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Comparing Microsoft and Apple Websites' Usability

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the you-cannot-serve-381-masters dept.

GUI 314

An anonymous reader writes 'In the article entitled Apple vs. Microsoft — A Website Usability Study, Dmitry Fadeyev, co-founder of Pixelshell, compares Apple's and Microsoft's web sites from a usability perspective, and Apple is the winner. Scott Barnes, PM at Microsoft, agrees with him and suggests the problem is because various site sub-domains have different management.'

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314 comments

What browser? (1, Interesting)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371461)

I'd like to know what browser and what computer he was using. In other words: what bias if any?

It'd also be interesting to know his monitor resolution...

Re:What browser? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29371583)

I'm not sure why browser matters, Microsoft's sites are crap, they always have been. Apple's site is pretty straightforward.

I'd give MS SOME leeway for the fact that they have like 8 trillion products to Apple's, what, 12?

But other than that this is kindof a nobrainer.

Re:What browser? (4, Interesting)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372053)

Having spent some time trying to dig through their various sites over the years, I have to agree. The trouble is Microsoft has everything from office software suites to games. Although a cohesive design would really help navigation and usability I wouldn't envy the guy that has to try and do it. I would, however, really like to see it happen. Half the time I give up and just google something rather than try and find it using their navigation.

Re:What browser? (3, Insightful)

ThePhilips (752041) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372283)

MS site isn't THAT bad.

Companies are different. Their focus is different. Apple sells its product directly - thus site is optimized with end users in mind. MS orients itself as a partner company - thus its web site is a kind of source of bullets points for PowerPoint presentations which can be reused by its partners when selling MS products. Both serve their purpose.

Frankly best analogy was already made here [youtube.com] . It says it all.

Re:What browser? (2, Interesting)

MrBandersnatch (544818) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371677)

TBH both are irrelevant as per the points raised in the article (although certainly the impact of resolution is a valid usability concern). I believe the author is a web designer though so there is obviously no way a designer would have any bias for Apple over Microsoft is there?

Sarcasm aside, most of the points are well reasoned and seem valid so I don't really think bias is a concern. Lack of metrics, yes. Bias though no.

Re:What browser? (2, Interesting)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371827)

As someone with experience in web design, I have equal hatred for both MS and Apple. Safari on the mac does not render the same as Safari on the PC. IE 6 emulation mode does not render the same as IE 6. Each one requires different special case javascript to do things that work as expected in Opera or Firefox. etc. The list goes on.

Re:What browser? (3, Insightful)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371861)

Safari on the mac does not render the same as Safari on the PC

I've found a number of instances where Safari/Firefox differ, but I have never tested Safari Mac versus Safari PC -- do you happen to have an example of this?

Re:What browser? (2, Informative)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371981)

Sorry. Not that I can specifically reference. All my cross browser work was at a previous job, and I didn't keep my notes. Part of it was the way the javascript engine interfaced with a silverlight video player object.

Re:What browser? (4, Insightful)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371833)

None of his points would be changed by changing the browser.

He's not talking about heavy use of IE- or Safari-proprietary plugins or things that would be blocked by AdBlock or NoScript, he's talking about navigation and readability.

No matter what browser you use, Apple's "less clutter" approach and rigid consistency in keeping the banners, colors, and navigation features of the site the same no matter where you are made a positive impression in the study. You go to the site, and the experience remains consistent and predictable throughout. Change from OSX to the iPhone pages, or go to get QuickTime, and you are constantly looking at something that is obviously an Apple web site. They don't even need a logo on the site, though it is always there and always in the same spot looking exactly the same.

Microsoft's inconsistency in terms of page layouts, colors, where the search bar is, where the company logo is and what it looks like, where the banners and navigation bits are, massive clutter, how the data is organized, etc amongst their seven separate subdomains with no central vision fared less well from a "can I navigate this site easily" perspective.

Now, OK, screen resolution - I can see your point. But doing quick comparisons on my 17" laptop screen and my 22" external screen between Microsoft and Apple, I gotta say, I like the way Apple just throws a couple of quick images at me and breaks their product line and common actions down quickly for me.

One place to buy: "Store",
Product line breakdown: "Mac", "iPod", "iPhone", etc.
and a few common actions: "Downloads", "Support"

Microsoft's banner is "Windows", "Office", "All Products", "Buy Now", "Downloads&Trials", "Partner Solutions", "Security", "Training", "Support", and "About".

"Windows" and "Office" are product lines. What is "All Products"? "Buy Now" is an action, not a product line. The rest of the categories are a continued mixed bag of products, types of customers, and actions. There are too many of them, they are poorly sorted.

Then this is overlaid with an annoying popover about upgrading my IE (I'm running Firefox for this test, but the same thing happened on IE6), and a relatively cluttered batch of what I'm sure are important marketing messages and stuff, but are unlikely to be relevant to me on a home page. When I click on "Office", you can tell me about the latest Office, I don't need a marketing blurb about it cluttering up the home page thanks.

Don't get me wrong, I have an iPod and I rarely use it, and I'm a Windows user (that an Linux, but it's been many moons since I fired up a MacAnything). But Apple's web site is simpler, cleaner, and far more consistent.

Trying to find the Microsoft logo on their various sites is like playing "Where's Waldo" when Waldo keeps changing his shirt color and can move while you're looking for him (and sometimes he's hidden by a pop-over ad).

I love popovers. I fill mine with ice cream. But I detest them on websites. Microsoft: I'm already on your site! You don't need to sell me, you need to give me information!

(end rant)

Re:What browser? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29372037)

Hate to break it to you, but I don't see dropdowns on the microsoft site. So he's gotta be doing something funky.

Re:What browser? (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372373)

front page... the entire top bar ( "Windows", "Office", "All Products", etc.) are all drop downs.

