All indications are that Microsoft’s big experiment with a modern, touch-focused user experience is coming to an end on desktop devices – but not on tablets or mobile screens. While the move to the modern user interface by Microsoft that completely changed the user experience across all devices can be considered a bold move, as it is rolled-back, it also provides a number of lessons for UX designers.

Know your audience: When designing apps, create personas that include details beyond what an app is being used for, and who is using it. Include details such as whether they are working on a touch device, what size screen, and their level of computer skills. Microsoft didn’t pay enough attention to the users working on traditional computers that are not touch-sensitive. Remember your audience may be working on different devices, with different resolutions, screen sizes, and may not include touch-centric displays. A good user experience always takes into consideration the needs of the user.

Delight your users: Sure, apps need to get the job done, but in doing so they should provide a user experience that delights the user, making jobs such as accessing information, entering data, or sharing easy, intuitive, regardless of the device they are using. Like a good meal, an outstanding user experience leaves users happy and satisfied, no matter whether they are eating it using a fork, spoon or chopsticks.

Use new interaction paradigms cautiously: Users should not be surprised about what happens when they swipe or click. The interactions should be as-expected and consistent. Avoid forcing users into an unfamiliar user experience, with interactions that aren’t intuitive on all devices and interaction methods. If a user has been interacting with your apps or operating system in a consistent way for many years using a desktop device, make it easy for them to understand how to perform the same core functions, even as you add support for touch screens.

Conduct research and test: Before rolling out a large user experience change, gather user feedback, either in the wild, in a usability lab, or through research and testing. Gather and incorporate this feedback to make certain your designs perform their core functions as expected, and be certain to test on all devices and input methods your audience will be using – including keyboard and mouse.

Admit UX mistakes: When your UX goes wrong, be nimble enough to incorporate the user feedback and adapt the user experience to fix any mistakes or improve any weaknesses. Microsoft is clearly doing this with Windows 8.1 and the forthcoming Windows 9. This iterative approach to user experience is a critical lesson for anyone wanting to build and maintain best-of-breed applications.

We teach many of these core concepts in the UX classes that we offer at American Graphics Institute, which can provide a useful foundation if you haven’t had any formal UX training.

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Five lessons for UX Designers from the Windows User Experience