is to get rid of all distractions, so why would you want to see anything behind the window you’re looking at? And again, it’s a small detail, but it is the small details, when you think about those principles, that add up to making it, you know, a positive user experience. So let’s, uh, dive into Documents here. Oh sorry, I have to restore. There we go. Dive into documents, uh, another couple of things I want to show you. As I walk through this, I want you to notice there’s some degree of consistency as we move around here as well, the fact that I get this rich preview area no matter where I go. So now I dive into this Documents stack, I get this whole list of items – uhm, you know it’s actually funny that we get criticized, just to show you a little wart, "Why is the number of items so large? Is anyone really dying to know how many there are?"—And it’s a good point, and in some ways we think, "Wow, when you’re managing tens of thousands and you want to know whether you have a result set that is actually reasonable for you to look through, maybe it is important." But, but, today maybe it isn’t. So this is, again, one of those things where, do we have a clear, exact answer on what the right thing to do is here? No. No. We don’t know yet how big to make that information— how prominent to make it on the user’s landscape—but we’re gonna test. And in fact, the funny thing is, the user’s interaction, when we get this right in “Longhorn” together, the users are managing not a thousand items on their PC and with your software, not ten thousand, but hundreds of thousands of pieces of information. This may be critical, and so in fact, the users expectations and their goals may really change over time. That’s uh, that’s really a hard puzzle to figure out when you’re trying to ship software. How do you have the software evolve over time there? But these are the things we have to consider when making these trade-offs.
So let’s talk about the two top level goals with the new Windows user experience. It’s actually very, very simple. Two things: unleash the power of Windows software, and make users feel great. That’s it. The thinking is, on the one hand, we want to get customers very excited with all the things they can do with all your software. You know, the Outlook guys once said to me that the top ten most requested features in Outlook are already in Outlook; [CHEERS, LAUGHTER] this is some disconnect there. I mean people don’t realize all of the things they can do. We did this study where we were interviewing customers about their emotional reactions to Windows, and one guy had this diatribe about Movie Maker. He’s like, "I don’t know what the hell that thing is. I don’t like it. I don’t wanna see it. Get it out of my face. I just hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it!" We’re writing it all down, got it, duly noted. And then at the end we asked the guy, "Well uh, is there anything you wish Windows did that it doesn't?" And he’s like, "You know, I just bought this digital video camera and I would love to be able to edit digital videos right on my [PC]" [LAUGHTER]. I mean, he’s not a dumb guy it’s just, we just didn’t do a good job exposing the power of the software to him. And in making users feel great, you know, we talk about simplicity and all sorts of other things. It’s about making it a positive experience for people, making them walk away wanting to do it again. And we’ll get into each of these.”
Notification. So part of the platform we're building enables this. This is a common notification service. You may imagine that today, "Wow, it'd be difficult for them to see it considering the battle that's typically going on in the bottom right hand corner of the screen with toasts and balloons popping up, and don't you wanna get a Passport?" I mean, come on, we've got a lot of these things. We've, we really gotta, sorry. Uhm, the, it's a good thing, Passport. We've got to do a better job exposing this stuff, so having a system service around notifications, having the system itself leverage this platform so that we know, "OK, this person just shared a file, what is the obvious next thing they want to do? Tell the other person where they can go get it." Like, 99.9% of the time that's what you want to do, like, why would you share it and not want to? And sure there are probably a couple of exceptions but that's the case. So leveraging this system and then also letting the platform come and make part of the user experience great by providing the user ultimately to be in control. So hopefully we go and choose the right set of default behaviors—and I don't mean just Windows—I mean "we." When you use the notifications system you think very carefully about what you really, really, really, really need to notify the user about. But once that's done and hopefully we get the defaults right, hopefully that's great for 60%, 70%, 80% of the customers, but there's some population that says, "Please, it's my machine. I paid for your software. Put me in charge. Don't baby me." No problem. Click here and you get to start making all these sort of different decisions as a user or as an IT pro about your enterprise for how you want information to pop up to you—if ever. For example I might set—I promise we'll have this by default—that I would like no notifications to pop up when I'm presenting at the PDC in front of a thousand people; that would be a setting that I would like.
