My sister recently got a new laptop after her old one bit the dust (it lasted her nearly seven years, however, so in terms of laptops, it had a rather long life). After conferring with me about brands, she picked out a nice laptop that should have been capable of handling the graphics-heavy work she does. Excited to give it a try, she started it up and waited to get to work. But when the operating system loaded up, she immediately felt disconnected from the interface she’s come to know so well over the years. Windows 8 looked and felt completely foreign to her. And she definitely isn’t the only one who felt this way.
For those of you who aren’t aware, Windows 8 has unveiled not only to a new look and interface for the classic operating system, but the brand’s framework has been completely redone from the ground up. This is a framework that Microsoft has stated that they plan to build upon for later operating systems — and that includes tablets, mobile phones, laptops, or PCs. The result is a multi-faceted setup that will work across many types of new technologies, from mobile devices to PCs, and from the existing Surface tablet to other products that have yet to be unveiled. So what exactly makes up the “new” brand framework?
First of all, Microsoft overhauled the entire Windows interface by getting rid of any unnecessary aesthetic details — for example, no more chrome enhancements around the borders of windows, and no more superfluous animated elements to the design. By ridding the OS of these components, Windows 8 is left with a minimalistic, modern aesthetic. To be honest, it’s somewhat jarring at first: we’ve become accustomed to the interface retaining a certain visual appeal, as well as functioning in a specific manner. The usability is also a bit shaky at first, when we consider that our user experience has been fairly linear since the inception of Windows ‘95 (those who remember Windows 3.1 will recall the major overhaul that took place between 3.1 and ‘95). But the new Windows 8 was intended to be confident and clear of purpose
; designed to remain flexible and diverse, accessible to new users all over the world, and it should be able to support the users’ goals and desires when interacting with it.
So the team that took on the branding challenge with Windows 8 didn’t only want to achieve a “minimalistic” aesthetic appeal, which would essentially leave the brand with all bark and no bite. They also wanted to incorporate the diversity, accessibility, and human approach that they feel has defined the brand into the OS. So they sent photographers all over the world to record an accurate representation of Windows’ user base. What they ultimately presented was a diverse range of people from all walks of life enjoying and using Windows 8. For example, they photographed artists using it to create beautiful pieces of pottery, paintings, or even graffiti, while engineers were shown using it to design creative office furniture. However, the most prominent theme was that families stay connected through Windows 8. Mothers laugh and smile while using Windows on their phones with their kids at the beach, and laptops enable colorful Skype calls with Grandpa and Grandma while at home. Windows 8 had tried to embody a humanistic, innovative, and approchable brand that focused on the people using it, rather than the technology that powered it.
But the colorful, clean interface that features so many smiling faces is a far cry from what users were accustomed to in older versions of the Windows operating system. And while some hailed the new branding project as an incredibly successful and necessary user experience upgrade, others were turned away from the product in favor of the older setup — or worse, in favor of competitors’ more accessible operating systems. Ultimately, my sister opted for an older version of Windows because it felt clunky and couldn’t run the software she needs for school — so in her case, for all the things Windows 8 claimed to be able to do, it couldn’t do what she needed it to.
Have you used Windows 8? What are your thoughts on Microsoft's bold new OS brand?