Re:What browser? (2, Insightful)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372437)

go to get QuickTime

Go to get QuickTime, and when you run it, find the good UI grounds to a halt.

To be honest I'm not bothered about whether Apple's or Microsoft's website is less crap, when they're both awful compared to many other websites, and I hardly ever visit them. I'm more concerned about the applications I run.

Microsoft's website spams me about IE 8. Apple shove a full screen image with an Ipod advert, meaning I have to click to get to anything else. Microsoft might seem a bit more cluttered. But when you go to one of the Apple sub-pages (e.g., Mac), there's just as much clutter. Honestly, who cares - they're both designed by people who know little about creating decent websites. It's just a shame that with Apple, the bad UI team got let loose on Quicktime and Itunes, and god knows what else too.

"Windows" and "Office" are product lines. What is "All Products"? "Buy Now" is an action, not a product line. The rest of the categories are a continued mixed bag of products, types of customers, and actions. There are too many of them, they are poorly sorted.

Why on earth should the banner only contain "product lines"? And by that logic, "store", "downloads" and "support" aren't product lines either! Indeed, as you list yourself, Apple's banner is also a "mixed bag".

and a relatively cluttered batch of what I'm sure are important marketing messages and stuff, but are unlikely to be relevant to me on a home page. When I click on "Office", you can tell me about the latest Office, I don't need a marketing blurb about it cluttering up the home page thanks.

Yeah, there's obviously no marketing blurb on Apple's website. Not the full screen ad image. Not the "news" that brags "Snow Leopard a software platform for the future", or the claim of "The World's Most Advance Operating System"(!) Or "Why you'll love a Mac".

I agree that Apple have less clutter on the front page, but that's only because they've shoehorned it into all the subpages, and there's still plenty of marketing blurb, on the front page, and elsewhere.

Re:What browser? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29371847)

With the risk of being misunderstood I'll post as AC.

I would like to know absolutely nothing about this. This has to be by far the most worthless article slashdotted I have ever seen. First of all the topic is so increadibly uninteresting, and even for those few that actually use the sites in this way, rather than those not stuck in 1995 who just google whatever they want together with +microsoft.com or +apple.com, it is by far mostly about cognitive behaviour. If you have been taught that the menu is on the top right corner, you will always look for a menu at the top right corner. If you've been taught that the menu can be in any corner you will always look for a menu in any corner. See where I'm going with this? So seriously, timothy, you'd have done better linking to about:blank.

Re:What browser? (1)

Asclepius99 (1527727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371977)

Thank you!

Re:What browser? (3, Insightful)

rawr_one (1474675) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372119)

I'm sorry, but no amount of training is going to make you better able to find information when it is presented to you as tiny text in a sea of tiny text than when it is presented to you plain and simple, and neither is said training going to be able to allow you to navigate Microsoft's website.

Even if you're googling to get to the information, you're still going to have to deal with the crappy presentation of information eventually.

Re:What browser? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29372069)

...and the fact that MS has a pop-up (firefox) on the front-freaking page, telling you to download IE improves usability!

Re:What browser? (3, Insightful)

skribble (98873) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372077)

I'd like to know what browser and what computer he was using. In other words: what bias if any?

...because every time something microsoft/apple is better than apple/microsoft there must either be some bias or fanboisim, because everyone knows that microsoft/apple is always best at everything.

Re:What browser? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29372125)

WTF!!!!! They didn't compare the linux website!

It's not because of different management (1)

pastafazou (648001) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371487)

It's because John Hodgman is responsible for Microsoft's site.

Re:It's not because of different management (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29371733)

Hm. So as a Mac user, he's deliberately sabotaged their website? Cool.

Re:It's not because of different management (1)

pastafazou (648001) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371869)

Google first [google.ca] , then reply, you'll get much better results [wikipedia.org] .

I suggest the problem is... (-1, Offtopic)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371493)

"Scott Barnes, PM at Microsoft, agrees with him and suggests the problem is because various site sub-domains have different management"

I suggest the problem is the fact that I have 200+ Microsoft IPs blocked in my firewall making them far and away more useful to me then Apple's.

Re:I suggest the problem is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29371707)

Good grief, a, anti "M$" / "MicroSloth" fanboi. Grow up

Re:I suggest the problem is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29371747)

or somebody running a pirated version of Windows that doesn't want accidental contacts made from their IP.

Re:I suggest the problem is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29371995)

or somebody running legit software tired of all the phoning home...

Re:I suggest the problem is... (3, Funny)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372033)

Kinda silly - I only run Pirate Versions of Windows, and I've NEVER had one disab

Slashdot users are fat bastards (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29371495)

This is the truth.

Re:Slashdot users are fat bastards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29372351)

I prefer the term full figured thank you very much!

Backwater sections (3, Interesting)

DavidR1991 (1047748) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371503)

Although I agree about the consistency of Apple's site being better in general, both of the site have some pretty horrible out of date 'backwater' regions. If I recall, quite a few of the Apple developer pages have completely inconsistent theming and styles (shadowed text on aqua buttons circa pre-10.4 etc.) and MS's hardware pages with the red top banner are rather crudely squished into the current style on some pages

But I suppose style != usability so this may not have been considered

Use Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29371513)

I had better luck searching Microsoft's website for fixing Windows problems by doing a Google search with site:microsoft.com than by using Microsoft's search box. That was before Bing came out, but I still found it odd that Google could find useful information from microsoft.com better than Microsoft could. Microsoft used to have a very good knowledgebase on their website but for some reason they changed it for the sake of change and made it much, much worse. Sometimes I think that some of Microsoft's changes come from committees in conference rooms who need to find busy work to do.

Without any try (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29371517)

I posit that this article is fairly unreadable!