I will tell you, just, yeah I'll tell you just a quick anecdote. I was doing a press tour for an old product I worked on and I was using my laptop to demonstrate this new product to a roomful of 15-20 reporters, and my mother IM'd me. It's like, "Hey! How you doing!?" And I was like, "Oops, I forgot to log out of Messenger. I have my full screen demo running here, I don't know why it's not smart enough to know that, but OK, system's not quite there yet." And then I made the mistake of not responding to my mom. I'm at work, doing, you know, we have a professional situation, press in the room. I'm demonstrating the software, to which all of the reporters were like, "Ugh, how shameful, you're gonna ignore your mother?" So then my mom and I proceeded to have an instant message conversation in front of the gathered press, where hopefully I redeem myself as not being cold-hearted and caring about my mom. Alright, so just a little example of how we can do better.
Alright so we click on this here, and what happens? This again is another one of these views. You know, I wanna again give another example of how the platform tries to give you a leg up in making a great user experience. What is this? Is this a view of that original person's machine that shared the information? Not really. This is actually a dynamically generated view of all the files that that person has shared with me. When I think about the files that someone shares with me, I don't think about which machine it was shared from, I think about the person who shared it, and it maybe a week after the fact and I have now forgotten the path to that file. I should be able to just click on the person and say "Please show me all the items this person has shared with me," or even the reverse, "show me all the items I've shared with this person" and be able to create one of these dynamic views on the fly. And again, even though I am showing it to you in the shell, that's not where we're most exicted to see it. You can have these right inside your applications. Whether you want to leverage the common controls to go and use our UI facilities to do it that are part of "Avalon," or just talk straight underneath the common controls of that layer of "Avalon" and go create your own rich, fantastic, powerful views on top of this information, that's how we've layered the architecture. But again, the goal here is to give you guys a leg up in making this user experience great, and I want to show you why we made these decisions. It wasn't technology for technology's sake, it was about bringing these new scenarios to life, as well as making them show up in a way that's fantastic for people.
Expose Power to Users
The typical way that we go and expose power to users is—well, I’ll pick on some of our software now—is menus, toolbars, all these kinds of things. And the truth is we don’t really give you the facilities and we haven’t even explored enough of the ideas of how you’re going to expose power to people in an effective way, and that’s when you end up with situations like this [APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER]. You know, this never shipped by default of course, but it’s like, you know, "What’s on the toolbar?“
Uh and there’s new form factors. Who here, uh, has a tablet? Actually, can I see someone’s tablet? I forgot to bring one up here. I’m not kidding. I hope I don’t [receive negative] feedback. Who has a tablet, so I can prove, just uh, yeah—can I see that one just for a quick sec? I wanna show you something. I won’t read anything or erase anything. OK, so here I am in a meeting, and there’s this new thing that happens with this form factor—everyone can see it?—and I go, "Hey, I really, I’m reading this thing, can you check this out?" Did you see what just happened? Try doing that with a laptop, never mind a desktop, but just a laptop. Like, that’s not just a new—that’s like a new social norm—like it’s socially acceptable for me to just hand over a PC and say, "Oh, can you read that thing?" Thanks. Thanks a lot. That is a deceptively simple breakthrough, and don’t kid yourself that’s the first of many. There’s many of these things that are gonna happen where all of a sudden—that’s a change in society—it’s okay for me to do that. It’s like me handing you a piece of paper to read, albeit a heavy, you know, battery operated piece of paper, but it is nonetheless kind of like that.
Quick couple of things. We are doing more to make the user experience positive for customers, having a lot of it—I won’t get into too many specifics here—but having a lot of initiatives around the hardware. This is not what you call a productive-feeling work environment.
Dealing with things like hardware-software interaction. How hard does it have to be to change the volume? [APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER]. And back to that ‘how you make it feel’ point—and again, if there’s Microsoft PR people or marketing people in the room, I think I’m gonna get in trouble for this—but we’re gonna do it anyway. Uh, you buy this, you spend $2,000 dollars on this beautiful laptop that’s got this sticker on it. Don’t take it off because you’ll get all this yucky, sticky stuff. It’s almost like you would have bought this beautiful new car and then hey! [APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER]. Listen, I can make no commitment that that won’t be on "Longhorn" PCs, so don’t get your hope ups, but I’m just telling you that we’re trying here. I mean, by the way, notice, they didn’t even put the sticker on straight. It’s in a, look, crooked angle!
And even for those consumers and the small businesses that go and buy PCs at retail, this is what awaits them. This is hard stuff, right? Notice, I don’t know if you can tell, but in the third panel there with the UR in the screen that is the Error Reporting dialog. What better way to entice someone to buy a PC and run all your software than to say, "Look, you can report errors with it!" Although I love the Error Reporting stuff, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t think we should show that at retail.
