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Microsoft Reminds Us Windows 11’s Start Menu is (Supposedly) Based on User Feedback

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To say the Windows 11 Start Menu has caused some controversy is putting it mildly. Microsoft moved this critical UI component to the center of the Taskbar, and removed a lot of the functionality it had in Windows 10. Yes, you can move it to the left still, which is what a lot of people did in the first ten seconds of using the new OS. However, a lot of people are not fans of the changes Microsoft made to Start in Windows 11. In an effort to seemingly defuse some of the vitriol it’s receiving, Microsoft has begun reminding people who is ultimately responsible for its design.

According to Windows Latest, Microsoft recently emailed Windows Insiders who are on the Release, Beta and Dev Channels. The email is titled, “How We Built Start,” and it reads, “Windows 11 Start is centered around you. We relied on your feedback to guide us forward.” It includes a link to a video posted on June 28, 2021 that was seemingly ignored, until now. The video includes interviews with various Microsoft employees about the process they used to create Windows 11’s Start Menu. It includes many choice quotes and a discussion about how user feedback guided the process.

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A user researcher named Ashley kicks things off by stating the obvious, “It’s really easy to design something that you like, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work well for everyone.” Next, a Start button designer named Christian proclaims, “For us, we need to listen more, than just do.” The Start button program manager, a youthful gent named Eric, notes they were asking users a lot of questions. Those included such pivotal queries as, “Should the Start button be left-aligned, or center-aligned?” He goes onto to mention a variety of questions they asked people. This is all leading to the point of the video: Microsoft decided to just ask people what they wanted.

In the video the designers say they gave users a pieces of paper representing items that could be included in the Start menu. Those includes a search box, the weather, documents, apps, etc. The users were then told to arrange them how they best saw fit. The designers admit that though the results varied they did see a pattern. “We always saw search, files, and applications together” says design lead Ryan. They conclude this reinforced what they were already thinking about, giving them confidence they were headed in the right direction.

The Star menu research project let users rearrange “tiles” of items in the start menu; a novel concept. (Image: Microsoft)

According to Windows Latest, this is not going over well with Windows Insiders. The majority of the comments on the Insider site are negative. People just want to be able to personalize the Start Menu, like they could in Windows 10 and 8. Indeed, the majority of the YouTube comments are nasty as well. What’s so infuriating about this conclusion is it’s so fundamental to UI design. Everyone has their own preference for what they want to organize things, so why not let users customize it to their liking? You know, like what people said in your research? How everyone had a different idea on how it should look and be organized?

I can’t even pin a game to my Start menu. The only thing I see when I open it is a totally random assortment of apps that I have never used. Nor will I ever use them. It includes apps that aren’t even installed, like Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok. I assume Microsoft got paid for them to be there. Nothing against those apps but I just wish I could actually personalize the Start menu, and the Taskbar.

What’s really galling though is the fact that Microsoft points out that its raison de d’etre is listening to its customers. These are the same customers who have been complaining about the Start menu and Taskbar since the OS launched last year. Microsoft has clearly heard the complaints, because why else would it resurrect this video all of a sudden? It’s over a year old and they’re just now reminding customers of it? Microsoft could not be more tone deaf if it tried.

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