Interesting double standard, too. (3, Interesting)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371535)

Fadeyev remarks that Apple has remained consistent in their approach for many years and uses the home page as an âoeadvertising boardâ. The âoemain ad at the top is hugeâ while the rest of the page has just a few items and lacks any content âoemaking the decision of where to go next easierâ.

Yet, later on, Tim Anderson criticizes Microsoft, saying it's too hard to get past all the marketing. So Apple gets brownie points for having an advertising-board-style main page with little content, and Microsoft gets dinged for having too much marketing and too little content. Hm.

To me, the entire article strikes me as having been written this way: Apple's site is better than Microsoft's. I wonder why?

Re:Interesting double standard, too. (1, Flamebait)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371789)

To me, the entire article strikes me as having been written this way: Apple's site is better than Microsoft's. I wonder why?

Nothing to wonder about. Because Apple understands design and focuses on it. The have GUI design docs and the follow them and enforce them stringently. Windows and Microsoft isn't about design; they are about marketing and mass consumption. They are Wal-Mart. And have you been inside a Wal-mart lately?

Re:Interesting double standard, too. (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372115)

I phrased it wrong. I meant to put quotes around it. i.e., "Apple's site is better than Microsoft's. I wonder why?" In other words, the article was setting out to show why they had the conclusion they already had, not to actually gather a conclusion from an objective set of standards.

GUI Guidelines. (4, Insightful)

RulerOf (975607) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372177)

Apple understands design and focuses on it. The have GUI design docs and the follow them and enforce them stringently.

If you weren't aware, Microsoft also has very specific GUI guidelines [guuui.com] as well... Guidelines that Apple forces their Windows programmers to not follow. Have you used the unintuitive piece of shit called "iTunes for Windows" that makes zero sense to those unfamiliar with the OS X UI?

iTunes on OS X isn't half bad. iTunes on Windows is Apple's lock-in approved way of forcing the customer to think long and hard about throwing his phone or MP3 player at the wall because he can't understand why his desktop keeps erasing the music he put on it with his laptop without calling the manufacturer.

Re:GUI Guidelines. (1)

Literaphile (927079) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372423)

Apple understands design and focuses on it. The have GUI design docs and the follow them and enforce them stringently.

If you weren't aware, Microsoft also has very specific GUI guidelines [guuui.com] as well... Guidelines that Apple forces their Windows programmers to not follow. Have you used the unintuitive piece of shit called "iTunes for Windows" that makes zero sense to those unfamiliar with the OS X UI? iTunes on OS X isn't half bad. iTunes on Windows is Apple's lock-in approved way of forcing the customer to think long and hard about throwing his phone or MP3 player at the wall because he can't understand why his desktop keeps erasing the music he put on it with his laptop without calling the manufacturer.

GUI guidelines for software have nothing to do with a company's website... I guess you just wanted to slip in an off-topic rant.

Re:GUI Guidelines. (2, Insightful)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372485)

Agreed - that, and Quicktime too. Appalling UIs. Now sure, normally one might say it's unfair to judge Macs here based on their Windows software, but given that "But they are good at UIs" is the one thing we hear about them, and given that there's no reason why Windows is to blame for Quicktime's and Itune's poor UIs (indeed, as you note, they specifically avoid the Windows GUI and guidelines), it makes me very suspicious about the claims of "good UIs" in general.

But apparently, because Apple's website is slightly less cluttered than Microsoft's, I should be basing my decision to buy a Mac solely on that. Hell, even Slashdot's UI beats those two.

Re:Interesting double standard, too. (2, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372445)

>Windows and Microsoft isn't about design; they are about marketing and mass consumption.

Oh please. Microsoft is like a marketplace while Apple is a communist state. I like my iphone but frankly its lock in hell if you dont jailbreak it. You can write any shitty app you want for windows mobile without the censors beating you down, not so much in the app store.

As much as I like Apple, I find their dictatorial business decisions are based on profit but defensed as "good design" or "the end users are too stupid to figure anything out." That's not good for anything. Dont let your MS hate turn you into the ally of a company that really doesnt have your interests in mind.

Re:Interesting double standard, too. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29371819)

The differentiation is much clearer on the Apple site and you always move forward. The marketing is just confusing and visually noisy on Microsoft.com

It's both the way the contents is titled and the what it is designed.

Re:Interesting double standard, too. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29372379)

So, how do I get to http://trailers.apple.com/ [apple.com] from http://www.apple.com/ [apple.com] without going straight there via URL? It appears that, for sake of usability, Apple has ditched many of the navigation buttons to other sites they own, while MS tries to make it a "one-stop-shop" effect. Not saying that they are getting it right, but it is pretty typical of the two.

Personally I think that both sites are a little heavy on advertising, but really, so is Amazon. But is logical since all three sites are doing the same thing, selling you stuff. If you went into a store that did not have stuff on display (AKA advertised in the store) you would complain. I think that the real test is not the base pages, but the support pages, since once you have the product, that is where you are more likely to go. Other then that, it is all advertising.

