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Microsoft breaks own design rules in dupe-the-user Windows 10 upgrade tactic

Gregg Keizer | May 26, 2016
'Never give [the Close button] the same effect as OK,' Microsoft tells third-party developers; but it did just that.

Microsoft's interpretation of the "Close" button in a notification of an impending upgrade to Windows 10 is contrary to company design guidelines and other recommendations, according to documents on the firm's website.

As part of a final push to boost the number of PCs running Windows 10 before the July 29 expiration of its free upgrade offer, Microsoft has altered the behavior of a notification dialog so that clicking the "X" in the upper-right corner authorizes the pre-scheduled upgrade.

Not only is that contrary to decades of convention and user expectations, but it's a change from past behavior of the dialog. Previously, when users saw dialog frames posed by the Get Windows 10 (GWX) app -- which was responsible for producing the notification -- they could both exit the dialog and cancel the proposed action by clicking on the X to close the window.

Microsoft first downloaded and installed GWX on millions of Windows 7 and 8.1 machines last year, initially as a way for customers to "reserve" the free upgrade to 10, and has repeatedly tweaked and re-installed it on PCs since. As the months ticked by, Microsoft got progressively more aggressive with GWX and its Windows 10 upgrade strategy, including automatically downloading the necessary bits to most eligible PCs, later extending that to silently scheduling the upgrade process.

However, this spring -- by March 23 at the latest, but perhaps earlier -- Microsoft decided to redefine an X-click as approving the upgrade. "If you click on OK or on the red 'X,' you're all set for the upgrade and there is nothing further to do [emphasis added]," stated a Microsoft support document on the auto-scheduling of the Windows 10 upgrade.

Although some argued that click-on-X was to be treated as a "Close" button, not an "Exit" button -- the former makes the dialog vanish, while the latter cancels the under-consideration process -- and implied that Microsoft did not violate its own design guidelines, that's not correct.

At least not by Microsoft's own documentation.

"The Close button on the title bar should have the same effect as the Cancel or Close button within the dialog box," stated the firm's guidelines on crafting dialog boxes. "Never give it the same effect as OK [emphasis added]."

Those guidelines were written for Windows 7, remain on Microsoft's developer-aimed site and, as far as Computerworld has been able to determine, have not been superseded by different advice for later editions of the OS.

Elsewhere in the same document, Microsoft told third-party developers, "Use Cancel or Close for negative commit buttons instead of specific responses to the main instruction [emphasis added]."


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