Zune Sofware 2

The Zune Software is the stuff legend. In its first iteration it was an epic disaster, a horrible blend of most of Windows Media Player’s core functionality and absolutely none of the current software’s pizzazz. Starting in Zune 2 Microsoft did however bring the A-game and managed to create one of the best damn interfaces available on Windows to date. However in doing so I fear that may have created a problem none of us anticipated.

So you are reading this and thinking to yourself, “This guy is full of crap! The software is stupid easy to use!” You would be right. Well, sort of. During Microsoft’s MVP Summit early this year I was fortunate to share a hotel room with another MVP from Germany who specialized in Windows CE. He’d been around the block a few times as far as software goes, and upon receiving a Zune HD as a gift, couldn’t grasp the simple tasks in the software to save his life. It was as if a child was seeing building blocks for the first time. So I helped him a little and so far I haven’t heard any mention of him having further problems, but at the time I asked myself how normal people react to the Zune UI.

A few days ago I got my answer, and I wasn’t pleased at all. Most of my friends, colleagues, and family all use the Zune software, instead of iTunes or Windows Media Player, because I’ve recommended to them, and guide them through their adoption process. They come to me with their problems and I talk them down from the ledge. One problem that has come up with every one of them is burning CDs and making playlists, both of which require you to drag and drop items on to specific icons.

Now to me that isn’t a flaw but something to be applauded. The Zune Team has created an environment all its own. They’ve created a user interface that Windows Media Player nor iTunes couldn’t come close, and that is to be applauded. Keeping in mind that I have no qualifications to justify analysis of how intuitive user interfaces can get, it seems to me that in creating a stupid easy experience, someone at Microsoft forgot that most of the world has to be using either iTunes or Windows Media Player both have very linear/ spreadsheet like interfaces, and that music lovers have trained their minds to the way these products work. Is there modus operandi as easy as Zune’s? No way. But the audience their after doesn’t know that yet.

There needs to be some kind of short tutorial or demonstration for new users when the Zune software opens for the first time. I get that it’s easy to use, but I fear Microsoft has managed to duplicate a problem similar to what Staples does with its credit card machines. You would be surprised how many people will hit ‘cancel’ instead of the huge ‘credit’ button at the bottom of the screen. Just because you’ve made something easy, doesn’t mean it’s easy to use. Have you guys noticed these issues as well? What do you think can be done, to help new users grasp the simple nature of the PC client?