Re:Interesting double standard, too. (5, Interesting)

businessnerd (1009815) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372107)

You missed some important differentiating details about those ads and amount of content. Apple has only one ad and it is very clear. There is a specific call to action (sign up) and additional points on why this action should be taken. The remaining content, while there isn't much of it, is clearly displayed and is inviting. Microsoft's, on the other hand, had multiple ads, but two of which you couldn't see without user interaction. The content below was too busy and too boring (just small text links), which makes the user ask, "Why should I bother reading through these links, let alone click on one of them?". It's not about an Ad:Content ratio, it's about how the ads/content are displayed and what is expected of the user. I recently worked on a project that involved a lot of web page design from a wireframing/layout perspective (rather than the "ooh shiny!" perspective). What I learned from this experience is that you need to be very clear on what you expect the user to do upon visiting the site. That usually means keeping it simple. If the user is unsure what they are suppose to do or every feel lost or like the information they need is not at this site or on this page, you've lost them. I've used Microfts site from time to time and it's always a horrible experience. Something I was thinking about today when I was on their MSDN site. I always find it impossible to find what I need. With msdn.com I've figured out where I need to go by now, but the first few times were painful. I want to find where to download MS software and product keys (for example, a copy of Windows 7), so the first thing I do is click on the big "Downloads" menu. Bzzzt! Wrong! To download software, I don't go to the main downloads page I go to a separate link found in my account information box all the way over on the right side of the page. Even just finding normal free consumer software from their main microsoft.com page is impossible to find. When you think you found where the download link is, you are hit with marketing crap, but no link to download. I always have to do a search to find it. User's don't want to search, they want to browse.

Re:Interesting double standard, too. (4, Insightful)

rawr_one (1474675) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372213)

You're misunderstanding what Tim Anderson wrote. He said that it was hard to get past all of the marketing blather, which is an entirely different thing. He's saying that it's hard to find information in the sea of advertising-speak that Microsoft's website heaps upon you (as opposed to plain, useful information), not that it is hard to navigate because they advertise.

Re:Interesting double standard, too. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29372273)

I'm thinking that the point was that Microsoft has too much advertising (multiple ads for different products all appearing at the same time, rather than one large ad for a single product that randomly changes) and/or popups (too 'in your face' compared to an ad that is already part of the page -- i.e. your presented with a page of information/marketing, and then immediately forced to change focus away from it to view a popup... the popup feels like it is there to block you from accessing the information behind it. It's better to just have one or the other from a UI perspective).

Re:Interesting double standard, too. (1)

Wowlapalooza (1339989) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372415)

Hopefully, you understand that Fadeyev and Anderson are different people, and therefore might have slightly different opinions on how/why Microsoft's website sucks?

Maybe try fixing it... (1, Flamebait)

log1385 (1199377) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371543)

That's wonderful that you agree, Mr. Barnes. Why don't you do something about it? What's that, you say? "given the political environment within the company and no one division really owns the entire site(s), I honestly don't see a realistic reform"? Of course! How could I possibly be so naive to think that customer service and ease of website use should come before company politics? Silly me.

Re:Maybe try fixing it... (4, Insightful)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371643)

Of course! How could I possibly be so naive to think that customer service and ease of website use should come before company politics? Silly me

It's pretty naive to think anything comes before company politics, be it at Microsoft or Apple or any other publicly traded company.

Re:Maybe try fixing it... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29372195)

Then how come Apple has a good website and Microsoft doesn't?

A company has to create good work to sell products. Unless perhaps you're suggesting Apple has to compete with good products, while Microsoft can abuse it's monopoly and force users to put up with crap spewed by company politics?

Actually, if that was your goal, I'd say you hit the nail right on the head.

Re:Maybe try fixing it... (1)

jack2000 (1178961) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372387)

Apple has different history, company structure, target group, quantity of products... should i go on?
Yes you people are comparing apples to oranges, it's just not done!

Re:Maybe try fixing it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29372121)

Yep. And since MS makes more than five products, you get competition among different divisions for control of the message.

It is possible for Apple to a really clean ui, because they have only a handful of products.

For the beast, not so much.

Size of site might affect also (3, Insightful)

eXlin (1634545) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371579)

I agree, but we need to remember that Microsoft's site is mutch larger than Apples. Small sites are always easier to keep in way that navigating between sites are easier and you always find site you are looking for.

That wasn't unexpected. (4, Insightful)

dprovine (140134) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371629)

Apple's detractors consider the company to be a bunch of control freaks, which is true, but that's exactly why their user interfaces are so consistent and usability is so high. Their mania for controlling every aspect of the user's experience has an upside and a downside. That the company that's so driven for consistency on the App Store also has a consistent website should hardly be astonishing.

As for Microsoft's website, the company's main product has a number of different interfaces for different things, when there's no sensible reason for it to be different (Office uses the Ribbon, but Internet Explorer doesn't, to take one example). That the company whose main product has a number of different and confusing elements has a similar website is also not astonishing. A finished system's structure tends to mimic the structure of the group that produced it. Read about the Windows Shutdown Crapfest [blogspot.com] and think about the implications for their website.

Re:That wasn't unexpected. (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371823)

Just for argument's sake, the critique of what the "turn off" button should have been is ridiculous. There should only be one "off" button? Basically, he assumes a ton... like you don't want to have to choose between power off, log off, and sleep... that you shouldn't have to choose between sleep and hibernate... etc.

My desktop computer presumably has the ability to sleep and hibernate but due to some weird BIOS stuff, it doesn't work well. In fact, it messes up the BIOS systems. I'm sure glad I'm able to tell Windows to power off and NOT sleep/hibernate.

Not saying the Vista version is good... but seriously, the critique of narrowing it down to one button is stupid and shortsighted and presumes you have the latest hardware, don't need to save power, etc.

Re:That wasn't unexpected. (2, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372083)

There should only be one "off" button?

Yes, because any more buttons and the average consumer gets confused. ...

That said feature anemia is preferred to many over feature creep simply because even if you try to please everyone with all the possible features you are going to confuse and upset the majority of your users when that causes usability problems or in the case of many of Microsoft's projects... "unintended features" ;)

Re:That wasn't unexpected. (1)

dprovine (140134) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372237)

I'm willing to go for more than just one option when you go: it seems to me that the two obvious hardware things are (1) close laptop (sleep), and (2) hit button (turn off). So the menu should give you those two choices, along with "restart" and "log out". Still, that's only 4 menu items. And I see no reason at all to include a software shutdown button which looks like the physical shutdown button on the laptop. Even if we want "lock" on the menu, I don't see why it needs a button either.

