The Baffling Windows 7 Control Panel

Since the dawn of time (or maybe only the last several centuries), the dictionary has been organized so that users can quickly scan vertical lists or words and find the page and the word that is of interest to them in quite a lengthy book. Recently, Microsoft (in all their wisdom) decided that centuries of using vertical lists to quickly scan content needed to come to an end. And, thus, the Windows 7 Control Panel became a horizontally sorted list:

Now this had to be an intentional change as there is no other reason it would suddenly change from a vertically sorted list of columns. And it is not nearly as easy to scan the list horizontally-otherwise, the dictionary would have been a bunch of horizontal rows for the past few centuries. Now, if there are 1 million Windows 7 users who have the same view of their Control Panel as the above and each one of them visits their Control Panel 5 times per year. Say on average they spend 2 more seconds looking for the appropriate control. That is 115 man days into the abyss due to one minor, poorly chosen change in convention. I’d certainly like to have 115 man days back, wouldn’t you?

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About Scott

Scott Barnard is the founder of The Usability Review and After earning 2 degrees from MIT, he transplanted to the San Francisco Bay Area where he had a front row seat to the dot com boom and bust and the subsequent growth in importance of web, mobile and desktop application designs to the everyday activities of businesses and consumers alike. Get in touch with Scott if you'd like to hire him to consult on web, mobile app, or desktop application design at
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