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Why are applications and operating systems hiding so much these days?

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What’s with hiding things in today’s world? Chrome, now Firefox, IE, and almost all of Windows 8! Talk about wanting to see everything – we’re going backwards. It took me a long time to figure out how to do a simple restart in Windows 8 and I consider myself at an advanced level of computer knowledge.

Windows 8 really brought this home for many people, but it’s true for most applications, web services, and other operating systems as well.

I won’t say that they always get it right, but I understand why they’re doing it.

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The idea is to simplify features

The people that typically complain the most about hidden functionality don’t see the questions that I do; rather they don’t see the level of computer use that’s implied by those questions. Most operating systems and applications are trying to work for a wide variety of users, from newbie to the experienced.

But many individuals are so intimidated when they see a plethora of options and functionality that they freeze.

One solution is to focus the application or operating system on only those features that most people use most of the time and make those easy to find. And yes, that means going so far as to move the distractions that few people use.

Those other features are more often used by people with the skills to find them.

Windows 8: Don't Panic!
Windows 8 – there’s no need to panic

Designers can’t please everyone

There is no 100% solution. Changes that you may think are incredibly stupid are either a godsend or completely irrelevant to many other people.

I’m certainly not saying that Microsoft gets it right all the time.

For one example, you could argue that making the Windows 8 interface hard to turn off was a mistake.

But then again, many people don’t turn them off. They simply close the laptop or tablet and let the operating system worry about whatever happens next. Or they use an external power button. They don’t care that Standby, Hibernate, and Power Off are three different things. They just close the computer and get on with their day. So why take up screen real estate with a Power control if they’re never going to use it?

Again, I have to say, I’m not saying that this is the right or wrong solution. I’m just describing some of the thinking that might have gone into that.

And yes, rest assured, a lot of thought goes into these kinds of decisions.

7 comments on “Why are applications and operating systems hiding so much these days?”

  1. “Again, I have to say, I’m not saying that this is the right or wrong solution. I’m just describing some of the thinking that might have gone into that.

    And yes, rest assured, a lot of thought goes into these kinds of decisions.”

    I would love to be so forgiving Leo, but the industry that thought “Abort, Retry, Fail?” was a useful interactive message lost my respect years ago. OK, not that harsh, but sometimes the “lot of thought” seems to have been concocted during a cookie break by a very strange and introverted guy. 🙂

    Reply
    • It was a perfectly useful message for the audience that was seeing it when it was devised. The problem, of course, is that as DOS (and after that Windows) became more popular the audience changed. Unfortunately by that time there were also probably very good reasons (typically compatibility I would guess) that the message simply couldn’t be changed until Windows itself made the jump to a complete rewrite with Windows NT. My point (and I’m definitely NOT picking on you) is simply that these things are not chosen randomly and without thought. More often than not there are perfectly valid reasons that decisions are made the way they are. At least valid to someone. There’s a lot – a lot – that goes into each step along the way.

      Reply
  2. It’s not so much that the Windows 8 interface is so difficult, it’s that it’s unfamiliar. People have been saying for years that MacOS is so much more intuitive than Windows. Enter Windows 8. The interface is very similar to Mac. So what’s the problem? It’s the learning curve. We were discussing that in class and the Mac user in the class said it was hard for him to get used to the Mac for the same reasons it’s hard to get used to Windows 8. The good news is that now that Windows has finally caught up with Mac, there probably won’t be any more abrupt changes to the Windows interface for a while 🙂

    Reply
  3. ” But then again, many people don’t turn them off. They simply close the laptop or tablet and let the operating system worry about whatever happens next. Or they use an external power button. They don’t care that Standby, Hibernate, and Power Off are three different things. They just close the computer and get on with their day. So why take up screen real estate with a Power control if they’re never going to use it?

    -Not having a shutdown button is only going to lead more newbies to gum up their computer by using the off switch … resulting in more problems for the newbies. Saving desktop space, really?

    Reply
    • When I installed Windows 8 the welcome screens I received were actually recommending that I don’t bother turning it off. That is probably why they have hidden the turn off buttons! I have to laugh, though, each time it wants to update as I have to restart it. I just like to believe that we are still in the evolution of computers, really at the very beginning of the process.

      Reply
  4. I jumped from XP to Win8, so I may have missed a few steps in the evolution, but I wonder why (and when) windows has two Program Files folders. Practically, do I have to decide which of them to use when I install new programs?

    Reply
    • Installation programs will choose the correct one, you shouldn’t have to. They’re mostly for the difference between 64bit and 32bit, but from what I’ve seen it’s not rigorous.

      Reply

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