Re:That wasn't unexpected. (1)

chaim79 (898507) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372339)

A finished system's structure tends to mimic the structure of the group that produced it. Read about the Windows Shutdown Crapfest [blogspot.com] and think about the implications for their website.

Actually I am thinking about the implications about the product... if you check out this comment [blogspot.com] on that article which explains the reason behind the source control structure, they are controlling a symptom of the problem not the problem. No wonder MS products are so unstable and vulnerable, with wild dependencies going all over the place, only found out months after things are broken, I'm with other commenters and I wonder how they ever released a product at all!

two dings against Microsoft (4, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371691)

1. The writing on their guides is uniformly attrocious. If I want to learn how to do something, I never follow the Microsoft link but always go to the non-MS ones. They are usually concise and useful.
2. Most of the Microsoft links are broken anyway. It seems like they completely reshuffle their site organization every three months. Any link older than that will inevitably be broken.

Re:two dings against Microsoft (4, Informative)

dave562 (969951) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371857)

2. Most of the Microsoft links are broken anyway. It seems like they completely reshuffle their site organization every three months. Any link older than that will inevitably be broken.

This issue seems to be getting worse as time goes on. I had grown used to finding the occasional reference to a knowledge base article from a third party site or article to be broken. It seems like over the last year, I've found internal links on their site that are broken. For example, there might be a TechNet article that points to a knowledge base article, and that link is broken.

Microsoft's site is pretty horrible. Their knowledge base is atrocious. If I had to make a wild ass guess, I'd say that I can actually find the solution to my Microsoft related problem by using their support tools only about 25% of the time. For the longest time until Microsoft shut Google out of their site, Google was my preferred search tool for microsoft.com related material. If it weren't for the huge numbers of people using and supporting Microsoft software, they would have gone under from a lack of support. Any other company out there that put out a product that is so hard to support and resolve issues with would go out of business. Microsoft gets a pass because so many people are stuck with the crap that we don't have any other choice but to find ways to make it work. I think it's an almost conscious decision intended to drive people to their PAID support offerings. The two or three times in the last ten plus years that I've actually had to call Microsoft for support, they resolved the issue. One time they even refunded the cost of the support call because the issue turned out to be a bug with their software. On that time they had a hot fix coded and available for me in less than 24 hours.

Wish I had mod points here... (3, Informative)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372401)

Their "free" support options, being their general and KB website articles, and their newsgroups are pretty hard to get through. Finding anything not driven by a search or external link into their site on their site is nearly impossible, and most of their newsgroups are too busy to actually keep up with. Their paid support is pretty top notch, but it's more expensive to have a handful of issues with them than to get a support contract with Oracle, RedHat or Novell for Linux.

The real annoying thing is they don't have a 301 permanent redirect module setup with their CDN. If a KB article's link moves, then point to it.. if it's outdated, point to the relevant article... I'm really tired of having nothing but trouble re-finding something from 3+ months ago.

It is harder ... (1)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371699)

... to maintain a website with more sub-domains and more information. It seems obvious to me that the Microsoft site in general is just gi-normous ... therefore they have trouble epsecially with consistency. Apple just doesn't have as many things on their sites, and rightfully so considering Microsoft is a global giant, therefore the Apple employees have more time to sit around and play with the look and feel and user friendliness of a website. imho

Re:It is harder ... (1)

xxuserxx (1341131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371863)

I was thinking the same. Does Apple even have the equivilent of Technet or MSDN? Microsoft has a ton of stuff for IT professionals to pull resources. I have only gone to Apples website for iTunes....

Re:It is harder ... (4, Informative)

1729 (581437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372311)

I was thinking the same. Does Apple even have the equivilent of Technet or MSDN? Microsoft has a ton of stuff for IT professionals to pull resources. I have only gone to Apples website for iTunes....

Look here: http://developer.apple.com/ [apple.com]

Re:It is harder ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29371963)

What do you even define as "Microsoft's site" anyway?

Live?
Bing?
MSDN Library?
Technet?
KBLibrary?
MSN?

All different pieces of microsoft with different goals run by different people. Combine them into one site? It's a monstrosity of different UI's. Each individual one has problems ranging from minor to serious (imo Bing and the MSDN Library are fine, Live is ok, and the rest make me run in terror).

Re:It is harder ... (1)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372199)

The scale of Microsoft's sites exacerbates the problem, but it's not the cause. I don't think Microsoft has ever had a standard look and feel across all of its sites. They just don't make unifying the look and feel a priority. It's completely doable but it's time consuming and time is money. Obviously there is either no top-down direction for site look and feel or if there is, it's got no teeth. The individual divisions all do their own thing. The total lack of consistency is evidence of that. Consistency doesn't come as a result of tinkering or playing with the look and feel. It comes from developing a standard and rigidly adhering to it.

Re:It is harder ... (4, Informative)

ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372201)

... to maintain a website with more sub-domains and more information. It seems obvious to me that the Microsoft site in general is just gi-normous ... therefore they have trouble epsecially with consistency. Apple just doesn't have as many things on their sites, and rightfully so considering Microsoft is a global giant, therefore the Apple employees have more time to sit around and play with the look and feel and user friendliness of a website. imho

True, Apple's site does have fewer things, but it's not because Apple has fewer products. Apple's site has three decades worth of hardware and software documentation on it. The Apple site still has manuals and system software for Apple II series machines, if you go looking for it.

The illusion that the MS site has "more stuff" is partly a result of poor organization, and partly a result of Microsoft's tendency to release a half dozen different "editions" of a product when one would do fine.

