While I can’t say there has been anything keeping me from enjoying the Windows 8 experience, it is simple enough to see why some people are put off. The complete change of aesthetics makes sense for the interface unification strategy they’re working on right now. That doesn’t change the fact that there are a few problems that need to be addressed before desktop use is ideal.
Possibly the biggest problem with the Start Screen is the way the tiles are distributed. There’s a fair amount of control in the form of tile resizing and grouping. You can also use picture tiles to break up the space. There is little control over the negative space at this point, however.
When the goal is information density, this works extremely well. The problem tends to be overload on that side of things. On normal desktop resolutions, a screen full of Live Tiles is practically unreadable. Naturally this passes with exposure and habit since people can position their own tiles to match preferences, but it creates an unnecessarily long adjustment period.
Allowing some small amount of control over the gutter space between these tiles would be a good way to spread out information. Even if inter-tile space was made group-specific, that would go a long way toward fixing the problem.
It is simple enough to see why Windows 8 designers went with a horizontal scrolling standard given the emphasis on mobile devices, but that’s not working out as well as it could have. Allowing for horizontally oriented tile groups on a vertically oriented screen would create a much more approachable experience for anybody using a mouse with a scroll wheel. We have to assume that’s the majority of Windows users right now.
Desktop App Tiles
There is really no good way to make desktop apps appear in the new Start Screen. The icons they already have are simply not made to fill the allotted space, leading to a jarringly different appearance for anything that wasn’t distributed through the Windows Store.
The current workaround is to use OblyTile to create your own tiles. That’s a great idea and there are whole communities built up around creating custom tiles, but it does create a lot of extra work for the user.
The more functional solution would seem to be the option to make the blank tile backgrounds for these icons into a transparent one. Rather than highlighting the difference between these applications and the newer tiles, this would make the launcher look like it is able to make the most of either option. It won’t make the desktop icons look any better in the Modern UI, but it will do less to highlight their comparative deficiencies.
We know by now that the Modern UI isn’t going anywhere. Windows 8 is going to be setting the standard for the future of Microsoft’s ventures unless something completely unforeseen happens. The only question has to be whether ways can be found to make it as functional in varied situations as it seems to have the potential to be.