You’re probably familiar with this joke. There’s a helicopter and an electrical storm flying over Redmond, Washington. They’re lost and the navigational system is out, radio’s out, and they don’t know how to get back to Sea-Tac airport. And then they see this building off in the distance, and they, you know, pull up next to the building and hold up this sign saying, "Where am I!?" And the guy in the building goes, "You’re in a helicopter!" The pilot immediately banks, you know, 90 degrees and heads straight to Sea-Tac and makes a perfect landing. And uh, the co-pilot says, "Well, how did you know where to go? The guy just told you you were in a helicopter." He says, "Oh, well we’re at Microsoft Tech Support! The answer was completely accurate and completely useless!" [APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER]. And it’s almost like, you know. I mean when you go back to that, I mean, here we go. That’s right. We did have an error renaming the file—we could not rename the document—access was denied. It’s all completely accurate and yet completely useless.
Make Users Feel Bad
We make users feel very bad [APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER]. You’re gonna wanna hold that for a bit, because in a moment you’ll see just how bad we make them feel [APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER]. Look, I say this not just to make a joke, but to let you know yeah, we get it, and to show you some of the details. You know we throw up a dialog—a person goes on the Web and they want to download something—and then the words "harmful," and "suspicious," and "trust" show up! We’ve gotten rid of some of these, to our credit. We’re working on it. You know, we no longer accuse people of performing illegal operations; the cops are on their way. The best is the uh, the guy on our team did a great job. If you look at the error renaming dialog, "Cannot rename My Document, access is denied, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah," this is actually what the user sees when they read that. [APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER'].
Let’s take a specific example. I’m on the phone, my PC’s in front of me, I just have to write something down very quickly and a pen is not handy. This is a deceptively simple challenge, the fact that sometimes a thousand dollar PC with all this incredible technology and your incredible software on it still cannot beat a Post-It note and a pen. So it’s all about thinking about taking this from a tool—look you can type things in Note, it works—to an experience and thinking about what that means, right? And it’s not just making it look like the sticky note, but it’s actually making this something that with one click you can be off to the races taking the note as simply as possible and not just with ink, but also typing, or with voice, and then thinking about, "What’s the real environment in which that’s gonna get used," right? It’s not just about what’s on the desktop but about the entire PC. And maybe there’s a PC—now I don’t know if you can see it on the left side hanging there—that actually has the handset built into it. I’m not making any promises or announcements here, I’m just saying, like this is thinking about the experience.
I loved walking around with my tablet, because I was like, "Yeah, check this thing out!" And for people who, by the way, when they look, "What's that? What is that?" I'm like, "Well, it's a new tablet PC. It's mine. I'm special because I have one." And for those people that I couldn't show it to, I would sent them ink mail on purpose. (Applause, laughter). And they would go, "What's? How did you do that?" And I would go, "Well, I've got a tablet and I'm sorry, you don't." But as a notion of personal expression, people do this all the time, like we're not all wearing the same clothes here. Uh, we're, you know, people put the bumper sticker on and express passion and emotion about all kinds of things. Uh, bulldogs, croquet. Some people go as far as to etch it into their skin they're so passionate. Some people, of course, can go overboard.
Trade-offs and Balance
This view, to be honest, its pretty simple. It gives you a whole bunch of things that you can do but not everything is exposed. Now if you want to expose everything, frankly there is a trade-off to make, right? Some people look at this here and say, "Oh my God, what is all this stuff?" Some people look at it and say, "Oh, lots of stuff!" This is hard, and one of the things that we’re trying to balance. And by the way, I don’t get up here telling you we have every answer logged down to these things. We don’t. A lot of this is you take your best shot, you put it in front of the customer, and then you see what they say, and even then it’s very difficult because the customer in a hypothetical situation frankly does not react the same way that they do in the real world. You really almost need to see them using the thing; iteration is critical. But this trade-off is very hard and we’re looking at ways that we can make it so, by default, people can make these choices, right? That’s a no brainer. There’s some class of customers that are gonna say, "Look, get rid of all that stuff. I’ll go find it when I want it." And there’s some classes of customers that’ll say, "No, no. I like to know all the things I can do and maybe I’ll get rid of it later." And so we’ll definitely let customers choose between those things.