Study? (1)

MrBandersnatch (544818) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371717)

Its an opinion piece. A well written one and I've no problem with the content but lets call a spade a spade please.

Could size have anything to do with it? (0, Flamebait)

Stevecrox (962208) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371729)

I'm not a regular on Apples website but a quick perusal of their website shows it to be a cut down marketing site rather than the somewhat huge Microsoft tech site. I certainly can't find any pages on known issues, bug fixes, inner workings of their IDE, etc...

I would have thought his issues with consistency and readability would be primarily because Microsoft's website has parts maintained by different business units who all use different web templates. But the use of those templates is consistent. I'd imagine if Apples website was as comprehensive you'd get the same problems.

I disagree with his homepage analysis as well, microsoft will often advertise free products on their home page (latest Windows Media player, Win 7 Beta, etc..) Apple just have several giant adverts for products you have to buy and have hidden away the free stuff. Clutter is bad but making it hard to get to the free stuff is worse in my opinion.

This just sounds like some fan-boy trying to put down Microsoft in any way he can. Also If apples website is more than a glorified online store could someone point me at the other parts. The fact I have to ask kinda shoots his navigation point down. Although I'm not suggesting Microsoft's website is easy to navigate.

Re:Could size have anything to do with it? (1)

dingen (958134) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371851)

I certainly can't find any pages on known issues, bug fixes, inner workings of their IDE, etc...

I suppose you haven't visited http://support.apple.com/ [apple.com] and http://developer.apple.com/ [apple.com] if you're making statements like these.

Re:Could size have anything to do with it? (1)

Stevecrox (962208) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371941)

The developer page was what I was looking for, you'll notice the design has immediately changed from the apple.com website (nav bar has gone for instance).

How do you get to it from the main site?

Re:Could size have anything to do with it? (1)

dingen (958134) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372039)

If you navigate to the Mac or iPhone page, there are links to the developer-pages in the gray area at the bottom. Not the first place to look perhaps, but then again the main site is not focussed on developers at all. That's why they created a subsite for it.

Re:Could size have anything to do with it? (4, Insightful)

keytoe (91531) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372203)

That's kind of the point of the article, actually. You don't get there directly from the home page, and that's the correct behavior for 90% or more of the people who land there. Just because you have a division or resource that is of interest to a small subset of your users doesn't mean it needs front page space.

In answer to your specific question, type 'developer' into their search box. You get an incredibly handy list of common results pre-filled in a drop down list, and actually submitting the search yields a bevy of results. Maybe it's the generally terrible in-site searching of sites around the net and the relative awesomeness of Google that has trained people to not even try, but Apple's site search is pretty good.

I've learned over the years, however, that pretty much anything you want from an Apple web site can be found by typing 'apple/foo' in your location bar. Your browser will autofill the 'apple' to 'www.apple.com' and Apple maps all of their resources to the first part of the path - even if it ends up redirecting you to 'foo.apple.com' in the end. So, try 'apple/quicktime' or 'apple/developer' (or 'safari', or 'macosx' or 'iphone', etc). Very handy.

No brainer... (2, Insightful)

7Prime (871679) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371737)

Apple's website is often considered one of the most consitant and well constructed sites on the internet. Microsoft has done a pretty good job, but considering what they're up against, they should be proud to even be in the same sentance (as far as websites are concerned). Apple's unifomity and consistancy in their webdesign is nothing except extroardinary. It's so consistant that sometimes it takes me a second to realize which part of the website I'm at. This is not really a bad thing in an age where with most websites, you have to spend 30 seconds relearning the navigation system for every page. Apple really's design really breathes, with no clutters of information, and everything segrigated to very intuitive regions. In the end, grayscale color schemes ALMOST always win out. After months of use, colors always eventually get irritating, high contrasts lose their "cool" factor, and you're left feeling like your looking at a candy wrapper. OSs and websites should almost always revolve around neutral colors, because you're never sure what's going to clash horribly, or become illegible with the design. That said, I don't think Microsoft has really broken those rules, their low contrast blue is quite appealing... very MacOS Aqua-like, actually... but once again, they're not very consistant with it. Just one page in, "Windows 7" and you're faced with an ugly green stripe across the center of the page that looks horribly out of place next to the wispy blue. Microsoft REALLY needs to work on their color scheme consistancy. They have virtually no universal branding.

MS vs. Apple? (2, Informative)

CptChipJew (301983) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371741)

If anyone should be heavily criticized for a poorly organized web presence, it's IBM.

Re:MS vs. Apple? (1)

xxuserxx (1341131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371899)

I have no issues with IBM. I run about 20 IBM servers and have never had an issue with finding drivers or documentation. It may be a daunting task to find exactly what you need but thats only due to each server having a million different load outs you can select at the time of purchase. A small price to pay if you want to run the best hardware.

Broader product lines and divisions... (4, Insightful)

klubar (591384) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371767)

It's harder for companies with a broad product line and wide audience to control web consistency. Companies that have a huge range of markets or products--managed by different product/regional groups--frequently have a problem presenting a unified look to their web site

Consider the case of GE--the website for consumer appliances should be very different than that of jet engines and that of financial services -- all GE products.

Apple has the advantage of a very limited product line; a mini desktop, a pro desktop and a couple of laptops, a phone, a couple of applications, an OS and a music player. Their target audience is 98% consumers.

This is a much simplier case than Microsoft which sell a product range from an OS, search, hardware, games, low-end serves, high-end servers, a wide range of applications (from consumer to heavy-duty data centers). It's target market is primarily businesses, but ranges from micro business to enterprise, but also includes a significant consumer audience.

It's too bad the reviewer didn't consider content or target audiences.

