Free Advice to MS

If Microsoft wants to improve the user experience for most windows users they should encourage their developers to spend time with users. Not in focus groups or other controlled experiements. Just as them to spend a week going around thier neighborhood asking if anyone needs any help with thier PCs.
I’ve been doing some of this lately. Not actually knocking on doors but agreeing to help people “fix” thier computers. Whats amazing is how messed up they can be.
Like the couple who had two seperate email addresses but both of them fed into the same inbox on outlook. They did have 2 seperate “identities” although they had no recolllection of where the identities came from. And both identities were set to include both emails in the same inbox. Now that was easy enough to sort out except that actually the wife’s login gave her a completely seperate outlook which had no identities and somehow had the wrong email server settings.
Another common problem is despite having a My Documents folder right there on their desktop, people don’t have any idea where thier Documents are. Like thier Quicken files for instance. Of course that’s because they are in C:/Program Files/Quicken/ which of course is “hidden” by default.
They usually have more than 1 Antivirus program installed and most of the time it generates 1 or more messages on startup about it not being installed correctly.
Spyware is something they might have heard of.
And of course. No one does backups.
Many people just don’t want more functionality. In fact they’d be happy with much less. What the need is something that they understand. That they can use and that they can’t abuse. THis is a key point. There has been some good progress in ease of use. Windows XP is much easier to use than all the previous versions. My personal favorite is little touches like “Hey you are sending these pictures by email want me to make them smaller for you?”. But ease of use does not protect from abuse.
Configuring a PC is way too complicated for many users. They need a much simpler way to get thier machines setup to do what they want. Perhaps some kind of interview system like in TaxCut. More elaborate than a wizard and allows you to come back and change your answers at any time. Not a bunch of little checkboxes hidden among 20 control panels. There needs to be a way to reduce the number of options for the novice user. You should be able to run office, web, email and a digital photo/video app and have multiple users without having to know anything about your computer or being able to mess it up.






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