Oh, what a wonder the launching of Microsoft Windows 95 was.
Jay Leno joking around on stage, an overjoyed Bill Gates dancing with his team to the sound of the Rolling Stones, a huge banner promoting the innovative Start Menu and everyone just having a blast like it was their last day on earth.
It was the best party you’ve ever missed.
BUT WHAT IS WINDOWS 95?
Windows 95 makes it easier to deal with information and it includes a lot of features to reach out from a single PC and communicate with other people.
- Bill Gates
It was so simply put that one could not help but love it. No beating around the bush, the goal of Windows 95 was clear. You would be able to have more fun, be more efficient at work and have an easier life dealing with your personal computer.
This kind of honesty is now extinct and even if products are advertised as the best you’ve ever seen, you never know what you’re really going to get in the end.
Take the launch of Microsoft’s latest version of their operating system, Windows 10, for instance. No music, no comedians, no party, no fun and a lot of dubious statements.
Windows 10 will be our best enterprise platform ever and will enable our enterprise customers to be more productive than ever before, simplifying management and deployment for IT and working seamlessly with existing enterprise apps.
- Terry Myerson
THE AMAZING START BUTTON
Can you imagine clicking on a single button and having all the available options displayed?
This was the real game changer and the reason why the Microsoft team thought it was cool to hang a Start Button banner on top of their presentation. This really was an huge improvement concerning user experience, before anyone thought it was something worth the investment.
It picked something as complex and hard to understand as MS-DOS and turned it into a simple interface. There was an enormous effort to make sure that everyone would be able to use a computer with Windows 95 and it did not disappoint.
How great would it be if someone could take your washing machine and turn all the available options into something you could actually understand? Making MS-DOS (or Windows 3.0.) understandable was almost as hard as that.
I’m not saying we should solve every UI and UX issue with a start menu, but most web designs out there could surely learn a lot from how Windows 95 solved so many problems by thinking about how target users would deal with their product.
Maybe some big corporations out there should start with simplification and honesty, instead of adding dating features.
EVERYTHING IN THE POINT OF YOUR MOUSE
As a robotic voice explains in the Windows 95 demonstration, the whole idea was to reduce the number of steps needed to take any given action. Want to open Word? Start menu. Need to close it? X button. Want to resume your work? Recent documents tab.
Clicking is the end itself, not a mean to get there.
All 19MBs of Windows 95 consisted on useful tools that you could expect from a computer. There was no Cry Translator or Electric Shaver app — wonders of the modern day, available on any smartphone — as it was focused on a few objectives only.
Imagine if such a strange object as a phone that could only make calls existed. That would be the equivalent of Windows 95 on a computer back then. It had everything you ever needed from it, without the unnecessary waste of space.
Windows 95 main objective was to allow you to use a computer easily.
And it did just that.
CROUCHING TIGGER, HIDDEN FEATURES
All this objectivity doesn’t mean that Microsoft didn’t have some cards up their sleeve.
However, it was nothing like hiding settings that enable you to keep your information private and secure or stopping you from unsubscribing from boring services.
Sure, Windows 95 could be very vulnerable online, but while you were being hacked, you could be happy knowing that there was no hidden feature that would have helped you in that situation.
It’s all about transparency, which is something that we are lacking in our modern days. We suspect that our phones are tracking us, that Facebook is selling our data, that webcams are spying for the FBI and that lizard people are running America.
Never for a second we doubted Windows 95.
MR. GATES, I DON’T FEEL SO GOOD…
All good things come to an end and Windows 95 was shut down for good in 2001. While, obviously, it’s not a viable operating system nowadays, the first real attempt of Microsoft to build a computer system available to everyone left a valuable legacy.
What really stands out are the main qualities that Windows 95, as a product, had and that are not common nowadays. It had a memorable launch, it was honest regarding its objectives, focused on the user, objective and transparent.
It’s really easy to disregard the importance of these basic concepts, but in fact, they are behind most issues we currently face with web products. I’m not trying to compare operating systems with social media or mobile applications, but notions such as transparency and objectivity are transversal and equally important.
Windows 95 was not perfect and it’s just an example from a whole lot of products that were launched more than 20 years ago, but not being more than it needed to be was its greatest quality, one that isn’t very common nowadays.
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