Re:Broader product lines and divisions... (2, Insightful)

7Prime (871679) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371949)

I disagree that Microsoft has a larger range of products than Apple. They may have larger install bases, they may come in more flavors, but for every product that Microsoft has, there is almost always virtually an Apple product that matches up. A website is about marketing and support, of which both companies have to do with all their products. iWork has to have just as good support as Office does. XServe has to have just as good marketing and support as Microsoft's server software. It's the ability of a company to be able to hierarchically subdivide and arrange content that allows for a smooth website. What the hell does cellular phone connectivity (iPhone) have to do with professional audio production software (Logic)... virtually nothing, although Apple is very good about being able to juggle them both, and still keep a cohesive feel to their brand.

What you say might be true if Microsoft was good at juggling their top level of content, but less so in the depths of their website. But simply move from high profile sections like Windows to Office, and you get totally different branding, down to even different versions of the Microsoft logo, and different Microsoft website headers and banners. The PM at Microsoft even said it himself, which means I expect that to improve. So I don't think there's a valid argument here about having to juggle too many different balls.

Also, everyone's a consumer, be it a business or home user. When it really comes down to it, there's no clear marketting dilleniation between the two, maybe demographics, but both companies have to cover ALL of those, so it's kind of a moot point.

Hmmm, still having problems... (0)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371807)

[In a comparison of Apple's and Microsoft's websites] Apple is the winner.

Hmmm, I'm still having trouble finding information about Windows 7 and Mojave on Apple's site, let alone information on developing Windows applications. Can someone help me? I figured I'd should use the better site...

Differences... (3, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371811)

The main differences are the point of the websites. People are more likely to go to Microsoft's site for support, not to buy and compare things. People are more apt to go to Apple's site who are curious about its site and purchase something. While Apple does have good support on its website, it only has a few product lines, not a ton of products like MS.

Re:Differences... (1)

Dixie_Flatline (5077) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372135)

The main differences are the point of the websites. People are more likely to go to Microsoft's site for support, not to buy and compare things. People are more apt to go to Apple's site who are curious about its site and purchase something. While Apple does have good support on its website, it only has a few product lines, not a ton of products like MS.

I'm not going to argue with you, per se, but it seems like Apple should have MORE to sell, shouldn't they? I mean, they've got hardware AND software. They've got an OS and iLife and various pro applications. They even sell THIRD PARTY hardware and software on their site. Their online store is just like one of their retail stores. How many products does Microsoft have that they're having trouble keeping their product-line and sales site cohesive?

Re:Differences... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29372359)

How many products does Microsoft have that they're having trouble keeping their product-line and sales site cohesive?

Hey, it's hard keeping track of 5 different OS versions, umpteen versions of Office (including the crowd favorite, the "fuck you - you have to pay $200 more for Outlook" version), and the various sorts of fail marketed as "enterprise solutions".

Re:Differences... (2, Insightful)

spearway (169040) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372261)

What is your point there? That Apple does a few things very well and Microsoft a lot poorly? Since when has bloat been a valid excuse for poor design?

Subjectivity (2, Interesting)

Ohio Calvinist (895750) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371813)

The difference is that Apple's website has a "magazine" format that is very easy to duplicate across teams and is conceptually easy to work with and has for a long time, an implicit asumption of uniformality cover-to-cover. Microsoft's webpage is more "web page" like, with less rigourous conceptual designs. Their pages are full dynamic elements, videos, etc... that complement the particular "brand" of software they are selling (notice the website themes within the office suite, the Windows consumer OS, and the Windows Server System and beyond to TechNet and MSDN). Uniformality for navigation's sake is an obvious after-the-fact bolt-on. That being said, MSDN is not conceptually bound to a printed-manual style making it far more usable than Apple's which very much presents like a print-manual converted to HTML.

Re:Subjectivity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29371897)

What are you talking about? Apple's website is very interactive completely stuffed with dynamic elements. It does definitely not read like a print-manual.

Article is from May 29th! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29371821)

What is this growing trend of "writers" regurgitating other people's work? The original article was from May 29th!! And this douche bag just wrote his.

WTF

And he doesn't offer anything new other than summarize what this guy wrote.

Ass

Discoverable URLs (4, Insightful)

wahgnube (557787) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371845)

I personally feel that user-discoverable URLs are the biggest usability strengths of Apple's web site over Microsoft's. Say you want to learn about Safari. You go to apple.com/safari [apple.com] , as you'd expect. What if you wanted to learn about Internet Explorer? You need to go to microsoft.com/windows/internet-explorer/default.aspx [microsoft.com] . Who could have guessed that without a search engine? What about the page for, say, information on a Macbook Pro vs. Microsoft Office? One of these is easily guessable from a consistent URL scheme, the other is not. Easily being able to find content is just as important as good, clear content.

Re:Discoverable URLs (1)

Swift Kick (240510) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372113)

Say you want to learn about Safari. You go to apple.com/safari, as you'd expect. What if you wanted to learn about Internet Explorer? You need to go to microsoft.com/windows/internet-explorer/default.aspx

Really? [microsoft.com] You really think so? Funny, it worked just fine for me.
Try it. Just type in http://microsoft.com/ie in your address bar, press Enter and see what happens.

Who could have guessed that without a search engine?

Obviously not you, since it seems you didn't even try it.

Re:Discoverable URLs (0, Troll)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372169)

You go to apple.com/safari [apple.com]

You do? I go to google and search for "safari." Or just type it into a browser's bar and let it search for me. But I'll humor the idea for a minute. What if I wnat to know about the iTouch? I'll go to http://www.apple.com/itouch [apple.com] . Nope, page not found. http://www.apple.com/nano [apple.com] ? No... /ipod? ah-ha! ... it redirects me to /itunes. That makes sense. If I want to know about the iTouch, I should have gone to /itunes! ... ??

