Will the Start Button help people love using Windows 8?

Microsoft has confirmed that the Start Button (in addition to the Windows 8 Start Screen) will be returning to Windows 8, in the upcoming free update, Windows 8.1. Also called Blue, this update makes a lot of changes to Windows 8 for the better. Microsoft has responded to public criticism (although they have not admitted the Start Button is coming back because of public criticism, they are adding it for other reasons) and have added the Start Button back into Windows 8 although they call it a Start Tip.

1_win8startbutton

Here is how the new Start Button looks in Windows 8.1

Putting handlebars where the steering wheel used to be

The Start Menu has been a key navigational piece of Windows for well over a decade. It has become instinctual that you open a Start Menu to gain access to all of your applications and system controls. A Start Menu should open up over the top of the environment you are currently working in, so you never go away from your current task to open the menu. Windows 8 introduced two problems when they replaced the Start Menu with a Start Screen: the removal of the Start Button and the replacement of the Start Menu. These are two separate problems, but are often grouped together as the same issue.

Bringing back the Start Button in Windows 8 will definitely help people feel more at home on the desktop initially. Upon first inspection it will even look pretty much the same as a standard Windows 7 desktop. But when you click the Start Button your experience will be very different compared to Windows 7. Watch this video below to see my point (video contains some adult language).

While the Start Button is back, when clicked you are taken to the Windows 8 Start Screen, which is a completely different environment from the desktop where you clicked the Start Button. There are people who now prefer the Start Screen over the Start Menu, and I definitely encourage you to spend some time setting up the Start Screen your way, to see if it is for you. But many people will find the Start Screen a jarring experience from the traditional Start Menu. While we were testing our Start Menu replacement tool, Start Menu Reviver, we conducted a lot of user testing. Below is one of the clips from one of these tests. The user opened up the Photos app from Start Menu Reviver. Watch what happens after that:

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes summarizes this well in this article when he says:

“While many people have been calling for the return of the Start Button, I don’t think it was the Start Button they actually wanted back, but the Start Menu. Rather than a focused part of the screen devoted to applications and settings, users are now dumped, blinking and confused, into what is essentially a full-screen Start Menu.”

So even when the Start Button is re-introduced in Windows 8.1, the Start Screen will still be the only way to navigate your applications in Windows. If you find the Start Screen difficult to use, then you are out of luck. I personally think it is like replacing a car’s steering wheel (including audio controls, indicators and controls for your lights) with a set of handlebars. You just don’t have as much functionality easily at your fingertips any more.

Start Menu Reviver is here to help

We developed Start Menu Reviver because we knew that Windows 8 users would struggle to adapt to the Start Screen, and would miss the Start Menu. We did not just want to bring back the traditional Windows 7 Start Menu, though, because we think that with the evolution of devices running Windows, this menu just flat-out does not work. The Start Menu needs to be personalized and touch friendly, but also familiar to people who have used previous version of Windows. That is why we designed it like this:

If you are using Windows 8 and miss the Start Menu, give Start Menu Reviver a try. It is free to use, and we think you will love it!

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