Ex Microsoft director of user experience details design inconsistencies in Windows 11 Start menu

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Microsoft was criticized by its former Microsoft director of user experience, Jensen Harris, who tweeted a series of problems regarding the Windows 11 Start menu. Harris pointed out issues within the designs affecting the user experience. After the tweets made noise, Harris stressed that Microsoft immediately fixed the areas he mentioned.

One of the biggest things highlighted by Harris in his tweets is the inconsistency of the design details of Windows 11, including the varying corners of some elements. In the thread he posted for the public, he specifically identified the corners of different sections of UI. “The top corners are rounded,” Harris said, referring to the corners of the Windows Start menu. “The bottom-left corner is rounded but the upper ‘slab’ starts to have its curve merge awkwardly with the surface under it. And bottom-right? You guessed. Inextricably square.”

Additionally, Harris mentioned the banner ad for the Bing Wallpaper app, saying it looks like it was “infected by a virus.” Specifically, he showed a zoomed image of the banner ad, which shows misaligned texts and inconsistent corners and uses “a Windows Vista-era background.”

Harris also expressed his dismay over the “friction” users are experiencing when using the Start menu when searching for information about a specific subject. The screenshots the former Microsoft employee shared showed how Microsoft used a huge portion of the Start menu for advertisement instead of directly showing the best results for the topic being searched. 

“The bigger issue here though: why are there banner ads in the Start menu?” The tweet reads. “Is the amount of $ made by this wallpaper app worth cheapening the experience people have in this very high-touch piece of UI? …Great UI should help people achieve a task with minimum friction. But the next section down is expressly designed to introduce friction into my experience. It’s the largest UI in the Start menu, and it’s designed specifically to distract me away from achieving my intended task.”

Aside from another button (“Open results in browser”), Harris described Microsoft’s decision to move the Start Menu to the middle of the taskbar as “not a good move.” According to him, users already have muscle memory of its former corner location of the Start menu, and the previous placement complemented Fitts’ Law.

Despite everything, Harris cleared his intention about his tweets. “Microsoft has many brilliant designers who care deeply about the work they do—I worked with many who are still there!” Harris said. “It just comes down to a question of what you prioritize. User experience needs to be architected with as much intensity as you architect your tech investments.”

Surprisingly, after less than 24 hours of tweeting the thread of criticism, Microsoft addressed the details, including the removal of the Bing Wallpaper ad and varying corner shapes, which Harris applauded.

More about the topics: microsoft, Start Menu, windows 11, Windows UI