When I reviewed Windows 11 for Neowin in 2021, I gave it a score of 6.5/10, while saying that “simplifying the user interface is not a bad idea, but the having it there half-baked doesn’t really make for an engaging user experience”. Although this is my opinion based on the launch version of the operating system, unfortunately it still hasn’t changed more than six months later.
Microsoft seems determined to add new features like we’ve seen in recent Insider releases, while ignoring all the UI inconsistencies and lack of core functionality in the existing version. Let me start with a very simple but important example that was highlighted by my colleague Taras Buria on Twitter just a few weeks ago:
Windows is a joke. Look at all these stock apps (and probably many more, idk, I uninstall them right after the initial setup) with completely random UI and UX choices pic.twitter.com/pytTDKR3Dv
— Taras (@TarasBuria) March 23, 2022
Although all the apps in the Taras screenshot are inbox apps developed by Microsoft itself, we see UI and UX inconsistencies throughout, as if there were no executives overseeing the design of the operating system. Even the style of the icons is different, some have thicker borders while others are more minimalistic. It’s as if each development team works in its own silo and only focuses on what it thinks will make its app look pretty, regardless of the overall Windows 11 aesthetic.
In fact, this problem is not limited to icons alone. We still have legacy menus older than Windows 10 spread throughout the OS (see screenshot above) and menu options that have essentially been lifted and moved from previous versions of Windows without the ‘overall UX is taken into account.
All of this points to a clear lack of design standardization, which isn’t a good look for an operating system used by millions of people.
We also have the problem of missing basic features. Microsoft still refuses to let people move the Windows 11 taskbar for ridiculous reasons, but hey, as long as you can spin the settings icon in Notepad, everyone’s happy, isn’t- it not? :
There is some nuance here, so let me be crystal clear here. Of course, the Windows 11 development team is large and consists of several sub-teams with different people working on different things. Of course, the people who added this Easter egg to Notepad aren’t responsible for making the taskbar mobile.
But here is the problem, this type of prioritization makes that bad optics. It’s not pretty when you’re working on something as superficial as desktop stickers and a spinning cog while your inbox notepad app goes absolutely bonkers in specific scenarios:
I have no problem with adding these extras down the line, but my main request for Microsoft would be: please get the basics down first.
And if you’re wondering what those “basics” are, Microsoft’s Feedback Hub is a great place to start. There are tons of articles out there with thousands of upvotes and ideally Microsoft should follow them with a higher development priority. However, many of these requests have been in limbo for several months now without an update from Microsoft and we even recently received a hint that the company is ignoring these comments when it suits them. If anyone could point me to a much-requested piece of feedback to spin the Notepad cog icon, desktop stickers, or any other superfluous feature Microsoft is working on, I’d gladly withdraw my argument.
To sum up for people who are just going to jump to the end of the article (or worse, defend Microsoft right after reading the title), I’ll point out that I fully understand that Windows 11 is continually being developed by multiple teams with their own domains of development. interest, so it’s unfair to expect things to change all at once. That’s not what I’m asking either.
However, there is a clear lack of centralized oversight which should be responsible for managing priorities, guiding development on missing features, and standardizing UI design. This adds to the problem of poor optics where much-requested feedback items have been open for months while Microsoft continues to add features that almost no one has requested.
The problem with the existing approach is that each team will continue to develop in their own focus area in a siled way and while that might add a bunch of features, it might not be things that people have actually asked for and it can make Windows 11 feel like a collection of disparate components rather than a cohesive operating system, due to UX inconsistencies.
I know (or at least hope) things will improve across the board, but given the extremely slow progress on UI consistency and core feature development over the past six months, as well as a new feature update due soon, I feel that now is the perfect time to ask Microsoft to reprioritize development activities and put in place a process for centralized monitoring.
Do you think the development of Windows 11 needs an overhaul in terms of centralized monitoring? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!