End users do not like change — they simply want the technology they use to always work and to always work in the same way regardless of operating system, which is something many OS designers don't understand. Their lack of understanding makes your job of helping users adjust to a drastically different user interface more difficult.
For instance, when the time comes to migrate from Windows 7 to Windows 8, Microsoft's take on the Windows 7 Mobile interface called Metro is going to throw some users for a loop. (The Windows 7 Mobile interface is one of the worst UI designs ever, in my opinion.) Here are tips on how to help reduce users' anxieties about this major migration.
Don't be an early adopter
You won't have to immediately upgrade your machines to Windows 8, so I recommend giving users a chance to learn more about Windows 8 before launching in to the migration. You might even be able to wait long enough for some users to purchase a PC that's powered by Windows 8. If you can let users get used to the platform on their terms, it will go a long way to easing their anxiety about adopting the platform at work.
Remind users about previous migrations
Your end users probably had to migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7, and most likely they ultimately realized their concerns about moving to Windows 7 were unfounded. Oh sure, the interface was different, but they were able to change gears and get their work done.
The difference between the Windows 7 and Windows 8 interface is greater than that between Windows XP and Windows 7, but users' biggest hurdles to overcome will be how to launch their applications.
Educate and train users on Metro
One of the best ways to prevent angst-filled discussions about the migration is to educate users about Windows 8 and train them on the Metro interface well before the adoption date. The more users know about the UI prior to using it, the less stress there will be. The most important thing users will want to know is whether they will be able to complete their work without delays, so reassure them that won't be a problem.
Start with a power user
If one of your users welcomes change, you could migrate that person to Windows 8 first, and then let their coworkers observe how easy it is for them to use Metro as part of their daily work (assuming that is the case).
Use ViStart or disable Metro
For users who have a lot of trouble getting used to the Metro interface, the tiny ViStart app might be a good option. ViStart, which was originally created to give Windows XP a Windows 7 look and feel, can add the Windows 7 Start menu to Windows 8. The downsides are you have to jump through some hoops (which include creating a blank toolbar and adding the ViStart button and your other items to that toolbar), and the setup is not ideal and could take a while depending upon how many users you have.
There is also a registry hack that disables Metro. (Note: You should always back up data before making any registry changes.) You navigate to: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer. In the Windows registry, search for the RPEnabled, right-click that key, and select Modify. Change the key from 1 to 0, click OK, and close the registry. Metro should be disabled. A more elegant and easier solution will hopefully surface in time. There's also a chance that Microsoft will make it impossible to disable the Metro interface prior to the full release. Even if that does happen, I bet someone will find a way around it.
Be patient and do a little hand-holding
When migrating users to Windows 8, you're going to get a lot more help requests; this will likely lead you to feel frustrated and require you to be even more patient and understand that hand-holding will be at a premium. Don't hesitate to remind end users that you are there to help. If they know they have that life jacket, it will ease a lot of their worries.
There will be plenty of bumps in the road to Windows 8, but with a little forethought and care, you can prevent those bumps from turning into mountains. If you can keep in mind that users don't have your set of skills and just want to be able to do their jobs, this level of understanding will go a long way toward a smooth Windows 8 migration.
More about Windows 8 on TechRepublic
- 10 things to love about Windows 8
- 10 hurdles Windows 8 must clear to succeed
- Six Windows 8 enhancements that will benefit the business
- Why Windows 8 won't be an immediate enterprise slam dunk
- Should SMBs upgrade to Windows 8?
- Make the Windows 8 Start Screen work like the Start Menu
- Windows 8 Cheat Sheet
- Gallery: First look at Windows 8 Release Preview
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.