Branding Crimes: 4. The Start-Button


We have hated this thing for over 12 Years now - the button that launches a pull-up menu. Only the twisted minds over at Redmond could come up with this. Yeah, I know it’s not a real “Start” button anymore, with Vista it’s become more of a clickable logo like the Macintosh one. But, after all this time, it is still a push-up menu. And that is another major branding crime. Why?

Push Up Menus Just Don’t Make Sense.

In Western culture our initial and instinctive reaction when presented something is to look to the top left. From there, our attention moves across and down in a fluid motion to the bottom right. It’s the intuitive beginning - and countless studies have proven this to be the case. It’s common sense.

Having a navigational element that does the inverse of this is jarring and takes a lot of effort to read. It forces you to mentally take a step back and search for that intuitive beginning again - and that means every time you click the Start button, you get a little frustrated. Of course, humans are adaptable creatures and after time it may barely bother you, but we all know that a drop-down would work much better.

Putting From Over Function

I’m not saying that Microsoft are stupid or misinformed - they’re obvious neither of those. I have no doubt that they tested their Start button, and they probably know that a pull-down would work better. What I’m saying is that I think they’ve drawn the wrong conclusions:

People recognize Windows as a Start button in the lower left, and a clock in the lower right —Apple’s Design vs. Microsoft’s Design, Jenny Lam, ex-Microsoft designer

This is essentially an admission that branding influenced the interface. It should be the other way around - good design and great user experience forms the brand, and by frustrating us with every click of the Start button (and waiting for us to get used to it), Windows is the latest branding criminal. Let the experience form the brand, not the other way around.

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