Having the system be smart enough to know when to expose one versus the other, that’s a challenge because—by the way, if you’re trying to be smart for the user, which is very, very difficult; if you’re wrong even one out of a hundred times, don’t even bother, because the user will just turn the 'smarts' off, because if you’re just even wrong once—it’s hard. The Office guys—actually I made fun of them a little before—but some of the things they’ve done have been a really good example of this. When I type "t," "e," "h," "space" and keep typing, and it just automatically makes it a "the," and it’s just because it always gets it right that I’m okay with it, but that’s hard stuff.
For example, these three devices all have water coming out of them. All have a drain, all have a kind of a handle, yet we really should not combine them into one device [APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER]. And you know, I don’t say it just to be funny, but to just show you there are these trade-offs and balances that have to happen here.”
Windows XP Print Wizard
I wanna give you an interaction. Now this is actually improved from how it was in Windows 98 so I'm not here to say bad things about Windows XP, because we're proud of it. We think it does a lot of great things and we think that there's certainly a lot more to do, but we think it's great right now. But this is a particularly tough example. So here this user wants to go print something and they're in the browser, they want to print that art—that image that's in their browser—so they hit Print. As it happens they don't have a printer connected and they're in a corporate environment. So they get to this dialog, Add Printer is there, OK that seems pretty straightforward. So they click on that, and then you get this little handy message: "Before you can perform printer related tasks, like printing ..." APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER]. What else am I doing here!? And then the first thing they bring up is Page Setup. Oh yeah that's why I go to, that's why I hit Print, to go set up my page. And this is just an example of us not having the attention to detail and thinking through in every aspect of what we do: "What is the user thinking? What are they trying to accomplish?" Don't optimize for the 1% case of Page Setup, but the 99% of Print, and we'll talk about this more in detail now.
So they said they need to install the printer and I'm sure the user is now imagining, you know, getting out their dolly and carrying some heavy box or something. So you hit Yes and then some Microsoft guys has [sic] put their master's thesis on this dialog and, I wanna be clear about what this is—this is another one of those 'cover-your-butt' screens—so we couldn't, and by the way, this is hard. Like, it's very easy to make fun of, but like—in case you don't know what this is—USB works great. All the legacy connections? Well they're more difficult to configure, so this is a band aid on top of that dichotomy to explain to the user that if they have an old style printer it's gonna be, there's gonna be all sorts of issues to hook it up. And the truth is, look, no one has unlimited software development resources, so sometimes these works exist, but still even for the 99% of people with or the 70% of people with whatever it is, with the USB printers, we still put them through this experience. But anyway, so we read the thesis and we choose—well uh I think my printer is on the network—so we hit Next, and then we say, "Find a printer in the directory." Well that, that seems certainly like the right option. And then we get this: "Windows cannot connect to the printer. Either the printer name was typed incorrectly ..." Did you see me type a printer name? [APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER] And notice the passive-aggressive tone. It's like, "Well uh, I didn't screw this up, so obviously someone typed this incorrectly, not saying who. You." [APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER] It does it again with Specify Printer, which of course I didn't specify.
But listen, users are resilient; they don't give up. And that's a good thing for all of us, at least all of us who have challenges in our software. I'm sure there's many of you who've done a much better job than this but, so there's Help! So we click Help. Good. Well this looks like a fine place to go. Hey! Yes, I am having a problem! I can't install my printer. So the user hits Next and the next screen they see is: "This troubleshooter is unable to solve your problem" [APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER]. And look at the myriad of choices at the bottom—the one radio button already conveniently pre-selected for them—go somewhere else [APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER]. Wait, it gets worse. They hit Next: "Thank you for using the printer troubleshooter" [APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER]. Wait! Wait! Wait! As polite of it as it is, there's the Start Over button [APPLAUSE, LAUGHTER]. Two things about this. One, who in their right minds would want to? And somehow the system is implying to the user, "Well maybe if you tried again, but this time really gave it the college try, it'll work!"
The efforts shown by Microsoft during the presentation would ultimately result in the many changes introduced by Windows Vista, which was built in accordance with a set of guidelines released by Microsoft to enhance the Windows user experience. These guidelines focused on the appearance and tone of confirmations, notifications, warning messages, and other aspects of the Windows interface. Windows Vista also introduced revised interfaces for message boxes and wizards based on the new designs seen during PDC 2003. The access denied error message that users received in previous versions of Windows when they attempted to modify a file in use was also overhauled. Other features based on the topics discussed during the presentation, such as making an open window opaque as it is maximized to help increase a user's focus, and notification queues when a full-screen application is running, would also be included.
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