But does it work?

IMG_0570Some objects and systems are so well designed that they’re beautiful; some work so perfectly they’re virtually invisible. Others are so badly put together that their flaws are obvious.

Then there’s the upgrade process from Windows 8.0 to 8.1.

This is a system so poorly thought through, so appalling executed, so brutally ugly and inefficient that it must have been designed by a vengeful Greek god. Sisyphus, Tantalus, Prometheus – all condemned to vicious and recurring punishments – would consider themselves fortunate never to have had to endure the torments that Microsoft have inflicted.

To begin at the beginning.

I needed a small, light device for doing work when I’m out and about. It needed to run Office, pick up emails, be easy to type on – and light. I’ve tried using an iPad for this sort of thing before and it doesn’t really work for me, but I found a dinky little notebook that came bundled with Office, weighs less than 1kg and which was on offer for under £250. It’s not particularly fast (i.e. it’s slow), but it was well-reviewed and it met my needs. It came with Windows 8.0 loaded, but the reviews (professional and customer ones) suggested taking the free upgrade to 8.1 as that would improve performance.

Upgrading? Easy peasy, surely. You click on a button that says “upgrade”, wait for it to download, install and configure. That’s how it works, no?

I’ll spare you the details (and spare myself too much recollection), but it took over two days to finally get the upgrade done. Two days. This was after downloading patches, hard reboots, copying and pasting text from external forums into the command line (MS DOS still lives), unhelpful error messages (“error 8×007652”), no error messages (“can’t load – try again”), seven and a half hours of installing updates, then discovering another two hours-worth that hadn’t loaded (in Microsoft land “install all” doesn’t mean “all”), blank screens, frozen screens, guesswork as to whether a process was still working or had hung… I could go on (and on, and on).

Suffice to say, this was the most appalling experience and I will never buy another Windows device again. And I’ll tell anyone who’ll listen that, if they value their sanity, they should avoid the useless, buggy, irritating mess of this Microsoft operating system as well.

Venting over.

Whenever you have an extreme experience such as this, you should see what lessons you might be able to apply to your own processes. It is impossible for your systems to be as insanely useless as Microsoft’s, but are there things within them that annoy your customers? I went through the hell of this upgrade because I had to (or I’d be left with a useless computer), but I came pretty close to just giving up and sending the machine back, but people don’t have to shop with you, so what might be making them quit half way through? (And actually, they might complete this transaction, but if the process is poor they could well go somewhere else next time, or tell others not to bother with you.)

So walk through your site again. Better yet, ask your mum to do it – someone who isn’t as close to the thing as you are, who is less technically proficient, who isn’t aware of the compromises that were made to keep everyone in the company on board. What can be made simpler? What can be stripped out? What is superfluous? Unexplained? Ambiguous?

Just because something works, doesn’t mean it works well, or even well enough.

And don’t ever buy a Windows 8 device.

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