Microsoft shouldn’t have reinstated the start button in Windows 8.1


If you think about it, Microsoft made a bold move by realising that there is no need for a start button specifically. At least not visually present when a user is in the desktop. It represented something they were trying to move away from, the idea of the desktop start button from Windows 7 and before. Microsoft wanted to converge desktop and tablet platforms, they realised that to do this successfully they needed to get rid of the old start menu button and behaviour along with it. It represented a distinct form of operating system from their ‘old’ desktop days, which at the time of releasing Windows 8 is what they wanted to move on from.

For everyone that complained that this is a usability issue, get it out of your head. It’s just a visual/user training issue. If a user were to point their mouse to the bottom left corner and click, the same result is achieved.  It’s likely the typical behaviour that Microsoft picked up through their user metrics, most users move their mouse all they way to the bottom left corner when there was a start button to access it.

With Windows 8 there are typically 3 ways to get to the new start menu

  1. Moving the mouse to the bottom left corner
  2. Swiping in from the right and pressing the start button
  3. Pressing the start menu key on your keyboard or tablet

Microsoft were trying to position the desktop as a minimal space, much like the rest of the OS. As little distraction as possible. They did this by simply hiding the button itself.

Microsoft’s decision to bring back the start menu will haunt them because it’s going to be a lot harder to represent their new OS as a converged OS because of this legacy that they’ve backtracked on.

If I were them I’d flip the switch and turn it off before general release. Spend more effort on educating users on the new start menu behavior.

Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments below.


8 thoughts on “Microsoft shouldn’t have reinstated the start button in Windows 8.1

  1. Incorrect. Adding the start menu icon was the correct decision because A) it adds to discoverability and B) without the icon – the activation area for the button was tooooooo smallll.

  2. For me as a “power user” (I’m a software developer) It’s not a training issue – it’s a performance and usability issue. For users that stay in desktop all day, the new start screen is a very jarring and an abrupt context switch and it’s typically slower to access the tool/app I need. I never use any of the metro apps and so it’s pointless to throw me into that irrelevant side of the OS.

    • Did you spend that much time in the old start menu? I don’t see how pressing start and clicking on your application is different in either the old or new. Even pressing start then typing works the same.

      What I will say is missing from the new start menu is the frequently used applications list.

      • The primary use-case for the Start menu has been push start on keyboard and type what you wanted. It has been the preferrable method by Microsoft since, oh, Vista.
        In this preferred method, nothing has changed. As a “power user” you either had a third party launcher installed or you did it this way. Is not keeping your fingers on the keyboard and off the mouse what it’s all about?

  3. I would’ve gone with a different strategy all together as in; use what is now Windows 8 on tablets (only x86 chips, no Windows RT) and would’ve made Windows 7.1 for desktops. Add the ability to use Metro apps on 7.1 but other than that and a few tweaks toward what they want you get the same ol’ Windows paradigm you are used to.

    Merging too quickly like this people are gonna be huffy they have to learn something (our brain makes it harder to learn new stuff about an old thing than learn new stuff about a new thing, so if Windows 8 was called MSOS 1.0 or something people would’ve got it easier). Also, you’re basically pressuring a lot of people who don’t want or benefit from any of this touchification on their desktops. Touch as an interface isn’t going to take over mouse in any significant way on the desktop. It is inherently too clumsy (your finger is in the way of what you’re trying to point at). Motion sensors otoh, don’t give any haptic feedback and produce a whole basket of problems too.

      • Copy schmopy. You think that would’ve bothered them one bit? Both companies have aped each other before and had no qualms.
        It depends on how they did it, too. They might’ve been acused of copying the strategy from Apple but if they didn’t fully go off the deepend and only have fullscreen apps or something stupid the common person would’nt even have known geeks were having that discussion.
        Hindsight 20/20 anyways.

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