IMO, nobody uses anything more than the top level domain and possibly subdomains. At least, most people. At least, most people that would be actually interested in the usability of the main page... who goes to "microsoft.com" to look for a random Microsoft Office plugin? Google is where most people go.

Re:Discoverable URLs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29372313)

Using a product's actual name is helpful, too. Apple doesn't manufacture or sell a product called the "iTouch." Interestingly enough though, http://www.apple.com/ipodtouch [apple.com] redirects just fine.

Re:Discoverable URLs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29372487)

That's because there's no such thing as an Apple iTouch. If you look for an iPod Touch, which is what the product is called, and go to www.apple.com/ipodtouch, you end up at a page telling you about the ipod touch.

Re:Discoverable URLs (1)

JuSTCHiLLiN (605538) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372301)

I typed in microsoft.com/ie into my browser and it took me to the microsoft page about IE fyi.

Re:Discoverable URLs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29372317)

Not true. You can go to http://www.microsoft.com/internetexplorer [microsoft.com] and it will helpfully search the microsoft website for IE. It uses bing though, so results are crappy... but it does list the correct URL.

mod 04 (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29371917)

be fun. It used *BSD has lost more Cod>e sharing

They both SUCK (2, Informative)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371919)

Seriously, neither are very good. Neither allow you to find things quickly. Both make you jump through hoops to get to things (Microsoft Genuine absolutely turned their web site to poop). Both use flash or web 2.0 garbage when a nice simple static web page would suffice. Both are full of condescending marketing rubbish. You might as well be comparing two turd sandwiches. Consider the resources both companies have to throw at the problem.

Think different? Where did you want to be today? Puhlease. I wanted to be on a damned web site that didn't make an infrequent visitor want to commit ritual suicide out of sheer frustration.

Now watch the respective fan boys come to the defense of their favourite pet company and mod this as flamebait even though they KNOW it's true.

Re:They both SUCK (1)

iceOlate (1094287) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372419)

I totally agree that both sites need a complete overhaul, especially when one is looking for support. When typing in simple terms and phrases into their search, I rarely, if ever, find the solutions I am seeking. It will often result in a bunch of links to unrelated stuff, sending you in circles. You can click on several links of different titles, and they send you back to the same pages over and over.

However, if I type the same search terms into google, I will generally find the solution I'm seeking (sometimes after some slight refinement to the terms) in a tech support forum, usually written by someone who had to figure it out themselves, because they also couldn't find any answers on these crap web pages... And don't even get me started on HP's godawful website.

I also find it rather amusing that at the bottom of whatever article you may have linked to, they ask if its helpful? Why or why not? To which I often just write "The information was not relevant to my search query of x" ...

The real question is (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29371923)

Who gives a shit?

Both suck for different reasons (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 4 years ago | (#29371939)

I already griped about Microsoft's site in response to another post in this thread. Apple's site sucks for a different reason. Apple's site seems to be almost 100% marketing related. Any searches done on that site bring up a whole slew of marketing materials and little to no results of a technical nature. For example, a month or so ago I was trying to figure out how to make the Genius feature work on my iPod. Searching for "Genius" brought up all sorts of information about how great and innovative and wonderful the Genius function is. I didn't get anything about how to actually use the stupid thing. Of course this is Apple, and everything is supposed to "just work". Well in my case, it doesn't. Genius works fine in iTunes on my desktop. It doesn't work for shit on the actual device itself.

Just for shits and giggles I tried the same search again. "genius does not work on ipod" That search on the main site doesn't bring up a single technical solution. Doing the same search on the support site brings up solution HT2978 which doesn't address the problem.

Re:Both suck for different reasons (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372099)

I have to concur with the Apple related stuff. I am a (mostly) Apple sysadmin/programmer and I have to say that going to Apple's website to try to find sysadmin stuff isn't fun. They do have some pretty decent guides to kind of help you decide what the overall architecture of your system should be and some of the capabilities of their products, but almost nothing in the way of troubleshooting. I have to say that their coding guides(for Cocoa anyway) are alright. They documented a lot of stuff much better in Snow Leopard than they did in Leopard, and they have some decent examples, but like Microsoft they got bit with a sudden case of reorginazation-itis. (Not to mention that the latest Safari on the latest version of Leopard actually causes the browser to crash somewhat consistently if you do a text search on their main web page....)

Anonymous User... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29372065)

I'm guessing the anonymous user is "Abel Avram", since the link is to an article about the article, and there is no direct link to the actual article.

No offense if it isn't Abel Avram, but some offense intended if it is.

Posted anonymously for irony. :-)

I'd rather just use Google. (2, Interesting)

courtjester801 (1415457) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372231)

Just in comparing troubleshooting sections of both Apple and Microsoft, I've come to one conclusion. They both suck. Microsoft's Knowledge Base search is (at best) a pain in the ass. Regarding Apple, I've tried multiple times (across multiple dates) to log into and report an Apple related bug at https://bugreport.apple.com/ [apple.com] and have gotten nothing better than an error after logging in. Regardless of platform used (Windows with firefox and IE, Powermac with firefox and Safari) the end result was the same.

Apples to... Oranges? (2, Interesting)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372295)

Doesn't Microsoft put out about 100x as many products as Apple? Seems like Microsoft will have to fit 10 times as much content on their site. I bet MSDN alone is bigger than everything Apple has put out combined.

It is a challenge to try and fit a lot of information - especially detailed complex information - into a single easy-to-use web site.

Apple has multiple websites to. (2, Interesting)

argent (18001) | more than 4 years ago | (#29372467)

Look at http://developer.apple.com/ [apple.com] or http://opensource.apple.com/ [apple.com] and you'll find completely separate websites run by different groups, with different styles and goals.

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