MIX: Designing the Windows 7 Desktop Experience


This was an interesting presentation at MIX about how some of the Windows 7 features came about. Very cool stuff. Great way to see one of my favorite areas in Windows 7.



  • Title: Designing the Windows 7 Desktop Experience, (C26f, video)

  • Presenter: Stephan Hoefnagels, Senior UX Designer

  • How did we get here?


    • Windows is OLD – 1985

    • Windows 1


      • Shows a task bar, one of the original attempts

      • Predates several major O/S doing similar capabilities

    • Windows 3, 1990


      • Went away from the task bar

    • Windows 95


      • Brought back the task bar

      • Introduced quick launch

    • Windows XP


      • Went away from quick launch (disabled by default)

      • Taskbar grouping

      • Start Menu MFU

      • Balloon Tips

    • Windows Vista


      • Return of Quick Launch

  • What can we improve with the Windows desktop


    • Areas of Improvement


      • Lot of Outlook icons (8) that do the same thing, spread out over the desktop

      • Shows 25 task bar setups from an internal study,(7:20)

      • Looks at several specific taskbar arrangements


        • Icons not always clear to their function

        • Too much stuff on bar

        • If two Notepad doc’s open, which one is which in the taskbar

        • Drag/drop operations not as simple as should be

    • Areas of improvement (10:15)


      • App functionality is scattered

      • Too much noise

      • Switching windows may be error prone

      • Arrange windows involves acrobatics

  • Desktop Experience Goals (11:50)


    • Things you use all the time are at your fingertips


      • It is easy to get to the programs and destinations you use all the time, with less mouse movement and fewer clicks.

    • Manage your windows with confidence


      • You can switch to the right windows quickly without mistakes and effortlessly position windows the way you want them.

    • You are in control


      • The desktop reflects your style. You get to personalize the experience, choosing what is important to you, including how and when you receive notifications.

    • Clean and lightweight


      • The desktop experience feels organized, light, open and is a pleasure to use. Visuals and animations are delighters the first time and every time.

  • Demo of desktop, 12:49


    • Changed task bar, 10 pixels taller, easier to recognize and click

    • Easy to personalize task bar. Changes the order by drag/drop. One of the top feature requests.

    • Mouse over on taskbar shows the application (preview in a thumbnail)

    • Thumbnail is clickable

    • Multiple instances of app have preview

    • Aero Peek – mouse over preview brings the app on top to get full view

    • For IE, a thumbnail for each tab shows

    • Jump list – right click on task bar button, shows a list of doc’s and application options

    • Dragging a window to one side of the monitor docks the window to that side. Shows two app’s each taking a half of the screen after dragging. Very convenient for moving files between two Windows Explorer windows.

    • Aero Shake – shaking a window (or wiggling) minimizes all other windows. Shaking again restores the other windows.

  • How did we evolve the UI, 21:08


    • Shows an interesting picture of the last 4 generations of the taskbar

    • Started this phase in early 2007

    • About a dozen people working on the taskbar (cross functional team – developers, design, user research, testers, PM’s)

    • Overall desktop experience is a team around 30

    • Generated lots of content – brainstorming, sketches, whiteboarding,

    • Shows video of 150 hi-fidelity design comp’s, 25:09

  • UX Principles for Windows 7, 27:01


    • Reduce Concepts to Increase Confidence

    • Small Things Matter, Good and Bad

    • Solve distractions, not Discoverability

    • Time matters; build for People on the Go

    • Value the Full Lifecycle of the Experience

    • Be Great at “Look” and “Do”

  • User Data


    • 11M+ opted into sharing their experience on Windows Vista

    • We have data on almost 400M sessions, across 200 countries and regions

    • Shows graph of “peak number of open windows”, 28:39


      • Almost 50% have 6-9 open

      • 20% are 5 or less

      • 20 % are 10-14

      • 5% are 15-19

      • Falls off for other groups

  • Case Studies, 29:03


    • Bat Signal


      • Shows early prototype of thumbnails

      • Shows early attempt of preview of app

      • Ran an internal beta on this new style, but ran into accidental previews

      • Evolved into Aero Peek

    • The “Nub”, 35:18


      • Early attempt with extra button attached to each taskbar button

      • Longitudinal Usability


        • Study of users at home across several months

        • Started complaining about this special button

        • Found that 100% of families right-clicked, but team had thought that this was advanced functionality

      • Jump Lists and special functions now accessed via right-click

    • Aero Shake, 42:30


      • Aladdin Experiment

      • Aero Shake Usability videos, 45:50

  • How does the story end?


    • Lots of positive feedback

    • Remains to be seen

    • “Windows 7 just plain works, works fast, and is a complete pleasure to use. It is super clean”, The Street.com

  • Lots of Q&A, 20 minutes

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