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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.

That's exactly how users treated the X in the upgrade scheduling dialog box, as a "negative commit," or in plain English, as a "No thanks." Microsoft, on the other hand, interpreted it as the exact opposite.

Other examples from the same set of guidelines show that Microsoft broke its own rules. "Make sure the Close button on the title bar has the same effect as Cancel or Close," the document said.

User experience (UX) designers and developers debated the pros and cons of the Close button in an interesting discussion thread from 2014 on Stack Exchange, the Q&A community. Several pointed out the perceptions users have of the action tool, which were at odds with Microsoft's more recent switch in GWX.

"A close button is a very known and comfortable escape hatch," Matt Lavoie, a senior UX designer at policy-management vendor PowerDMS, contended on Stack Exchange in October 2014. "Depending on the scenario, either 'Yes' or 'No' could be the destructive action. If a user got to this place, and is now in panic mode because they really don't want to do the negative action, they might want to get out of there as quickly as possible. 'Close' is just going to get me out of here, no questions asked. I don't have to think about it."

Microsoft has also told users to use the Close button to bail out of questionable situations. As Brad Chacos, senior editor of PCworld recently noted -- like Computerworld, PCworld is owned by IDG -- Microsoft has offered this advice: "Never click 'Agree' or 'OK' to close a window that you suspect might be spyware. Instead, click the red 'x' in the corner of the window or press Alt + F4 on your keyboard to close a window."

Users intending to avoid the Windows 10 upgrade did what Microsoft suggested. But because there were no explanations about the close button's changed behavior in the notification -- only in the overlooked support document -- it's highly likely that the vast majority of those who clicked on the X to make the pop-up disappear had no idea that they were, in fact, authorizing an upgrade.


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